Bethany’s beginnings

Bethany began when our founders cared for one child who needed a home.

Welcoming one child

In 1944, friends Marguerite Bonnema and Mary DeBoer opened their home to care for a baby girl who needed emergency shelter. Over the next few months, they took in five more babies, and a vision was born to help more children.

That fall, with help from Andrew VanderVeer, they founded Bethany Christian Home as a nonprofit organization. And in 1945, they moved the home to a residence on 13-acres in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Bethany’s headquarters stands today.

They knew then that families, not institutions, are the best source of care and connection for children. So in 1951, Bethany became a licensed adoption agency, helping 25 children find permanence with a family.

Bethany founders taking a picture in front of the first office.

Changing the world through family

Today—across the country and around the world—Bethany partners with churches and communities to strengthen and preserve families, find families for children who need them, and support refugees and immigrants who have fled danger. Because everyone deserves to be safe, loved, and connected.

One selfless act of hospitality set a global mission in motion. More than 80 years later, we believe—like Marguerite and Mary—that together, we can change the world through family.

Group photo of some of the first children under Bethany's care.

150 million reasons to help

Today, 150 million kids don't have a permanent home. To us, that's simply unacceptable. Together, we can change the world through family.