The Lord heard our prayers and answered!
Praise the Lord! He is so good. Yesterday's meeting in the long series of First Debate meetings was TOTALLY different. Immediately the Chairwoman of the Committee began by explaining how they were going to move the voting forward. And she did! It was a huge answer to prayer!
Then, we came to the big sticking point right away, whether or not SENNIAF has the burden to actively go out and investigate the biological parents and grandparents (2nd degree) or if it had to extend to the aunts/uncles (3rd degree). Tons of discussion went on again about this point and there were clear dividing lines in the room. HCCM submitted a summary supporting the burden stopping at the 2nd degree and Graciela gave a moving, clear explanation on this point to the Delegates. The Delegates then went back to vote and we held our breath and prayed a lot. It was a while before they came back, but when they did they announced the burden on SENNIAF would stop at the 2nd degree! PRAISE JESUS! It was hard to believe our ears! The Lord completely moved on these hearts, right in front of us. It was amazing and beautiful to see God move this mountain.
What's the big deal for this issue? This change, if made and implemented, will shorten the time period that children are in institutions. Currently the burden is for SENNIAF to actively investigate all family members. Thus the government must send workers out over and over again, trying to locate everyone in the family tree, before eventually they find out nobody is interested in caring for the child and then eventually (years later) the family rights are terminated and the child is declared adoptable by the Court. If implemented, the difference now is that SENNIAF's burden is only to go and find/investigate the biological parents and grandparents. Of course any other family member may request custody of the child and then SENNIAF would investigate that individual, so no family members' preference would be ignored. But the burden would no longer be on the government to go out and find all family members and investigate every single one. In the US, for example, social services is required to go investigate only the biological parents. Other family members can petition the court for custody, and they will be investigated and given priority, but there is no burden for the government to go out and find every single person in the family before terminating parental rights. This is a very important point and again, it will greatly shorten the time kids are locked in institutions - if implemented. Again, PRAISE JESUS!!!!
So... As you may recall from my prior emails, the 2 big issues that are controversial and yet are imperative on the road to freeing children from a life of institutionalization here in Panama are:
- Limiting the biological family investigation to the biological parents and grandparents. Approved in the First Debate!
- Allowing foster parents to adopt. Pending discussion in future session of First Debate
Thank you for interceding for the children in Panama and standing in the gap for these little ones. There is such power in prayer.
Please keep praying and interceding as the Lord lays it on your heart. The next session will be next Wednesday, April 17th at 9AM (10AM EST), where they will discuss and hopefully vote on the next 20 or so articles. Today they approved about 23 articles, so this was a very productive day. The other big item that was approved today were the foster care regulations. This is huge! Now, Lord-willing, when the bill passes the judges will not be afraid to place children in foster homes but will hopefully begin giving priority to placing children in approved and monitored foster homes rather than institutions. Praise the Lord again!!
And yet, the 2nd point above is pending and in great need of prayer. Currently it is illegal for foster parents to adopt the children in their care here in Panama, which is ludicrous by international standards. There is much support to maintain this position here. Yet I know the Father is able to change heard and minds. He did it yesterday and can do it again. Please join us in continuing to ask for His hand to move amongst the Delegates so as to allow foster parents to adopt.
Looking Ahead: Once all the articles are approved, the Second Debate will begin, which is where the articles/law that is approved in the First Debate by the Committee is then submitted to the greater Assembly at large for approval. Thus, this is a bit of a long road ahead. Praise the Lord that we are even on the road, though! Even that is an answer to prayer.
I will continue to update as things progress - and as I am able. Baby Isaac is due in 8 days, so we will see how the next few weeks go with his birth :) Regardless, though, Graciela will be there on our behalf and we will update as able.
In awe of Jesus,
Misty and Matt Hedspeth