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More and more families are choosing to open their homes each summer and winter break to children all over the world through hosting programs!! These programs are incredibly impactful, not only for the host child, but for the host family as well. The relationships that develop and the memories shared in such a short time can last a life time! Right now, hundreds of children that were visiting the USA for this summer are winding down their time with their host family and heading back to their orphanage or foster home. Now is the perfect time to start looking into 2016 Winter Break hosting programs!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a hosting program:
1) Make sure everyone in the house hold is open to hosting a child! The hosting period can be difficult as the household adjusts to a new member, especially a child coming from the different culture and possibly knowing little English. Be sure that all adults AND children in the home understand the commitment, and do the training and preperation for the program. The more prepared everyone is, the better. Most programs will require an approved homestudy and training for the host families to qualify to host a child.
2) Understand where your host child is coming from and prepare! Be sure to research thoroughly as possible the country, and even the region of that country, where your host child is coming from. What can you find out about what they like to do, wear or eat? Are there any holidays that might occur while they are in your home? Are they coming from an orphange or foster home, and if so, what is their daily life like there? Learning to prepare food they are accustomed to can go a long way! Everyone can appreciate the love language of comfort food!
3) Have realistic expectations. Don't plan too much, especially in the first few days they will be with you. They will need time to adjust. Also be aware that certain activities might be overwhelming to them, or scary (such as amusement parks or camping, big gatherings of families and friends or even riding in a car for a long time).Though the time frame may be limited with just a few weeks, quality time with you is what is important. The memories of all the different activities will fade with time, but they will never forget the love and acceptance they felt with your family.
4) Try to keep things “normal”. Whether you host during summer or winter break, try to go through your day to day like you would, just include them! This way you and your other family members are not feeling a lot of pressure or stress. It is important for the rest of your family to keep things to the normal routine as much as possible. Also be sure that the host child gets enough downtime and alone time as is age appropriate. This is especially important if you are hosting over the winter holidays, and having family celebrations. Be sure to include them, but also give them space.
5) Why are you hosting? Are you interested in adoption? Or just sharing your home so the child can have some time away from the orphanage? Each hosting program is different. It is best to go into the hosting period with an open mind, and follow the suggestions of the organization that is facilitating the hosting. If the goal is adoption, and you are not open to adopting, have an advocacy plan in place. Talk with previous host families or adoptive families about the best way to share that this child is in need of a permanent family in your community. Just be sure that you are discreet and share only the information that is approved to share about the child.
6) Most importantly- Make NO PROMISES. Many hosting programs have adoption as the end goal for the child, but it is important to realize that it may not be an option for every child. Be very cautious about what subjects are discussed with your host child, both in your family and your community. Make the focus of the program about their time spent with your family, and learning about the culture in your community. It will already be hard for the child to return to the orphanage, it is very important that they go back with no expectations of adoption until it is for sure.
Hosting an international child is not for every family, but those who are able to open their home will see themselves and their families forever changed! There are several great programs out there with options to host children from many different countries, or even from foster care in the US for as short as a weekend! Whatever program you choose, it can make a world of difference for that child.
IAN is pleased to announce their winter hosting program for several children from Mexico ages 8-15 years old! We are taking applications now. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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