“Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” – Andy Stanley
(NOTE: All orphan hosting is on pause during the COVID pandemic. At least that I know of. Hosting will hopefully resume during the summer of 2021.)
Our family is planning to host an eight year old orphan from the Ukraine this summer. If all goes well, we are open to adopting him. This will be our fourth experience hosting orphans using three different hosting agencies.
In the following post, I want to tell you why we continue to host orphans, share briefly about the seven kids we have hosted over the years, and then provide you with the Top Ten Things you need to know about orphan hosting. It is my hope that by the end of this post, your heart will be more inclined to maybe consider hosting for yourself and your family.
The reason our family continues to host orphans is because God has given us a heart for children that are without loving families and kids that have been rejected. I have been rejected many times over during the course of my life, especially during my childhood, and God has since healed me. And now I’d like to give back and be an instrument of love and change in a child’s life. My desire is to show these kids without a family that God loves them, we love them, and they have inherent worth as human beings despite the difficulties and hurt they have faced in their young lives. The other reason is that we are hoping to host to adopt. More on that in a moment.
Another reason we host is because we believe it pleases God and accomplishes his purposes. To start, God Himself is their Father: “Father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God is his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5) And the Bible commands his followers to look after them: “religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their time of distress, and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) If caring for the orphan is important to God, I feel like it should be important to me and my family, too.
I wanted to take a moment to tell you about all the kiddos we have hosted over the years. All of these very brief stories will give you a well-rounded picture of what orphan hosting may be like if you decide to do it.
Dennis: “Dennis the Menace” had behavior issues and would blow right past the boundaries I set for him. He was also sneaky and foolhardy. Dennis had been hosted before and knew the words “Waterpark” and “Rollercoaster” quite well and immediately asked if we could go do both of them. One time Claire caught Dennis literally one second from killing all the fish in her fish tank when she walked into her own bedroom and saw him, with an evil grin on his face, right before he dumped a whole tub of liquid detergent into the fish tank. 😱 Another time we found Dennis pouring water down the kiddie slide at the park and making a huge mud puddle at the bottom of the slide while all the three year olds and their parents watched in horror. 😶 When Dennis wasn’t being difficult, he was a fun kid to have around, got along great with my son Logan (Logan cried his guts out when he left), he played well with the neighborhood kids, he could be sweet and affectionate with host mom, he was quite funny, and one night he received Jesus Christ as his savior. Even for just that one event, it was worth it to host Dennis. When we drove him to the airport so he could go back to Latvia, he cried. At that moment I realized that we meant more to him than I realized.
Sasha: Sasha had special needs that became evident within the first few moments of hosting him. My heart sank when I saw him flapping his arms and jumping up and down in the corner of our living room within ten minutes of him coming into our home. The description we had of him beforehand turned out to be inaccurate. BUT…we loved him anyway and I tried to take care of him the best I could. I talked to him, prayed for him, took him on fun family outings, fed him, smiled a ton at him, and gave him a super fun week in our home (he was then transferred into a family who had experience with special needs). Sasha taught me that all children have worth and that God loves them too. Note: it is very unusual for a child’s hosting description to be so incorrect. I guess God just had a plan for us to host him.
Misha and Masha: This sibling group was a busy small force of energy and activity. The girl, Masha (we had fun calling out Masha! Masha! Masha!) was very easy and independent and played by herself all day long. She loved to watch Frozen and would sing “Let it Go” all day and night in our home! Her brother Misha was a handsome boy with a huge heart and competitive drive, but he was foolhardy and didn’t always listen to me. Although Misha did struggle with behavior issues, he was also very sweet. He loved to bake with me, play with Logan, and he was sweet and affectionate with Erik. It was so cool to see Erik giving him the fatherly love he was longing for. We told both of them about God’s love for them demonstrated the love of a family to them.
Lasma, Samantha, and Daniel. So this past winter I really went for it! I decided to host three kids at the same time, right during a major kitchen remodel, with no local family support. Oh, and we had just moved to a new state! And I’m so glad I did because this past winter (2018) was by far the best hosting experience we have ever experienced! In the fall when I began perusing hosting websites looking at adorable kiddos, I intended to only host potentially adoptable kids. After a lot of internal wrestling and prayer, I settled on two kids in a guardian situation who were potentially adoptable. But I also kept going back to an older girl, age 17, who seemed different and special. There was something about that kept drawing me back. So I prayed and decided to host her too. And I’m so glad I did! Lasma was an amazing addition to our family and was a complete joy to have around. She literally helped me around the house multiple times a day with cooking and cleaning (of her own accord – no pressure from me). Here was a typical conversation:
Lasma: “Hea-der. I only helped you three times today. I help you seven more times.”
Me: “Lasma, hon. You are here to relax and be in my family. I love you. You don’t have to work for me. You already helped me three times. Relax.”
Lasma: “No, I help you. Give me broom. Broom is my friend.”
And then little Samantha would come up to me while Lasma was sweeping and say: “help you?” In fact, “help you” was the first two English words Samantha learned on her own. The two girls would almost compete with each other to help me and they actually wanted to (unlike other humans I know who live with me who shall remain nameless….). The three of us girls had a great time preparing meals in my recently remodeled kitchen. For several nights Lasma cooked me dinner while I drank wine and relaxed. These three host kids were all good kids, well behaved, listened to host mom, got along great with my own kids, and it was so fun to have six kids all playing happily together screen free in different pockets of our new house.
Lastly – this is the cutie we plan to host this summer. We are hosting him through https://www.frontierhorizon.org.His description is encouraging. We’ve seen videos of him and we are looking forward to hosting him! (There are other kiddos still available for summer hosting on their website.)
Below are the Top Ten Things you need to know about orphan hosting in a Q and A format.
1. What is Orphan Hosting and give me some general facts:
In brief, orphan hosting is when you invite an orphan into your home for a short period of time (about four weeks, perhaps a bit more) in order to show them the love of a family. There is a to do list of paperwork and you have to pay for the child’s flight and other expenses, and then you let the kid schlep around with you wherever you go for that four week period. There are several hosting agencies, a few countries they work with, and two hosting seasons: Christmas and summer. For more detailed information on hosting in general click here: https://www.kidsave.org/host-a-child-mentor-a-child/
2. Which foreign countries participate in hosting programs?
Ukraine, Latvia, Colombia, Phillipines, Kyrgystan, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, China, and other countries. Please use google for more information.
3. What are the main hosting agencies?
We have used three different hosting agencies:
New Horizons for Children (http://nhfc.org)
Host Children (hostchildren.org)
and Frontier Horizons (https://www.frontierhorizon.org). I have most recently hosted through Frontier Horizons and Host Children.
Here are a few I’ve heard of but have never hosted through:
Rainbow Kids: https://www.rainbowkids.com/hosting-a-child/hosting-programs,
Project 143 www.p143.org.
BB: http://www.bbinternationaladoption.com/Colombian-Child-Holiday-Hosting-Program – (BB hosts kids from Colombia. They have very short programs so this might be a good one to look into. And they claim that the children are already cleared for adoption!)
Project 143 has a great Q and A on their website about hosting in general.
I also just found out that Madison Adoption Associates participates in orphan hosting. Please google them.
4. What are the pros and cons of hosting?
The pros are that you give an orphan the love of a family for a few weeks. If you are a person of religious faith, you can introduce your host kid to God’s love as well. There are other benefits such as your children seeing your example and sharing their toys and their time. They will get a little less self-centered and more giving and flexible through hosting. Also – all the kids (yours and the host kids) really bond and it’s honestly and truly a lot of fun to have more kids in the house. I’m not kidding. You will have to host to believe me on this. Cons: it can be hard and the kids can be not what you expected. It can be tiring for the host mom if she thinks it’s “all on her.” It takes work and there can be frustrations. The other con is that I’ve heard that some orphanage directors are not always completely accurate or honest about America or the hosting experience (at least this is what I have heard). The kids can cry when they go, and you feel bad.
5. Can I host to adopt? (if you are not interested in hosting to adopt, please feel free to skip to number 6.)
Absolutely!! But it’s getting harder to do. At least in some countries. I will add that hosting to adopt is a lot easier if you are open to older kids, larger sibling groups, and kids with potential special needs.
Let me give you a very realistic model of what will happen when you attempt to host to adopt and you want as much information on the child beforehand as possible. First, you get on a hosting website and peruse it. You see a bunch of super cute kids that you are drawn to. Some are sibling groups of two and you think “cool, I’m open to siblings.” So you make an inquiry of the hosting coordinator. So you send an email and say: “Hey Lilia! (actual host coordinator or hostchildren.org, who is great and her story is below). Can you give me more information on B142 and whether or not he is clear for adoption?”
Below are a few ways she will answer you: (I have heard literally all of these a number of times each from several different coordinators. Below are possible responses for Latvia and Ukraine.)
- No, the child is not available for adoption, sorry.
- I’m so sorry, but unfortunately, we have no information on their adoption status.
- Yes, they are available, but you need to know that the child has two older siblings, ages 13 and 15. You would have to adopt them too.
- The children are in a guardian situation, and while it’s possible to adopt from that situation, it’s tricky, and the guardian would have to sign off on it and other things would need to happen.
- The child is in a foster care situation and a new law was just passed stating that you cannot adopt a child in foster care.
- He is available for adoption but there is an issue with his sister so they would have to legally separate them for the adoption to occur.
So while it is humanly possible to host to adopt, with changing laws and changing attitudes and foster care this and guardian that, and the uncertainty of adoption in the first place, it’s getting harder. I also had a friend who hosted to adopt and they were all set to adopt the child, and then at the last minute he changed his mind. Adoption is a difficult thing sometimes.
But have many people done it? Absolutely. Let me briefly explain how hosting to adopt works. First, you host the orphan and determine that “hey, I think we could adopt this kiddo.” Hopefully, your child is indeed available for adoption. And then you just start the adoption process, and most host agencies are streamlined to set you right up with an agency. International adoption can take a decent amount of time and is a lot of work (and money). Each country is a bit different but once you settle on an adoption agency, they will walk you through the process. And for the sake of brevity, that’s all I will say on this topic.
6. Can I just host just to host, with no adoption interest?
100 percent yes! In fact, I would say that this is a great way to host. Just think of it as a four week investment for both you, your family, and the host kid. Give them love. And have fun!
7. What if we both (host mom and host dad) work full time. Can we still host?
Yes! It’s much easier to do if you have local family support OR paid, consistent reliable child care support, and if you and your husband can each work from home every other week or have a flexible work schedule, etc. Some hosting agencies allow you to place your child in a licensed day camp. You would need to identify those hosting agencies and host through them. So yes, whatever you are doing during the day with your other kids, theoretically you could do with your host kids. I would just say though that the more time that the host kiddo can get with you and your family within the context of you home, the better. And the more flexible and less intense your own work schedule can be, the better.
8. Can I put the child in a summer camp if I need to?
Yes. I must say that I have never once used a summer camp while I hosted because I thought “I should be here with the child 24/7.” But honestly, I just learned that I can do this (some hosting agencies allow this) and I plan to put our host kid in a day camp or two with my other kids (I am talking one or two weeks out of four or five). I can say that if you do not use a day camp ever, you will feel like it’s all on you and it can be tiring to feel like you have to entertain them all day long (but you don’t, see the next question). If you choose a summer camp, work carefully with the camp staff as the child will likely speak limited English and may not even be able to swim.
9. What do you do with the host kids all day long?
The short answer is whatever you are normally doing with your own kids. You don’t have kids? Then whatever is in your capacity to do with some emphasis on what you think they would like to do. I used to think I had to entertain them continually but after Dennis left and it took me a week to recover, I knew I had to find a better way. Now, I take the pressure off and use a “one boring day, one more fun day” model. On “boring days” we stay home, I get stuff done (including working part time), we play games like UNO and other simple games, they play outside, etc. The host kids are perfectly fine on boring days and I often find them doing their own thing quite happily with no adult intervention. 🙂 On “more fun” days we go out and do stuff. Sometimes it’s super simple and cheap things like going to a (free) park and getting a $1 McDonald’s vanilla ice cream cone. Anyone reading this blog post I think can handle that. 🙂 Other days we do more involved activities like go to a pool, or go on a major outing like a theme park or ice skating or camping or the beach. You live on a farm? Have the host kiddo help you with farm chores. You live in the city? Take your kiddo to a free museum. Have a pond with small fish in your neighborhood? Give them some worms and a rod and a little snack and let them fish. Taking your own kid to his soccer game or swim meet? Take the host kid too. Stuff like that. Don’t go crazy. The pressure is off. Just love them. And have fun! But it doesn’t have to be super fancy stuff.
10. What if the kids have behavioral issues?
So I would be lying to say that there are no behavior issues, but lot of times they are not super major and can be handled. Ask yourself (if you are a parent) “do my own kids sometimes have behavior issues?” If they answer is yes, then imagine how hard and strange it is (yet exciting and rewarding) it would be to come to a new country and only speak limited English and try to fit into an already existing family? Most issues can be easily resolved with loving boundaries and google translate. You can also call the chaperone. Or, you can be like me and host an awesome older kiddo who speaks the language fluently and can whip the younger kids into shape. Seriously though, the bottom line is that the hosting coordinator or chaperone is a call away, a face time away, or a What’s Ap away and can definitely deal with the kiddos.
Important point: the orphanage directors and the in-country hosting staff do their very best to select the kids who have the best chance of doing well during the hosting season. If they have severe behavior issues where they currently live then they are not a good candidate for hosting.
One last thing: only two kids out of seven we have hosted had behavior issues. The three girls were all a complete joy with no issues. One boy had complaining and pouting issues but again we used google translate and the chaperone to help us. The issues were resolved.
11. (bonus) How do I communicate with my host kid? (if they don’t speak English)
It’s much easier than you think using Google translate (an Ap), charades, gestures, and using common words like toilet, pizza, host mom, host dad, yes and no, etc. They study a little English, you study a little ______. Call the chaperone and tell them what’s going on; he/she will translate for you. You develop a groove and you end up speaking Spanglish (or the appropriate country derivative) and they end up speaking Russ-glish, Ukraine-glish, or Chinese-glish. It’s all good. You will be ok. Trust me, this is the last thing you need to worry about.
12. Last Question: What is the best thing about hosting?
For me personally, it’s knowing that I can impact one person for good. I can make one small difference in a child’s life. I can possibly even change the trajectory of that child’s life by my sacrifice and time and energy. God blesses me back every time I host. He gives me the grace and strength to do it. I love knowing that the kids all learn about God and His love in our home. My kids are better for it, and so is my husband. And so am I! It takes a leap of faith I know…but it’s well worth it. You feel good knowing you are giving a wounded kiddo a loving home for a short period of time. And you really end up liking and loving the kids. It’s truly a self-sacrificial win-win.
I am closing this post with an email I received from my winter host coordinator named Lilia. I had no idea she had once been hosted many years ago! And her story sums up the entire point of hosting: you never know how one act of love can be used to completely change the trajectory of a child’s entire life. And that’s the bottom line of why we continue to host. 😊
Every time I greet our host children and families at the arrival airport, my mind is momentarily taken back to the time I was hosted myself. A long time has passed since I was hosted, but my recollection of the experience is still very fresh in my mind.
I was so honored and grateful to have been hosted together with my sister, who is a year and a half older than me. Two teen girls are not likely candidates to get hosted, we thought. How pleasantly surprised were we when the director of our orphanage shared the exciting news with us that a family in America wants to host us!
For the first time in my life I got to celebrate my birthday with an actual birthday party that my host family organized just for me. Our host mom invited family and friends, had special decorations and cake in my honor, but I do not think that she realized just how much that meant to me. Was I really important to someone, I thought? Important enough to have them put together this wonderful birthday party? Did someone genuinely care about me even though they just met me? I will never forget that day and I will always be grateful for the wonderful host experience my sister and I had.
My sister and I were fortunate enough to be adopted and we are grateful beyond words. My sister has a degree in International Business and works at a law firm. I am a Host Program Director and have the privilege of organizing and running host programs for orphaned children around the world. I am a mother to an amazing son and am thankful every day for the way our lives turned out.
Hosting goes beyond a memorable vacation for the children. It is the feelings of belonging, of being cared and loved that serve as validation of their worth, which they so deeply need and desire. Please consider hosting a child this summer. Not only will you provide the children with an unforgettable experience, but you will also change their life and give them hope for their future. Thank you for reading my story,
PS: to just take a peek at the kids available for hosting, go to any of the websites listed above and/or also visit Host Children (hostchildren.org) and Frontier Horizons (https://www.frontierhorizon.org)
PSS: if you would like to read a post about the power of doing good to one person at a time, please read this: https://permission2speakfreely.com/2017/05/14/small-things-with-great-love/
Thanks for reading!! And if you have any questions about hosting, please feel free to leave them in the comment section. 😊