Laura Roberts had never thought about adopting a child. In fact, she had nearly finished raising two beautiful teenage daughters of her own when friends decided to adopt a child from Guatemala. After witnessing her friends’ experience, she and her husband, Johnny Roberts, felt led to adopt a child, as well. Laura never dreamed that one little boy would change her life and her occupation forever.
The adoption experience was not pleasant. The attorney whom they had entrusted with their baby and their money committed fraud. A trip to Central America that should have lasted several days turned into a 6-month legal battle with the Guatemalan government. For five months, Johnny had no choice but to stay in Guatemala, working closely with the U.S. Embassy, to secure the adoption of their infant son.
“If bringing Jonathan home had been easy, we might not have ever thought to form Starfish Orphan Ministries,” Laura says. “The experience we had broke me. All I could think about was, ‘Who cares for these children when they scuff their knees?’ ‘Who reads them bedtime stories at night?’”
When all was said and done, it took four years for Laura and Johnny to secure full adoption of Jonathan. The experience stirred something within Laura. She felt that God was leading her to do something to help children who continued to be housed in orphanages and foster care systems around the world. She had no idea what this would look like, but she felt compelled to try to help.
“After adopting Jonathan, I couldn’t be still about it. I had to figure out what could be done to help these children,” Laura says.
She searched the community to determine what local agencies were doing to serve orphans and foster children in the community. While some efforts were in place to donate funds and supplies to various orphanages around the world, there was less being done to help connect local families to children in need of adoption.
In this area, Laura began to see an opportunity unfold before her eyes. After a year and a half of prayer and research, Laura helped lay the groundwork for Starfish Orphan Ministries, a non-profit organization that works to educate and provide resources to families considering adoption.
“With 150 million orphans in the world, many people want to help, but they feel overwhelmed and then do nothing,” Laura says. “At Starfish we simplify things so that people know how to get involved.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 30% of adults consider adoption, but only about two percent follow through. With so many hurtles to overcome, Laura and her team of Starfish volunteers seek to educate the community on the types of adoption opportunities that are currently available. They also help families understand the complexities of the adoption and foster care system.
Starfish never endorses a particular type of adoption nor adoption agency. Instead, they provide resources that help individuals to decide whether adoption makes sense for them.
The work that Laura began has grown tremendously over the last several years. What began as a desire to be used by God to do good things for children in need has turned into full time volunteer job for Laura and her volunteer staff.
Laura’s compassion and gentle spirit have left a mark on the community. In fact, a former member of the Starfish volunteer staff nominated Laura as the VUE Magazine Difference Maker of the month, an award the magazine was thrilled to bestow upon her.
“Laura is truly the most amazing woman I ever met in my life,” says Sarah Moore, former Starfish volunteer. “To see Christ shine through someone as much as He does through that woman is amazing.”
Sarah is not alone in her observations of Laura. So many of the mothers and families who have encountered Laura through Starfish have been moved by her compassion and her ability to provide wise counsel to those who come through the doors of Starfish Orphan Ministries.
In addition to providing resources for adoption, Starfish also offers aid to single mothers who are struggling to get on their feet, usually mothers who have fallen through the cracks in the welfare system.
In addition to providing aid and adoption education, Starfish also organizes mission trips help provide for the basic needs of the children who live in orphanages in various countries, including El Salvador, a country and culture that Laura and her family have fallen in love with.
“We have seen families and children changed as a result of our work here,” Laura says. “You really can make a difference in the lives of others.”
The Difference Maker program is co-sponsored by Socially Present and West Kentucky Garage Builders. If you know someone who is doing kind things for others in the community, nominate them for a VUE Difference Maker Award. Submit nominations through the magazine and online at inthevue.com.
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