About Us

Agape Trust

The Word Agape describes the type of love that gives without expecting anything in return.

I (Joanna) am a social worker. I was born and raised in Poland so obviously my heart beats for the Polish children and youth. I want to share God’s love with as many as I am able…

Joanna and Vic at the Zambeze River
We are Joanna and Vic 

Vic was born and raised in South Africa and is a retired chemist, but still the philosopher. He has worked most of his life with management in international companies. He studied psychology to better understand integrating and motivating a workforce. The same principles are valid in motivating and helping build self-esteem in emotionally vulnerable youth.

Since we moved to Poland in 2007, we have had regular contact with children in some orphanages and young adults who have grown up in the Polish orphanage system.

Our focus in the last decade has been on young unmarried mothers, who have left the orphanage system and are struggling to cope with life after an institutionalized childhood, which started often in dysfunctional families.

We have, over the last 30 years, experience in helping abused women to get out of their abusive relationships, and back on their feet. Some were successes, some ended with the young women going back to live with their abusers.

We have also been foster parents and tried a system that we found to be very successful. Instead of caring for the foster child alone without the parent, we tried letting the mother live with us and her child.

We believe that children need to grow up feeling really loved and appreciated. They need contact with adults who they can trust and who care and encourage them to develop feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. But very importantly, to teach them the social skills needed to navigate the complexities of this modern world. Then they can be stable and balanced adults.

The education system teaches important skills, but the experience of growing up in a traditional family is where children learn vital social and emotional skills as well as an understanding of how their society and culture function. The two complement each other.

Foster Parenting

Most foster parenting is for children who have been removed from their parental home due to neglect or abuse.
Mothers neglect children for three main reasons:

1) Pure neglect due to substance abuse, alcohol, drugs, etc.
2) Emotional breakdown, due to mental/emotional health.
3) Domestic abuse in the home, physical and emotional abuse.

In the first case, there is no other solution, except to remove the child from the parental home. In the second and third cases, if the mother is not the cause of the domestic problem, and can be in a safe place where she can recover, and at the same time be able to engage with her child, there is a good chance of a healthy mother-child bond developing.

Many of the young women we helped have been caught in a generational cycle, some stretching from the Second World War. A child raised in a pathological environment, raises her child in a similar environment, etc., until 3 or 4 generations later we are in the present, with a mother who through no fault of her own, is unable to cope with motherhood.

By helping the mothers we are saving their children from landing in the foster care system, and by so doing, breaking the generational cycle of pathological mother-child relationships.

Many young women today find themselves in abusive relationships because they got too deep into a relationship too fast. Old-fashioned dating would have given them time to realise their partner was not who they thought he was. When they cannot cope anymore their world becomes dangerous to their children. The authorities then place their children in foster care.

Unfortunately, the natural extended family of the young mother and child is often neither capable nor interested in taking care of the children, nor supporting the mother, since most of these families have a long history of alcohol, drugs, and/or abuse.

During our 15 years as foster parents, we have tried a few times, a method that unfortunately can only be tried on a case-to-case basis, and would be difficult to implement in an organized bureaucratic system. But they were successful.

As an example, we became foster parents to a child, whose parents had both been raised in an institutional environment. The child welfare authorities have, as a rule, to separate a child from the parents, which is traumatic and emotionally scarring for both mother and child.

The mother had not learned motherhood skills in the orphanage environment. We let the mother stay with us in our home. The young foster child was not separated from her mother and experienced no trauma. A healthy bonding environment meant that mother and child could develop their natural healthy bond, while the child remained blissfully unaware of the drama surrounding the situation. The father was the problem, not the mother, but the mother needed some coaching and security.

This is difficult for child welfare authorities to manage as they are unable to deal with case-by-case situations, so apply the same standard rules to all cases. Child welfare authorities are internationally underfunded and understaffed.

We do what we can, to the best of our abilities, and God will provide.

We are both now retired and live on a smallholding outside town, and decided to change the focus of this website. It is no longer about our project, helping young mothers and their children, but more generally about child development, especially the first years. Here we draw on our experience, the successes as well as the failures, and what we have learned in this field.

We hope that our articles can help and encourage you.

Jesus said: “Whoever receives one little child like this
in My name, receives Me.” Matthew 18:5

There is a systemic lack of resources for foster care, in Europe as well as North America. This is confirmed in the available research both on institutional as well as family foster care environments. Psychological therapeutic support is resource-intensive and time-consuming. From a bureaucratic management point of view, it is far more cost-effective and convenient to medicate children with powerful anti-psychotic drugs to make the child compliant, when the problem is emotional. The child needs therapy to overcome the effects of emotional abuse. This medication of powerful drugs amounts to institutional medical malpractice.

Pediatric malpractice is especially serious as children’s development can suffer lifelong problems from wrong diagnoses.

One example is cerebral palsy which may occur during fetal development, at birth or shortly after birth due to preventable medical malpractice.

The most significant consequence of separation and many years spent in an institution is attachment disorder caused by the lack of significant carer in the child’s life. Statistics show that this leads to tragedies caused by many unhappy/broken relationships throughout the person’s life. Most often their own children also end up with attachment problems and in state childcare.

Such a situation is a compelling case for taking action since it has been said that children are our future! We consider it our duty as well as a tremendous opportunity to influence the lives of both the young mothers as well as their children in the positive direction God desires. After all investing in their lives and future benefits the whole of society.

The Agape Trust’s Vision that was

How It Started

Many children in the Polish institutional orphanage system are second or third generation social orphans. Supporting the young women who have recently left the orphanage to cope with a life in normal society can stop this dysfunctional cycle and save the next generation from an emotionally damaging institutional childhood.

The Agape Trust vision started in 2007. After 30 years of absence from the country of my birth I was called by the Lord to return to Poland, where together with my husband we joined the ministry of the Baptist Church in Elblag, in the north of Poland.

The Church started a ministry over 20 years ago directed to children in the state-run orphanage in Marwica some 28 km from the church. We were told that the church members had been praying for some time that the Lord would send someone to help with this ministry.

We then moved into a small town called Paslek, 10 km away from the orphanage and during the course of the next 14 years we came into contact with the children in that institution. We have during this time been able to recognise which children needed help the most. The most vulnerable group are the girls that get pregnant and give birth to their babies soon after they turn 18 and have to move out of the orphanage, and survive as best they can in society.

Since they have spent all or most of their life in an orphanage they are usually not well prepared for the challenges outside of the institution. Many of the girls get into relationships with abusive boyfriends. When their world becomes dangerous for their babies the welfare authorities are very quick to place most of them in institutional orphanages. The children become the victims of a social system, which is not geared to protect their rights to a family and does not invest in better care solutions than an institutional life.

Needless to say the extended family of the young mother is seldom interested in taking the child, neither would they be allowed to by the authorities, since most of these families have a long history of alcohol, drugs and/or abuse. In order to break the destructive circle somebody needs to give a good loving home to these mothers with their young children.

In one such case, the authorities intended to take two baby girls away from their young mothers, two young women aged 20 and 21, after they had been unable to pay their rent and ended up on the street. They had nowhere to go since their own family lived in conditions unsuitable for children. Their mothers, always drunk, swore at them, told them how worthless they were, and threw them out of their homes.

Young women are usually good mothers when given support.

Separating mothers from their children is a double tragedy. Firstly the children suffer serious emotional damages (they are likely develop attachment disorder, which might prevent any healthy relationship in future). Then there is the likelihood the young mothers might become too devastated to pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on. They have suffered from lack of self-esteem from years of being put down; losing their infants would be a blow they might not recover from.

We know, that given love and protection for the time needed to build healthy self-worth and self confidence in themselves the young women will be able to finish school, learn a profession and start a job, providing a better life for their children.

The young women we have helped were grateful for the offered help and came to live with us. During the time they stay with us they are encouraged emotionally as well as trained in necessary life skills in order to prepare them for an independent life. We encourage their spiritual awareness and help them in their seeking for or walking with God.

The Vision that was

Since we know there are many other girls that might end up in a similar situation we have a vision to expand this ministry and therefore purchased a 2.5 ha (6 acres) property where we built a little cottage. The plan is to also build a bigger house where 4-6 girls can live with their children and looking a little further into the future one or two more cottages can be built.

The property has a lot of potential to become almost self-sufficient, there is space for growing vegetables and fruit trees and it is situated next to nature reserve with walking/riding trail along the north border. Some tourist attraction could provide employment possibilities in the future.

Jesus said: “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name, receives Me.” Matthew 18:5