This past week, BEB had the opportunity to host a ten-year reunion on Zoom with friends and advocates who participated in the Stuck tour. This reunion was a way to reflect on the past and share the progress of BEB’s mission to help fix the global child welfare system. Frank Garrott, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at BEB, led the meeting:
“I’ve been involved with BEB in various capacities for about 12 years, so I was asked to connect the dots from STUCK to Harvard to Present. I’ll start with words from a Dan Fogelberg song: “There’s a place in the world for a gambler; there’s a burden only he can bear.”
Craig Juntunen is a gambler. He took a gamble on “STUCK”, the BUS TOUR, the MARCH. Everyone told him he was crazy, and he was! He gambled because he had a burden for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who were stuck in Institutions when good families wanted to provide them with permanent homes.
It was my privilege to ride the STUCK bus and give opening comments in 4 cities. These were magical nights with full theaters almost everywhere we went. Finally, people who could only imagine the destitution of orphanages now had the chance to watch it unfold in the film. Audiences were moved to tears. Besides the emotional impact, the film and the march had a tangible impact of breaking government bureaucracy logjams, enabling a number of children already approved for adoption to come home to the loving arms of long-waiting parents.
But the burden of doing something bigger persisted. So, Craig took another gamble and invited child welfare leaders representing governments from all over the world to Harvard in 2014 to discuss how to get their OVC out of institutions and into families.
The gamble was whether or not anyone would show up. Well, they did! About 80 people represent 20 countries, generally among the least developed nations. At Harvard, we took a novel approach – we asked them questions and we listened. Craig, Luke Morrow, and Harry Oellrich, who have been unwavering board members from the early years to the present, together we learned that lack of accessible and accurate information on their OVC was the primary reason why these children were STUCK in institutions.
After Harvard, Craig’s burden grew. Either follow through 100% on what we heard at the Symposium or focus primarily on advocacy with political leaders in Washington.
Craig gambled one more time and threw all his chips in with Tyler Technologies, a Dallas-based, publicly traded software company focused on the Courts system in the U.S.
This was the pivot point of BEB. It was now Tyler’s turn to decide whether or not to gamble. Specifically, Bruce Graham, BEB Board Chair, and Tyler Division Head at the time, gambled that he could tap into the heart of a corporation. Yet another gamble paid off. Tyler embraced the cause and devoted tens of thousands of pro bono hours to developing a state-of-the-art technology platform called Children First Software (CFS). Not done in a vacuum, this was in response to the priority need expressed by the countries represented at Harvard.
Bruce brought on Mark Schwartz to run BEB.
Today, BEB and CFS are in 13 countries and counting, having impacted over 35,000 OVC so far. When I recall the environments at the movie theaters when STUCK was shown, people were outraged about these forgotten, invisible children. Today, they are not forgotten; they are not invisible. They are not lost in the system. BEB’s technology, in collaboration with governments in 13 countries, is making sure of that. BEB’s vision has remained unchanged – “Every child deserves a loving, permanent family.” But our mission changed in 2015 following the Harvard Symposium and the introduction to Tyler. The task is ‘Transforming Global Child Welfare through Technology and Collaboration.’ Transformation is the perfect word. It implies changing the world.”