Visiting Foster Families
While on my recent trip to China, I was able to visit several of the foster care programs we run there. Currently LWB has foster care in 18 Chinese cities, and we are always looking to expand to new locations because we believe so strongly that children do best being raised in quality family care.
At every location, I would visit both the local orphanage and then children in home care. Again and again, I was struck by the developmental differences between the two groups of children. Babies need families – pure and simple. And now, with the vastly changing population of orphaned children who almost all have special needs, I believe it is more important than ever to get orphaned children out into the local communities so that everyone can come to understand how amazing these kids are.
Foster care is of course first and foremost about creating the essential bonds of attachment all children need, but it is also a powerful way to change the hearts of everyone in a community as well.
I thought you might enjoy reading about a few of the families we visited, starting with a wonderful 12 year old boy named Ty. Ty’s official diagnosis is dyspraxia, and for as long as I have known him, he has really struggled to walk. When we first met him in the orphanage many years ago, he was an extremely shy little boy who simply sat in a wooden crib all day.
Ty is now in a wonderful foster family who have embraced him completely. He is particularly close to his grandmother, who explained that she helps him practice his walking each day. Ty was so proud to show me how much stronger his legs are now. She told me what a joy he is to the family, and how they love to talk with each other. Several neighbors came over while we were visiting, and they all started chiming in about what a kind hearted boy he is as well. I was so happy visiting this home as it was clear that even though Ty has obvious special needs, he is a completely accepted member of this small community. He has opened hearts in such beautiful ways.
We all loved visiting Neil’s house as well. This little boy has repaired cleft lip, and he was so outgoing and fun to be with. He played for a long time with my son Patrick, and when it was time for us to leave, he said, “Please GeGe (big brother), stay and play with me longer.”
Neil’s grandfather told us he is very smart and will start school in the fall at the local kindergarten. When it was time for us to leave, he ran into the house all on his own and brought me some wildflowers that they had picked in the mountains earlier that week. It was clear that Neil understood perfectly that this was his HOME, and he was trying to make his guests welcome. Again, I gave thanks that his community and friends had accepted him completely, despite being born with a visible special need.
I will admit that not every child enjoyed our visiting. It seemed the ladies with blonde hair and big noses were either quickly loved or hated at each home, depending on how fast we could get our toy bags out and in view. But even when I made them cry with my presence, I took comfort in watching whom they ran to when scared.
Take little Grace for instance, who was born with albinism, a special need which often carries a huge stigma in China. I had no idea that she has a deep phobia about stuffed animals, and so I innocently came towards her with a plush pony, which unleashed a blood curdling scream and a flee to the safety of her mom’s arms. Her foster mother explained that Grace has always been afraid of stuffed toys, and that is why she had been waving me away when I first arrived, pony in hand. Even though Grace will probably never forgive me for my mistake, I still loved seeing that she has a parent who knows not only what she is afraid of, but who knows how to quickly comfort her as well. Within moments, her mom had calmed her down and convinced her and her foster sister that we were safe. (Important note to self – if Grace ever gets adopted, I sure hope her parents find us first, as otherwise adoption day could be quite traumatic if the innocent parents pull out a stuffed bear!)
The last family I would like to tell you about is Baby Ita’s. Her mom has been fostering kids with LWB for many years, and the kids have always thrived in her care. Last year when I visited her, she had just said goodbye to her two foster sons at the exact same time, as both were adopted overseas on the same day. Her grief was overwhelming, and my heart broke for her, as I know completely that what we ask these wonderful parents to do is so very difficult. We ask them to love the kids as their very own, but then they often must let them go when the kids are chosen by permanent families. What an incredibly emotional job, and so many of these moms are my heroes.
I was so happy to walk down the path to her small rural house this year and see her smiling with baby Ita in her arms. Ita graduated from our Anhui Healing Home after receiving surgery for her cleft lip. As I got nearer to the home and saw Ita snuggling close to her mom, I thought to myself, “This is what foster care is all about. This image before me sums up everything we are trying to do with home care. You would never know this beautiful child is orphaned…instead I just see a mom and a child, both clearly in love.”
Today I want to send my deepest thanks to everyone who supports this important program. I see again and again what a priceless gift you are giving to a child’s heart. You are changing lives in very real and wonderful ways.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer
Sponsorships for LWB foster care cost just $1.30 per day. For $40 a month, you can help a child leave an institution and be cared for in a family. Sponsors get MONTHLY updates on their child, including photos and stories. LWB local managers visit the children every single month so we can closely track their progress. To learn more, visit our foster care sponsorship page.