The value of foster care in China
Foster families provide a loving home environment that even the most caring orphanage workers cannot provide. Their selfless love nurtures homeless children while Holt completes the adoption processing for permanent families. Holt’s dedicated temporary families are often the only hope for infants suffering from malnutrition, children recovering from surgery, and others who need extra care.
The Chinese government is asking Holt to step up our foster care programs in China immediately. Every effort must be made to get orphaned children out of institutional care.
Before coming home to the United States, Lilah Ruud lived with one of Holt’s loving and attentive foster families. Lilah’s older sister, Danica, had this to say about her visit to China to meet her little sister:
“We visited an orphanage where babies were lined up in beds, in rows. These babies didn’t have the one-on-one attention of a loving family. I also saw babies – like my sister – who had been cared for by foster families. Love does great things for people. Foster care for orphans can change a child’s life!”
The Following is Joan Ruud’s account of meeting Lilah for the first time, and her thoughts on the importance of foster care:
In September 2004, my husband and I decided we wanted to grow our family through adoption. Because we had an 8-year-old daughter, we chose the country based on how quickly we could bring our second child home. As fate would have it, we chose China! As the wheels of foreign adoption churned, we ended up waiting for Lilah for 4 years.
We received our first picture and official match on November 2007, and that Christmas Eve, we received an e-mail informing us that Lilah was not in an orphanage – as we had anticipated – but with a foster parent. Holt had no additional information and we inferred that our daughter had recently been placed in foster care.
During our wait for Lilah, I had read a bit about orphanages. I just assumed that our child would be placed in an orphanage, and we would bring her home almost directly from that institution. I was prepared for potential developmental delays and perhaps some attachment issues. The news of Lilah’s foster care placement didn’t mean so much to me, because I assumed it had been a recent development in her young life.
We arrived in China on January 8th, 2008 and held Lilah in our arms for the first time on January 13th. We had traveled in a group of 13 families to Jiangxi Province. About half of the children had been in orphanages and the other half had the good fortune to be placed in foster care. We also learned at this time that Lilah had been placed in foster care, thanks to donations to Holt, within a few weeks of birth.
As Lilah was placed in my arms, her inevitable tears began. Poor child had to deal with strange smells, strange sights and sounds, and strange people who were all so ecstatic to finally meet her. After an hour or so, she settled in and we began our bonding. She wasn’t so interested in big sister, she didn’t care for dad at all, but she wanted me. Lilah clearly assessed her situation and gravitated to the most familiar person; I attribute this to her relationship with her foster mother. She had experienced a home and recognized a family and, in particular, a mother. Her eye contact with me was constant.
We visited an orphanage on our third day in Nanchang. The infants were well cared for, but the ratio of care was 1 to 12 when the infant room was full. The babies did not have the connection that primary caretakers provide. Because of the necessity to care for so many, the babies weren’t mobile or sitting up or crawling.
A foster family provides a one-on-one relationship that allows children to achieve developmental milestones.
We have a picture of Lilah and her foster mom. You can see the love in both their eyes. Lilah is almost four years old now, and she talks about “the little lady in China who took care of me until you could bring me home.” Lilah adjusted so quickly to family life, and I believe she did so because of her placement in foster care and her understanding of family life.
Our experience with Chinese foster care inspired our older daughter, Danica, 14, to spearhead a campaign for Chinese foster care in 2009; she raised over two thousand dollars for foster care in China.
It is my hope to one day return to China and visit Lilah’s foster mother. Lilah has a birth mother, who she will never meet; she has me, her mom; and she has a foster mother who lovingly cared for her for 16 months until we could bring her home. We all have had a part in making Lilah the loving girl that she is today.