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Why the US Thinks Restricting International Adoptions Will Save Them

Experts debate State Department strategy to let the little children come less.

Last fall, America’s only active accreditor of international adoption agencies quit.

The Council on Accreditation (COA) protested that the US State Department was requiring “significant changes” that would likely reduce the already record-low number of intercountry adoptions, put small adoption providers out of business, and prohibit prospective parents from pursuing such adoptions.

However, the State Department argues that the changes in question aren’t changes at all. Officials point back to a 2008 agreement by the United States to adhere to the Hague Adoption Convention, an international attempt to regulate intercountry adoptions.

“We came to realize there were pieces of the regulation that were not being enforced,” a State Department official, who requested anonymity, told CT. Making sure the Hague laws are followed is crucial for helping foreign countries entrust their children to American parents, she said.

That was the motivation behind a set of proposed regulatory revisions which included a “country-specific authorization” in order to work in some countries, beefed-up training for adoptive parents, and a record of all financial transactions with foreign service providers.

The changes were meant to be part of “proactive efforts to maintain intercountry adoption as a viable option for children in need of permanency around the world,” the State Department stated in its spring report to Congress. For example, introducing country-specific authorization means that not all agencies have to get authorized for all countries.

But almost no one else in the adoption community saw it that way. A petition to immediately withdraw the proposed rules garnered more than 27,000 ...

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Rural Fish Bowl

Pastor Dad needs to be just Dad.

Growing up in a rural town, I came to understand the lack of privacy just by picking up the local newspaper. Our local gossip column was called “Out and About.” It kept everyone in the loop of how many ladies made it to bridge club that week and that Ida Hayes was absent due to a cold.

Holidays were always a little more interesting because of folks coming to visit. Every time my aunt came down from Kansas City, it was big news! I remember reading my pastor’s name in this section on a regular basis. He had been “out and about” delivering groceries, meeting for coffee, or praying for the meal at the fire hall fundraiser.

As he was my mentor, I was destined to do the same. As a young 20-something youth pastor, I went to the Assisted Living Center to have coffee and lead a Bible study. Sure enough, I would be in the news. I thought it was cool because I was meeting the expectations of the community and they all knew it.

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me that those expectations would be placed on my wife and my children. It has been a harsh reality-check and weight that I hate they have to bear. It seems like it’s magnified in a small town.

My daughter is a sophomore in high school and has always been very responsible, helpful, and smart. Teachers often tell us that she’s a leader among her peers. However, this past semester has been a challenge of a different kind.

Although she attends a public school, God and his provisions are often referenced in literature class. Every time religion or spiritual topics come up, many students (and even the teacher) look to her for the answers. After all, she is the pastor’s daughter so obviously she would be the expert on the subject.

Not only ...

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Christian Parents and Schools Have 529 Reasons to Like New Tax Law

A Q+A on how college savings plans can now be used to pay for private K-12 tuition.

Parents now have another way to save for Christian school tuition—and this one comes with tax benefits.

Thanks to the GOP-led tax reforms, the 529 college savings vehicle—so named for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code—can now also be used to save money to pay tuition at any “elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.”

CT spoke to George Tryfiates, director for government affairs at the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), to find out how it works. His office worked for months on this small section of the tax bill by visiting legislators, joining coalitions, and generating almost 9,000 calls to Congress, President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence from the ACSI community.

How did this come about?

Trump made such a priority of parental choice in education during his campaign that, immediately after his election, people began working on school choice proposals in earnest. All the ideas people have had over the years—education savings accounts, Title 1 portability, tax credit scholarships—got new life. So did expanding the 529 savings accounts.

How does a 529 savings plan work?

The 529 savings plans were created by a federal law but are administered by the states, so the benefits can be twofold—in other words, from both federal and state taxes (depending on the state).

Parents create and put money into a 529 account, which is then invested in stocks and bonds, more like a 403(b) or a 401(k) than a bank savings account. They can select their level of risk: perhaps choosing a plan that invests in higher-risk options with higher rates of return for a child in first grade, then switching to safer options such as bonds as a child ...

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Church-Based Academic Partnerships—How the Church and the Academy Can Better Connect to Raise Up and Train

Students receive practical ministry training, in context, when church and academia partner.

Ed Stetzer: Why bring the church and the academy together? Why is that important?

Colin Smith: Study matters, but so does hands-on experience. So bringing what can best be learned in the classroom together with what can best be learned in the church offers the best way to equip leaders for sustainable ministry.

Ed: What’s the advantage of doing theological formation while in ministry apprenticeships?

Colin: Everything we do in life needs to have a purpose and that includes studying theology. When people say, “I want to do a degree in theology,” I ask them, “Why? What is God calling you to do with your life?” The answer I hear most often is, “I want to serve the church.” That’s a great answer, but anyone who wants to serve the church will be best prepared for what they want to do by being immersed in the life of the church. That’s the opportunity we want to offer, and it has huge benefits in making progress towards the goal.

Then when it comes to the complexities of church leadership, the art of pastoral care, and the demands of sustaining a preaching ministry, nothing can beat a total immersion in the life of a healthy local church.

Weeping with those who weep is better learned at a funeral or beside a hospital bed than in a library. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is better cultivated at a wedding or a baptism than in a classroom.

Ed: What do you hope for people who walk through the apprenticeship / academic partnership?

Colin: The partnership is designed to bring people to a place where they are ready to be deployed in ministry. I would like to see people who commit to this program gripped by the gospel, devoted to the church, fired up for service, passionate about godliness, ...

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