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Aug 5, 2013

A Devoted Mum

One of the families we visited on this trip
One of the families we visited on this trip

We have the privilege of meeting countless families across the country who are devoting their time and energy to give disadvantaged children a stronger start in life. The love that is poured out on these children is very moving. Visiting families not only brings home some of the realities of the difficult job they do and the sacrifices they have made, but it is also encouraging to see how families have grown and been strengthened through their experiences of family placement care. Here's another story of a family who have been caring for two boys:

We pulled up to a traditional siheyuan (a four-walled courtyard). A little boy ran over to us, jumping and shouting excitedly. He was full of life. The boy was about 4 years old and had been in the family since he was a month old.  As we entered the house he became more reserved, staying close to his “mum”, refusing to let go of her or stand too far away.  As his confidence grew, he began to dance for us, or show us his best toys and sweets. Throughout our visit, he would regularly go back to stand next to his mum to regain confidence before performing or playing again. He had been born without fully formed fingers on both hands, but had learnt how to do things, hold things and open things independently. He was confident and his foster mother was proud. He had an “older brother”, 6 months his senior, who had severe cerebral palsy and was unable to sit up.  He had been with the family from 6 months old and the foster mother adored him. From the moment we stepped into their house, she picked him up and carried him with her wherever she went. When she sat down, she sat next to him, holding his hand, gently wiping away his dribble, tenderly caring for him and keeping his dignity in tact. She was as proud and as attentive to this son as she was to the other.

This woman had 2 children of her own, both now married and grown up. We asked if she had much interaction with children with disabilities before fostering, she answered “none”. So we asked if it was hard fostering a child with severe cerebral palsy. Her answer: “In the beginning it was, as I knew little about what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know what he should be eating or how to hold him. I went to some training at the center, and now that I know what I am doing it is no longer hard.”

She went on: “Having foster children has influenced my own family for the better. My own children love the foster children, and often buy them presents when they come to see them”. She is now 48, when asked if she would continue fostering she answered, “I could keep going for years, and what’s more, I want to.”

Jul 16, 2013

What is your favourite memory as a child?

Chiang Mai foster Mum with her two foster sons
Chiang Mai foster Mum with her two foster sons

Our own life stories are critically important to us as they build a picture of who we are and where we come from. For those of us fortunate enough to grow up with our own parents, siblings, grandparents or close family friends around us, we can rely on them to recall stories surrounding our birth, what we were like as a baby and toddler, and perhaps even as a grumpy teenager!

Children who grow up in an orphanage don’t naturally get that kind of attention. Some of the children entering the orphanages we work with have little or no documented family history. Children who have no sense of belonging are often deeply insecure and can find it difficult to make and maintain positive relationships with others, which in turn can make their transition into a family more challenging.

Our Life Story Work workshops train orphanage staff and family placement workers to create a ‘Life Story Book’ with each child in their care. Their job, over a set period of time, is to create a documented history of a child’s life with as much information as they can gather. This can include the child’s own memories, old photos, friends’ stories, orphanage files, city records – you name it – to document the child’s life to date. This becomes a highly personal book that the child can consistently add to and review, and they are free to decide who can view it. It is a critical tool to help clear up some of the muddles in his/her own foggy memories, and move forward in life with a bit more reassurance – especially if it is into a new family! 

We were delighted to invite and host Life Story Work training specialist, Toni Adriano, from the Anglia Foster Agency in the UK. Together with Care for Children’s training team from China and the UK, we spent three intense days introducing the concept of Life Story Work for the first time to 12 staff representing three orphanages.

The feedback we received was unanimously positive - here’s a selection:

“Life Story Work should be provided to all the staff that look after children.”

“The training is useful, and it is very useful for my work. I recommend that we should have several training workshops about this per year from Care for Children.”

“Training on this topic should be arranged at least twice a year.”

A big thank you from Chiang Mai for making this work possible!

Discussing case studies during training
Discussing case studies during training
Introducing new training methods: finger puppets!
Introducing new training methods: finger puppets!

Links:

May 1, 2013

Moving forward in Mianyang and Deyang

Xiao Yun and her carer
Xiao Yun and her carer

Our project staff visited Mianyang and Deyang in January this year to get a better understanding about the children who are being placed into families under the care of our partner orphanages.

Many children who come into orphanages are diagnosed with disabilities such as cerebral palsy or learning difficulties, which makes it even more important that children, and the families who care for them, are given the right kind of support. Our project staff were able to see first hand how children who have been placed into families are progressing in their development.

We love to share stories about the children who are benefiting from the love and care of a family. Care for Children’s Training Manager, Emma Zhang, had the opportunity to meet a little girl called Xiao Yun.

 Xiao Yun’s story

Two-year-old Xiao Yun was abandoned by her parents and sent to the orphanage 3 days after her birth. She was placed into the care of a local family in October 2012. Her foster parents run a small local business.

When placed with her new family, Xiao Yun hardly ever played or moved around, she was very quiet and had difficulty walking. Xiao Yun’s foster mother gave up her job so that she could care full-time for Xiao Yun at home. She is able to spend focused time playing, reading storybooks and helping Xiao Yun with her walking. Three months into her placement, Xiao Yun now plays with a smile, and is full expression when she sees visitors. Her workers and foster family have noticed a real transformation in Xiao Yun.

Xiao Yun’s foster parents are really happy having Xiao Yun in the family and are already talking about adopting her.

It’s stories like these that affirm the need for orphans to be placed into families. One worker from the Shenyang Child Welfare Institution who has attended one of our recent training events, commented:

Through the three days of training and exploring [how children form close relationships], I finally came to understand that the institutional environment is not good for a child to grow up in…where there are no opportunities for a child to form close relationships with a primary carer. They have missed out on motherly love which is so vital and fundamental….the family is the best place for a child. Now I realize how significant my work is in helping transform children’s lives.

Thank you for your support that makes this important work in China possible. 

 
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