LWB Community Blog

Foster Care in China

We are continuing our series today about LWB’s international foster care projects. Last week we shared about our Safe Haven Foster Care program in Cambodia, for children who have been trafficked or severely abused. In this post, I want to dive a little deeper into our foster care program in China.

LWB first began foster care in China back in 2004. Over the last 15 years, we’ve supported family-based care for over 3,500 orphaned children there, across 26 different cities. I have yet to meet a good-hearted orphanage director who hasn’t privately agreed that the children in their care placed with loving foster parents do far better developmentally in the long run than children in institutional care.

When it comes to the evolution of orphan care in China over the last two decades, the country deserves a lot of recognition for the massive amount of funding they’ve invested into several national projects for orphaned children. Their programs for medical care and education have improved the lives of thousands of kids in orphanage care.

However, one recent facet of orphan care in China I find concerning is the return to a system of institutionalism.  A global body of evidence showing that children develop best in families has led to a commitment by the majority of countries around the world to move away from care in residential facilities. In cities all across China, however, new policies and liability concerns are causing the rapid demise of a once vibrant foster care system. I’m extremely saddened by this shift, as I believe well-implemented foster care in local communities should be a vital part of any country’s plan for its vulnerable children.

In China, we now have community-based foster care in only a handful of remaining locations. We’re 100% committed to keeping those children with their dedicated foster parents for as long as we’re able, but we also know that a shift in leadership at any government level can change everything in an instant. In the last year alone, we’ve seen the closure of foster care in five additional cities where we had strong and impactful programs, when new local policies were implemented requiring all orphaned children to be returned to institutional care.

While we definitely face real challenges with family-based care because of this new direction, I also want to highlight just how successful our current foster care programs still are. LWB continues to work in partnership with individual orphanages who recognize that children develop best in families. In these locations, we work with the orphanage staff to ensure each child is placed with a quality foster family who receives regular oversight. LWB provides a portion of the foster parent stipend, and the orphanage provides a portion as well. We also share responsibility for things like baby formula, toys, clothing, and diapers.

I believe the key to our success with this program is that LWB provides on-the-ground managers who visit the children and families every month. These local managers get to know the children closely and can then assist families who need additional support services such as medical help, extra nutrition, or access to preschool and kindergarten. We know every single child in our care and monitor their progress closely.

Quite simply, the babies and children in our foster care program THRIVE, and their sponsors clearly see that in the regular reports and photos they receive.

In 2019, our goal is the same we’ve had for over a decade: to expand family care with any orphanage in China open to a foster care model, while at the same time being very realistic that it’s not the direction the country is currently taking. In many cities, there is an increasingly rapid push to have all orphaned children return to institutional care. The children are moved back with just a few days’ notice in many cases, breaking the hearts of not only the children but their devoted foster parents as well.

Because of these new challenges, we’re now working on proposals in China for “on-site” family care, where children would remain on an institution’s grounds but have a dedicated mom who lives with them on site in a small apartment. We see this as a compromise in the current climate, as we want every child to form a primary attachment with a loving adult since this emotional bond is so crucial to healthy development.  But we also know that nothing can take the place of a child having his or her own family, outside an orphanage gates, as a vital part of the local community.

The important thing that we cannot lose sight of, however, is that every child deserves one devoted caregiver who provides the immeasurable gift of FAMILY. Each child on earth deserves that essential right, and so LWB will continue our dedicated work in China to ensure as many children as possible have their own mom or dad. We will of course keep you updated on any new developments. I give thanks to everyone sponsoring a child in our China foster care program as you are without a doubt changing lives for the better.

Later this week, I’ll share about our exciting new foster care work with orphaned and abandoned children in Uganda and some of the complex challenges we see there.

~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer

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  • WHY is the Chinese government moving back towards institutional care? Surely they can see all the evidence that it’s bad for the children? Of course I realize that it may be imprudent to say anything that sounds like a criticism of the government, but I’d like to know anything that you can say.

  • Marie Osborn says:

    Hi! The little girl in the orange scarf in the last picture was a friend of our daughters…she lived with her in another foster home for over a year. I heard she was being adopted and would love to know if she’s home with her family! And I would love for you to pass my info to her family so we could keep the girls in touch if you would!

  • Debi Anderson says:

    My daughter is one of the 3,500 who benefited from LWB foster care. I’m forever grateful for her foster mom and the love and nurture she provided for over a year! I’m certain this made a difference in my daughter’s life. We talk about this nameless angel often. Thank you for this update and for your continued fight for the well being of China’s orphans.