Orphans into loving foster families in China

by Care for Children
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Orphans into loving foster families in China
Support to foster families in the community
Support to foster families in the community

Preparing children for family placement In China, we have had unprecedented success in enabling the government to move children out of institutions (also known as orphanages) and into local family-based care.

Our training covers the whole process of placing a child in a family, from assessing the children and foster carers to monitoring the success of the placement. One of the important parts of the process is preparing the child for the placement. It is crucial that the following steps are followed to ensure that children are prepared, understand what is happening, and feel safe throughout the process.


The family care worker assesses a child individually by asking questions, doing fun activities and exploring their views, wishes and feelings. The developmental, cognitive, medical, psychological and learning needs are also taken into account when considering a child's suitability for family care.

Care planning

Each child should have clear short and long-term plans that detail their needs and outline how they will be met once in family care.These are reviewed regularly and updated as part of ongoing monitoring and support.

Life story work

Life story work helps children to make sense of their past, understand their thoughts and feelings about their present, and explore their wishes for the future. This work is very interactive and great focus is given to the information that is known rather than what is not.

I hope this gives you an insight into this element of our training, which is such a key part of our work in transitioning countries from institutional care to family-based care for orphans and vulnerable children. Stay connected for more updates. Thank you so much for your support.

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Ai Liang* is a confident young women, working as a successful events organiser in the bustling Chinese city of Shanghai. She’s also an athlete, having represented her country at the Special Olympics, winning a gold medal in the women’s 50m breaststroke, a bronze medal in the 4×50m freestyle, and a silver medal in the 100m breaststroke, among many others.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that when she was very young she had severe learning disabilities and could not speak or walk properly. Featured in Care for Children’s documentary Children of Shanghai, she was also one of the very first children to be moved out of an orphanage and placed into a foster family, as part of the first family placement project Care for Children set up in 1998. 

“She was five when we fostered her, but she was like a one-year-old baby. At first, she was scared about coming into a new family but we tried really hard to build a connection with her. I was busy with work, so her father did almost everything. He changed her nappies and fed her. He even went back and forth from the hospital twice a day when she fell ill. Every day after work, he’d cycle for an hour and a half to the hospital to visit her.” Foster mother

This is beautiful story and example of what Care for Children has achieved right across Asia and is striving to do on a world scale. 

You can see the Children of Shanghai trailer here. If you would like to watch the full documentary, please email us.

Thank you for your support and staying connected to our work.

* Name changed to protect anonymity.

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Foster parent with child
Foster parent with child

As you may know, Care for Children’s first project was in China, launched back in 1998. All our subsequent projects owe a lot to the success of this original project.

In 1996 the Chinese government invited Dr Robert Glover to become an advisor on childcare. Drawing on his experience in children’s social care in the UK, Dr Glover proposed the implementation of family care to ensure that children could still be cared for in a family even when they were unable to live with their birth parents. 

Systemic Change 

From 1998 Care for Children supported the Chinese government to transition from an institutional care system to a family care model. The government took on the responsibility for implementing family care, while Care for Children provided consultation and training, empowering government staff to ensure the quality and sustainability of the project. Care for Children also provided technical support and seed funding in the way of government-matched family allowances (50%) to build models of best practice and design and deliver a national family care training programme. This empowered the government to enact legislative support for family care. In 2014 the government issued “National Regulations for Family Care” which required institutions to offer family care to any child who was suitable for family placement, indicating a permanent change in child welfare practice in favour of family care initiatives. 

Redistribution of funds 

In China, funding for children in care was originally only provided directly to institutions. As family care flourished, institutions started to pay families an allowance and more children were placed in families. The government recognised that by running family care projects, institutions were saving public money while providing children with a better service. Over 50% of governmental funding for children in care is now used to pay family allowance and family support. 


Over 5,000 Chinese government officials, institution directors, family care workers, social workers and families have been trained by Care for Children. Furthermore, Care for Children’s training-of- trainers approach has enabled staff in institutions to train other institutions. 


Our work in China has meant that a generation of vulnerable children have been placed into stable and loving families. As a result of this success in China, Care for Children has accepted further government invitations to launch projects to introduce family care as a positive alternative to institutional care in a number of countries in Asia. 

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Back in 2018 we embarked on a project to produce a documentary called Children of Shanghai about the transformation we had seen in some of the very first children placed into foster care in China. Our founders, Robert and Elizabeth Glover, travelled back to the original orphanage in Shanghai they worked in when setting up the family placement project. 

Incredibly, we managed to trace five of the children, who are now adults, and visited them to see the difference growing up in a family made to their lives. The outcomes are incredible - and must be seen to be believed!

Filmed in Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu and led by an experience UK-based producer, this project has become a moving hour-long documentary which charts the transformation of these children and their wonderful foster parents.

Now working in technology, finance, tourism, arts and sports, these young professionals reveal how they moved on from life in orphanages to achieve success and, in a series of touching reunions, their foster parents recall their battles to help them overcome prejudice and serious developmental difficulties. 

One such child is 29-year-old Chaoxiang*. At the age of nine he was abandoned between a railway track and building site. Police took him to an orphanage where there was little hope of a good education. He was asked if he wanted to live in a family and, as he said yes, he was matched with a potential foster family who had been approved and he moved in soon after. Within a nurturing, supportive and loving family, he quickly excelled at school. He is now one of Shanghai’s most sought-after coders.

Although we only traced five of the children who were first moved into foster families, this story of transformation is synonymous with thousands of children who have been moved - with your support - out of institutional care and placed with loving foster families, since Care for Children started its work in China in 1998.

You can see the Children of Shanghai trailer here. Please contact us if you would like to watch the full documentary.

This pandemic reminds us all that children are far better off in safe, secure and loving family environments. Thank you for your support and staying connected to our work.

* Name changed to protect anonymity.

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Wen Wen’s story is a beautiful example of what can happen when a family’s compassion is supported with the scaffolding of a well-functioning foster-care system.

Wen Wen is now a healthy 18-year-old woman, with a clear sense of direction and purpose. But her life could have been very different if it wasn’t for a combination of compassion, good care planning, and loving support. She was abandoned when she was very young, and found by an elderly couple, ‘Grandpa and Grandma Hao’. Grandpa Hao contacted Taiyuan Social WeIfare Institute (SWI) for their advice, and when Grandpa and Grandma Hao shared with the staff at Taiyuan SWI that they were willing to care for Wen Wen, they were shown how they could become her foster parents. It was a successful placement, and Wen Wen enjoyed a healthy and stable early life with her ‘Grandpa and Grandma Hao’. 

However, in 2016, it became clear that Grandpa and Grandma Hao’s old age was beginning to limit their ability to care for Wen Wen safely. The social workers communicated with them, and listened to everyone’s feelings and thoughts. After several meetings, and careful planning, Wen Wen moved to a new family during the summer vacation of her last year in middle school. Both of her new foster parents work in a school, and they lost their only child in an accident. Her social workers help her keep in regular contact with Grandpa and Grandma Hao. 

Wen Wen did experience some difficulties in coping with academic tasks in her new school, but her family took good care of both her life and study. During the college entrance examinations, which are a particularly challenging time for students in China, her parents made extra efforts to support her. Social workers continued to make home visits to understand the needs of both Wen Wen and her foster parents, often helping to coordinate resources they needed. With the help of her parents and social workers, as well as through her own resilience, Wen Wen's academic performance improved, as did her interest in learning. WenWen has just finished taking her college entrance exam, and says she wants to major in history.

Wen Wen is just one example of thousands of children impacted by Care for Children's work. Please stay connected to our work as we strive to see children right across the world moved out of orphanages and into local, loving families.

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