Hosting organizations exist throughout the country for the purpose of helping and mentoring children that might otherwise not get another opportunity. Many of these children are older and not desirable in the adoption world. Or they may be social orphans that are looked over and forgotten in the process. Most organizations work directly with facilitators, social workers and orphanage directors in various countries. In working together, the organization and the in-country teams evaluate and determine if a child is mentally and physically prepared for an overseas trip into a family situation. We all recognize that the status of “orphan” comes as a result of some sort of tragedy. So, giving that information- What can a host family expect from a host child upon their arrival and during their stay?
Below we will try to tackle a few topics- trust, responsibilities, entitlement, and appearance.
Every child has his/her own story that makes them who they are today. Some children that are approved for hosting programs are carefree and soak up the attention of a host family. They completely understand what they have been through and where they are going and handle it better than others as their personalities don’t allow them to be brought down by their circumstances. These children are obedient, kind and thankful.
However, it is very important to be prepared for the other side of the coin. Some children are broken. They are unable to trust others as they have been given no reason to. It is important to evaluate if a family would be able to handle that sort of situation. As a result of this lack of trust, a child may act out as they have no other way to express themselves. As a hosting organization and a host family, it is imperative that we recognize the source of this behavior. We cannot be mad at the child, but to be angry and the source. In doing so, it helps to be able to work through certain situations that may arise during the hosting experience.
With this understanding, it allows connections to be made to help a child know that there are people out there who genuinely care and want to help. It may not seem as though we have helped by the time the child’s departure arrives, but we need to trust that we have planted seeds in which God will continue to grow. At the bottom of this blog post, you will find a story that a previous host mom shared. It is not to scare anyone away from hosting, but to see the beauty in what transpired out of darkness. Please read the story at the bottom of this post called: Oleksandr (Sasha)- Not a Hallmark Movie. It will give you one family’s perspective in hosting a hurt child.
In an orphanage situation, there are caregivers paid to take care of the children. It is their job to clean, cook, do laundry and make sure that the orphanage is ready at any given time for visitors. You may think that an orphanage would be similar to a “Little Orphan Annie” situation where the children are responsible for their duties, this is not normally the case. So when a child is in a host home and the family starts to include them in their daily chores and responsibilities, there “may” be some resistance.
Some children relish in the idea of being a part of the family and take on responsibilities with no hesitation. It allows them to feel a sense of belonging. However, there are times when a child will feel that it is not their responsibility and refuse to help. This is a God given opportunity to work with the children to help them learn how to do things for themselves and to create that sense of belonging that they did not recognize in the beginning. With little nudges and grace, we need to include the children in our daily lives and chores are a part of this. Does this mean giving them 5 big chores a day? No. It means to make sure they are clearing their own plates, picking up after themselves, and making their own bed. It may also include that they help a host family child in doing the dishes, vacuuming, etc.. It is the little things that become big things that give a sense of accomplishment while learning to be responsible. Once they are not living in an orphanage any longer, they will not have caregivers to help them. They need some sort of knowledge in which to rely on.
Please note that some boys may not help in the kitchen, this may be a culture issue not a resistance issue. With the little time that we have with the children, it is important to not die on certain hills and maybe just show them by example instead of forcing them to do things outside of their cultural belief system.
During the last 10 years of hosting, our organization has also dealt with the problem of entitlement. It seems like an oxymoron kind of problem. How can an orphan feel entitled when they have so little? Shouldn’t they be thankful? The truth is, no. In the cultures that many of the children come from, the society as a whole lives a life of surviving “now” and “for the moment”. They are also taught these things. And let’s be honest, we have a generation of young people today around the world living in this idea that they are entitled. Orphans are no exception. I also like to think that these children are “opportunists” as well. When a host family starts spending money on the host child, they see that as a way to get more. Our organization caught on to this quite early and has enforced some rules regarding this. Not giving money to the child, trying not to buy $150 sneakers, etc.. It is so very hard to resist when the kids are asking, but it is important to remember that the reason they are visiting is not for materialistic items. So if they tantrum or get an attitude, please know that it is nothing that the host family is doing wrong but a result of environment, culture and opportunity.
When our organization was hosting from 3 different countries (pre-Covid) and had 100 children deplaning at the airports, there were a variety of conditions in which the children looked. Some children were dressed and looked disheveled as you would “think” that would be when you think of the word “orphan”. However, some children come looking pretty dapper or in some cases, they look pretty well off. This got some host parents confused asking, “why do these children need to be hosted? They are obviously doing just fine!”. Well, some orphanages have donors who give better clothing and they take pride in sending their children clean and proper. This does not mean that the clothes belong to the children but that their needs are met in a community situation. It is the best the orphanage can do.
Some children are “social orphans” and do have families that take care of them. It may not be a parent, but an Aunt or Grandmother that spends some money on them to look nice and have nice things. It is important to not judge and know that they are in the program for a reason. Nice clothes and cleanliness will never replace the need for a mentor or family.
In conclusion, it is vital that a host family is well prepared and does not have unrealistic expectations of any host child. That will only set the hosting up for failure. Our organization has an extensive training program ahead of the children’s arrival. If you are hosting with an organization that does not do this, they are doing you and the child a huge disservice. This training should include how to handle basic conflicts, how to get a hold of help ASAP but most importantly, how to NOT set your host child up for failure in the first place. Preparing your hearts, expectations and home are crucial in a successful host season.
Oleksandr (Sasha)- Not a Hallmark Movie
As I read the posts / blogs from other Host Families that had these wonderful, "Hallmark Movie", type experiences with their Host Children, I have to ask God to guard my heart against jealousy and bitterness. I wanted that experience. We did not receive it. But we did receive the biggest blessing, a huge eye-opener, and a real, in your face defining moment of God's unconditional love for us.
There were so many parallels we could draw from our experience. Due to Sasha's past, he had built up a wall, shutting out true love. Sasha couldn't accept our love but how many of us have turned our back on God's love. Sasha didn't always show gratitude and he definitely didn't realize all we had done for him and given him. But do we, as Believers, always show the deserved gratitude for what God has given us?
Sasha didn't or couldn't receive our grace but have we always been able to receive God's grace. Sasha tired me at times. Boy did he drain me. Sometimes to the point where I felt like I could no longer reach but it was at those moments that I was reminded of God's sacrifice and Jesus stretching out his two arms on a cross to die for me. If He could do that, I could love and care for a broken, damaged orphan.
Sasha didn't realize his need for rescue, for redemption but haven't some of us denied Christ's redemption. But through it all, I loved him. I loved him before I met him. I loved him since seeing his bio and picture from his orphanage. Thankfully, God taught us to love unconditionally from the very beginning. I felt rejected, unappreciated, and hurt but I kept loving him. I kept telling him, "I accept you, I care for you, I love you . . . no matter what. No matter what you do, you can't stop me from loving you." I found myself on two occasions, sitting on the floor with Sasha (once inside a closet), telling him those things through my phone translator, through real people translators, and barely being able to touch him during these times.
Sasha is a good kid. Sasha is a great kid. I love him despite the bad manners, the mood swings, and emotional baggage. Some of you may be shocked to read this because of all the Facebook posts of a smiling, happy Sasha. Well, he was that boy a lot of the time. And what good would it do to post a pic of him crying in the closet or laying face down on his bed with a pillow over his head. It would do no good and serve no purpose. Sasha has many positive attributes: his charming, capturing smile, his funny personality, and his zest for life. I have never seen anyone play harder than Sasha. When he was in a happy place, he was firing on not 4 but 8 cylinders. He also showed my kids how to place value on food and "stuff". And eating was an experience on it's own with Sasha. If he liked the food, he did not hide it. He smiled and moaned and shook his head that he loved it.
When he left us yesterday, I finally received an actual, enduring, tight squeeze of a hug from him. I once again told him I loved him and will never forget him. Hopefully one day, he will be able to accept that love, whether from us or another family. I ask that you pray this for Sasha: for health, safety, prosperity, knowledge to make good choices, and that he feel our love but ultimately, the love of our Heavenly Father. I ask that you pray this for our family: wisdom, strength, peace, understanding and comfort from sadness of letting him go.
This is not clear cut and never was from the beginning. It is a complicated mess. As if adoption isn't one of the most difficult things as it is, then throw in the above issues. Sasha may not want a family. Family has never done much for him. He rebels against the family unit, resists parental authority, looks out for himself, as he's been molded to do, doesn't like help, and can't accept love . . . but I LOVE HIM.