Global inflation has significantly increased the cost of food, gas and basic items — increasing the overall cost to care for children in orphanages and foster care. In Thailand, where the price of gas has doubled, one boy’s frequent trips to the doctor now cost twice as much!
Baby Borom lives with a Holt-supported foster family in a rural community just outside of Bangkok. He is 19 months old when we meet him in August 2022, and has been in the care of his foster mother since he was just 3 months old.
You can see in his eyes that he is thriving in her care.
“You can tell his eyes are much different from the children in the government children’s home — happy,” says Goranid “Tuk” Sudmee, the social services director at Holt Sahathai Foundation, Holt’s long-time partner in Thailand, who joins us on the visit. Tuk has worked for HSF for over 34 years.
Although thriving in the nurturing care of his foster mom, Borom is still recovering from some abusive treatment he endured before coming into HSF foster care. “He has baby shaking syndrome,” Tuk says. “We’re not sure who shook him, but it caused a brain hemorrhage.” He now has seizures and needs physical therapy in Bangkok two to four times per month.
“The physical therapist massages and stretches his feet and wrists due to tight tendons,” Tuk explains. “The hemorrhage made him stiff in his left side.”
In addition to physical therapy, Borom receives neurological and developmental therapy at the medical school in Bangkok. To control his seizures, he also needs to take medicine every day.
“HSF has to pay a lot for kids with special needs in foster care,” Tuk says.
For Borom, the cost of therapy and medicine totals 2,300 Baht — about $63 — per month. Considering the cost of living in Thailand, that amount of money is significant. It is about a third of the amount of money it takes to provide HSF foster care for a child without special needs.
And in some cases, like Borom’s, the medical care costs to HSF are even greater because the children are considered “stateless.”
Thailand has socialized medicine, but the Thai government only helps to cover medical care costs for Thai nationals. Because Borom is Laotian, HSF — and Holt donors — have to pay the full cost for his medicine and therapy.
Caring for a child in foster care in Thailand — with or without special needs — is already expensive. Each foster family receives a 3,000 to 3,200 Baht/mth subsidy, which doesn’t include the cost of infant formula, clothing, diapers, cleaning supplies, medical care and travel expenses to and from Bangkok.
It would be easier if the children lived in Bangkok. But as Tuk explains, it’s hard to recruit foster families in Bangkok, where potential families can find work that pays far better. As a result, most children stay with families in rural areas. But to see a doctor, they have to travel to Bangkok.
And now, due to global inflation, the cost of travel to Bangkok has more than doubled. “It used to be 700 Baht for gas to see a doctor at the medical school in Bangkok. Now, it’s 1,500 Baht,” Tuk says.
Borom’s frequent visits to the doctor now cost over twice as much — 3,000 to 6,000 Baht/month, or nearly the total cost of care for a child without health issues.
For many children, the COVID pandemic made foster care even pricier, Tuk says, as they have stayed in care longer while they wait to join adoptive families or rejoin their birth families. As many foster families lost jobs and income during the pandemic, HSF and Holt donors also helped support foster parents — many of whom are now in their 60s — during this unstable time.
“We had to provide food and water not just for the child,” Tuk says, “but the whole family.”
At Holt, we hope we will never have to lower the quality of care we provide for children like Borom. Right now, Borom is safe and thriving in the care of his foster mom. His future is uncertain, and HSF social workers are working to determine whether it’s safe for him to rejoin his family. But while he is in HSF care — and for however long he is in care — he will receive everything he needs to thrive, from medicine and therapy to the nurturing and devoted care of his foster mom.
To sustain this quality of care, we rely on the generosity of donors. And right now, as food, gas and basic care costs rise across the globe, children need your support more than ever. Thank you for your heart and compassion for children in need, and for giving to help children thrive in the loving care of a family.
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