Foster care is working in a most unusual place, and for a surprising reason

Written by on March 21, 2016 in The Blog with 0 Comments

I started reading this article in Christianity Today about foster care in China with several large grains of salt in mind. And slowly I realized, it’s a great story about orphan care in families. It doesn’t play with words, and it doesn’t have to. It’s good news, on multiple levels, and I hope many of you will read it.

In short, I learned about a man, Robert Glover, who has spent the past 17 years helping to establish foster care in China. People say foster care doesn’t work in some cultures. Well, meet China, one of those cultures. Through the efforts of Care for Children and their partners, nearly 250,000 children have been moved from institutional care into families.

When it comes to caring for orphans, Christians have done lots of good AND significant harm. As much as I appreciate the good, the harm has to be called out. Christians (and others) have fueled the explosive growth of orphanages that just won’t stop, even as experts are now crying out that orphanages are tearing families apart and filled mostly with children from poor families. Christians have fueled an international adoption movement rife with corruption and human trafficking in babies, while largely ignoring foster children in desperate need of families in their home countries.

For these reasons, I was skeptical of an article in Christianity Today, and I was wrong. The organization is spot on, and the author of the article nailed it. Here’s a quick quote and a picture, and then I’ll get out of your way.

The article focuses on one example, a village of mostly Christian Chinese who emptied an orphanage and took all the children into their own homes. To make this more extraordinary, the children in the orphanage all had special needs. This is another thing that goes against traditional views of what Chinese will and won’t do. Obviously, stories can change.

Speaking of this village of Yang Jia, the author makes the following observations. I was glad to see number two stated very clearly!

Firstly, the value of family care trumps institutional care. No matter how good an orphanage is it cannot give the same love and care that a family can provide. I am yet to meet a young person who has told me that they would prefer to have grown up in an orphanage. Well-meaning Christians are still building orphanages around the world but the best research points to the superiority of family-based care like fostering and adoption.

Secondly, family care trumps the popular model of children’s villages. Maybe you have seen initiatives to look after orphaned or vulnerable children in compounds where foster or housemothers are paid to look after them on the campus as a job. At the end of their shifts they go home to their own families. Yang Jia is not that model. It is a normal village where normal families have expressed an exceptional level of hospitality. The children in Yang Jia receive unconditional love and attention as full members of genuine families and as part of a wider ordinary community.


Read the article at:

Andy Gray

About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray hosts and writes for Uniting for Children. He lives in Cambodia with his family where he works with Alongsiders International. He wrote Home, a Cambodian story and created the video “Why Not a Family?.