In July 2017, the CCCWA ended their orphan hosting programs at the same time they announced that partnership programs would be dissolved. Now, two years later, the CCCWA is bringing back orphan hosting programs. Currently there are several different agencies known to be participating.
Cradle of Hope is one of the earliest to have full details available. They are bringing children to the DC area for hosting. My understanding is that the children in their program are considered the most adoptable from a particular orphanage, not children who might need more advocacy. The youngest child available for hosting is 4. Gladney’s US based hosting program involves a camp like setting with structured activities. CCAI also has information available on their US based hosting program. They list 5 as the youngest age of child available for hosting.
Many families are enthusiastic about orphan hosting programs because they can be very effective at placing children. However, there are some serious drawbacks as well. For younger children or those with cognitive disabilities, traveling can be traumatic because they do not have sufficient understanding about what is happening. Children are often told by orphanage employees that they need to be on their best behavior so they can get a family. This places a huge burden on the kids who will feel that they are to blame if they do not find a family after being hosted. For a longer discussion of the pros and cons of orphan hosting programs, see this post I wrote previously.
Previously, the files of children who were participating in hosting programs were held by the agency hosting them. It is not yet known whether that will be the case for those in the current program. If a family who is not involved in hosting is interested in adopting a specific child chosen to participate, will the family be able to submit LOI? Will the child be removed from the hosting program? If the agencies will hold the files, how long will they have the files? There is a lot of information we do not yet have about how all of this will work.
A few agencies are having volunteers or parents from the US travel to China. This aspect has generated a lot of discussion because it seems as if a parents who are matched with a child can use the trip as an opportunity to meet the child. Here is some initial information from CHI:
Gladney’s information page, which I linked to above, has the following:
In many ways, this is similar to other country programs where international adoptions involve two trips so that the parents and child can get to know each other. This can certainly be beneficial to both of them in many ways. For those concerned about reducing adoption disruption, having parents be able to meet the child can help them to have a realistic understanding of their child’s special need and development.
However, this could bring some major downsides. How will the parents be presented to the child? If the parents decide not to proceed with the adoption after meeting the child, will the child know that they have been rejected? The information from some agencies has been open ended enough that this could turn into a program where you get to “child shop” by meeting lots of children in the orphanage and choosing the one you like best to adopt. In all of these cases families still have the danger of not understanding that it can take a long time to truly get to know a child’s personality and abilities, whether you host them in their home or meet them in their orphanage. If a child seems unresponsive because they are shy around strangers, there is the danger than not only could the prospective family decide not to adopt the child, but that future families would be scared off because this initial wrong first impression.
For either hosting program, it’s important to ask yourself if it is truly beneficial to the child. Hosting programs, including this opportunity to travel to meet a prospective child you will adopt, are most likely to benefit older children who have moderate or greater needs. But previous experience has shown that they will mostly involve younger children with moderate or less involved needs. My opinion is that you should tread carefully, ask a lot of questions before committing to a program, and don’t immediately assume that hosting programs are always beneficial to the children involved.