When I first discovered the possibility of hosting, this was the first question I asked. It’s also the one that I have heard the most from others: Why would we pick a child who was orphaned and bring him here for the summer and love on him, show him all that he is missing and then send him back? It seems cruel and unfair.
It’s a legitimate question to come from our first-world perspective. Is this really serving this child? All my concerns (and hopefully yours if you have them) were answered in this post by one of the staff at New Horizons for Children:
The kids that we bring are coming on a visit, or exchange type program. Many orphanages close during the holidays and over summer so all kids must go somewhere. They go other places like Italy, Spain, Holland, other camps in their own countries (former Soviet training camps for kids) and some go to local foster families as well. We are one of the “options” as far as the kids are told, and they are selected to come on our program after being interviewed and after we talk to their caregivers about behavior, school efforts etc. So, everyone goes out of the orphanage for the summer and in our case, we are a 5 week program, so they come here and usually return to a camp type place in their home country or start out at one and come to us from the camp. In Eastern Europe, children are mostly in foster families as they are trying to close traditional orphanages, but the foster families are not able to care for them beyond the monthly low stipend and in many cases, they don’t have indoor plumbing and are very rural with little access to anything for the children to do outside of school or off the farm (most are on farms).
Our program shows children what it’s like to be fully and unconditionally loved in a Christian family. It is an experience that many would never have in their lives. Even in the foster families, the foster parents are “workers” and do not treat orphans as their own children. They do this due to culture, poverty and also to keep up some wall as they know they cannot provide for a permanent situation even if they so desired. In addition to the ministry aspects of the program, the kids come and gain a new language. Most learn as much English in 4-5 weeks here as they would in a good English class in their schools over 4-5 years. This country is a part of the European Union as well and in that, residents are able to move and work in other EU countries. But this language is a language that no other country speaks or uses, and English is a very common language in all. So, that alone, would be a good “tool” to give kids now to help them later. However, many of the children who come are also eligible for adoption and after being hosted, about 65% of the eligible children are adopted into a forever and unconditional loving Christian family. Besides participating in a program like ours, they have literally 0-1% chance of ever being considered for adoption through a traditional process. This country doesn’t place children under about age 9 as available for adoption unless they have medical issues or are part of sibling sets. And, most families who consider to adopt would not just send a dossier (family adoption package) to this country asking for a preteen or teenager sight unseen. So, this does offer them a lot of possibilities beyond just a visit to a nice family in America. Also, most children who are older and have aged out for adoption who come, are learning enough English they can be considered to return on a student visa, which it allows if we find sponsors.
Most families who host do not intend to adopt the child they bring. Most consider it as helping a poor orphan child and being sacrificial towards that child. However, in the end, many families do decide they want to adopt or they have friends through church, neighbors etc who meet the child and decide to adopt. Nearly all families say they went into it to bless a child and come out of it feeling like they received the blessing. On the other side, when I talk to children after they have been fully adopted and live in The US, none of them state they felt like they were being ripped out of a glorious land and placed into poverty. It was a trip to remember and they returned “home”. When they were offered adoption later, since we don’t speak of it on the host program, they were in most cases, shocked and it took a great deal of thinking to consider it real and accept it.
So, in the end, if a child who comes on the program has even 10% chance of being helped through one of these purposes, where they had 0% if they didn’t come; should we decide not to do this, or to do this for them as much as possible? And, that 10% is in reality, much greater for each child who participates…more like 99% gain something important from the program whether it’s Salvation, family, language or love.
Lastly, it is interesting to consider that the kids don’t have such the expected “trauma” after having to go back as one would assume. In fact, I have traveled with some of the groups all the way back home and each program I travel with them through security to the plane after we depart parents at the airport in Atlanta. The kids look at this as a vacation. Once they separate from their 4-5 week family, they refocus on friends after we get through security and find familiarity in them. “They are going home”. It is told to them and explained as such and being their “homes” are in these countries, they don’t expect to stay forever. The things that we see as extreme poverty and necessary things we have to have in life to live… just aren’t seen that way when it’s what you know and come to accept as “life and home”. We are “Disney World” and no one expects to live at Disney World. In fact, there are some kids who go back, are offered adoption and say no. For Americans, we view it as necessary things we need and they see it as waste and extreme, greed and ugly wealth at times. After traveling myself twice a year, to where they live, I tend to feel their viewpoint at times too. Not having running water in a house doesn’t mean it isn’t a comfortable home that provides attention and a sense of belonging. Safety and security of the “known” is there and that is number one on what humans need in order to consider what things are important. I suppose, considering where they were prior to the orphanages, streets and foster families, which is something none of us has had to see or endure, where they are now is a welcome version of “home”…just not what you and I would think of or ever consider as sufficient to be home. Consider the show Little House on the Prairie? They had little and felt like they had everything. These kids are similar, except they don’t have the “family” and that’s what we aim to offer them.
I love the global perspective that this gives. We are not better, just different. What is “better” is that Little Man and I have lots of love to shower on this child for the summer. Please consider helping us do that by donating to our fund on the right side of the screen, or by hosting yourselves.