Roblealto Child Care Association puts families at the forefront of its work with vulnerable children in San Jose, Costa Rica. Roblealto supports a holistic approach to restore at-risk children to loving and supportive relationships with their parents and provides resources for parents to achieve self-sufficiency for their families. Roblealto’s programs include four child care centers throughout San Jose, group homes, and a youth alumni group to support and empower youth leaving their programs.

Child care centers seek to prevent separation of children from their families and strengthen family support systems. They provide a quality education for children and a wide array of supportive services from a team of a child psychologists, social workers, nurses, and more. Parents and children commit to an individualized treatment plan designed to empower them toward self-sufficiency. Because education in Costa Rica is normally half-day, the centers are a safe place for a child to grow and learn the rest of the day, away from the risks of gang violence and drugs on the streets, while allowing parents peace of mind as they maintain or pursue work.

Roblealto’s Bible Home is a restorative, temporary shelter in the form of group homes for children who have been removed from their homes by the government but have high potential for reunification with their families. While children reside in the group homes, an intensive treatment plan is followed with the family toward the hope of reunification of the children with their families. Roblealto’s Bible Home maintains a higher than 85 percent reunification rate.

Roblealto’s use of best practices in response to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children drew Bethany Community Church (BCC) in Seattle, Washington, to Roblealto. While seeking a new global partnership, BCC found a shared conviction in Roblealto’s mission for support of family-based care and the holistic transformation of communities. The two formed a partnership in 2012 for the development of a new child care center in the squatter community of Los Guido, outside San Jose.

Foundational to the partnership is a mutually transformative relationship, each party supporting the ministry of the other, learning from the other, and investing in interpersonal as well as corporate relationship with the other. For Pamela Scianna, Roblealto’s director of international partnerships, that is what makes this church partnership especially unique, noting, “It is a relationship between people.”

A vital component to maintaining this special relationship has been three annual strategic visit trips from BCC to Roblealto in San Jose. I have had the pleasure of leading a small team from BCC on visits to our partner in San Jose twice over the last three years. Objectives for these trips include supporting and encouraging the staff of Roblealto, educating team members on issues of poverty and development, and equipping team members to be “ambassadors” for the partnership. The ambassadorship is an attempt to fully utilize trips for the benefit of the partnership, not just those participating in the trip. Ambassadors represent and share the work and learnings from Roblealto to the church upon their return to Seattle. They gather stories and information during their visit, and for the six months after, they work together to creatively engage the BCC congregation in the work of Roblealto through educational events, videos, and story telling. Trip team members are challenged to engage locally as well, through BCC’s local foster care ministry and other community ministries. Commitment to further service is an essential component to the ambassadorship for team members and is one of the many ways that BCC seeks to provide structure for the ongoing transformation of team members beyond the initial trip experience.

I am particularly excited by the way in which I have witnessed how strategic visit trips play a role in increasing momentum for Roblealto’s work in the Los Guido community. To our surprise, our strategic visits have promoted new collaborative efforts in the community, expanding Roblealto’s capacity to engage the local churches and schools of Los Guido and presenting exciting opportunities for further outreach to the community.

Roblealto’s mission to provide children better chances of becoming men and women of good standing is proven to work. In partnership with Bethany Community Church, this mission will be brought to a community where children face extreme poverty, gang violence, and exposure to drug activity on a daily basis.

The congregation of BCC is being transformed by its relationship to this work and participating in the global church by sharing its gifts with the work of Roblealto. Together, steps are being taken to restore children and their families to right relationship with each other, God, and their community.

Nathan Nelson presently works as an Employment Specialist at World Relief in Seattle, Washington, assisting newly arrived refugee families work toward self-sufficiency. Previously, Nathan worked throughout Latin America alongside Covenant Merge Ministries, helping to facilitate partnerships between churches in the United States and a variety of ministries in the region. Graduated with a degree in Global Development Studies and Sociology from Seattle Pacific University, Nathan serves on the global partnerships team at Bethany Community Church and has lead strategic visit trips to Bethany’s partner Roblealto in Costa Rica the last two years. He enjoys traveling with his wife Maci, playing sports, and adventuring in the great outdoors of the Northwest.