Orphans into foster families in China

by Care for Children
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
Orphans into foster families in China
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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Yan Ying* has worked at Shenyang Children’s Welfare Institution since 2000 and became a family placement worker in 2008. This means that she is responsible for placing childfrom the orphanage into local foster families. Wang Ying attended Care for Children’s 3-day training course in Beijing on Attachment and Bonding. Following the workshop she was extremely excited and said the following to us:

“Thank you very much for providing us with such a valuable learning opportunity. The training is very helpful, I have learnt a lot. For a long time I couldn’t understand why some orphanage children did not show any distress or went off without looking back when they were adopted or separated with their carers. I wondered if that was because the children grown up in orphanages tended  to have a ‘cold and hard’ heart or they had missed out on something. Through three days’ training and exploring, I finally came to understand that the institutional environment is not good for children to grow up in, where there are no opportunities for children to form close relationship with any specific adults, and they have missed out on maternal love which is vital and fundamental to their mental health. The lack of attachment figures may inhibit emotional, mental, and even physical development, leading to difficulties in learning and forming relationships in later life. Family is the best place for children to grow up in. Now I realize how significant my work is. I am truly transforming children’s lives.” 

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

* Name changed to protect anonymity.

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We recently received a lovely case study about Fang Fang, aged 6, who, having been abandoned, now lives with a foster family.

Fang Fang used to be a guarded child who behaved aloofly in her foster family, and seldom showed pleasure, excitement or distress. When she hurt herself or got upset, she made no demands on her foster parents, preferring instead to sit under the table, rocking to and fro, making whimpering sounds. When her foster parents tried to comfort her, she looked about in a confused, distressed fashion, making neither eye contact nor physical responses.

In contrast, Fang Fang’s foster mother is a very open and demonstrative person. She made herself unobtrusively available by taking Fang Fang’s lead, tuning-in as a mother does, to establish synchrony with her child.

“When I recognized that Fang Fang was going to her bedroom, I would go there and put her clothes away, not to entice a conversation, but to give her an opportunity to talk. She would sense that I had time to listen.”

Fang Fang gradually warmed to her foster mother and now displays considerable excitement and enthusiasm, and is able to use coping strategies. She seeks out her foster mother when in distress. When the family rabbit died, Fang Fang spontaneously rushed to her foster mother for comfort. This was a very significant turning point in their relationship.

With the help of her foster care mother, Fang Fang’s inner world is shifting toward adaptive ways of managing feelings and behaviors, which enable her to communicate openly, learn from experience, and be more resilient in times of stress.

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

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Care for Children

Location: Norwich, Norfolk - United Kingdom
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Twitter: @careforchildren
Project Leader:
James Paul
Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom
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