The Difference Between Foster Care and Orphanages


I had the privilege to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo in March. My time in Congo was an incredible blessing in my life. To be able to see the beauty in what looked like devastation and despair. As we arrived into Kinshasa, I desired to see it all, to take in all that was around me. My first two hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo were spent waiting on another person who was flying in on a later flight. I was exhausted and wondered how I was going to function on the little sleep I had the past 24 hours. The time spent waiting, however ended up being very educational for me. I was able to spend this time with our attorney, listening to her tell me of adoption stories, stories of orphanage workers and how the process runs in Congo for adoption.

One topic on which we spent a lot of time was foster care, or interim care, verses children staying in the orphanage. This was a topic I was interested in because many of our families had questions about it. My time that first night with our attorney gave me an understanding of the benefits of foster care. Little did I know the next day I would have the opportunity to witness the difference first hand.

I asked to be able to attend a US Embassy appointment with the lawyer just so I could understand the process even more. As we entered the nice air-conditioned building, I knew we were in for a long wait. Like many places in developing countries it’s a lot of, “hurry up and wait.” We were among the first ones in the building, but as we waited several more Congolese ladies showed up. They each looked professional, carrying in their paperwork, accompanied with children. At this point, I still had no idea who these ladies were, or what they were doing in the US Embassy. As we sat longer, a distinct smell filled the room. We knew one of the children had an “accident”. Obviously this was much worse than we thought because the officials began to remove carpeted rugs. The lady that had brought this child in took him to the bathroom, and shut the door and to my disbelief she turned and left the building. I was thinking she would return with clean clothes, and something with which to clean up this little boy. Time, however, kept ticking away. Ten minutes, turned into thirty minutes, into fourty five, then we were over an hour. There was no lady, but my heart knew there was a little boy alone in the bathroom. Over an hour later, the lady re-appears, sits down, and did not even visit the bathroom where the boy was sitting alone. Finally another women came in the building carrying a bag, and some clothes. She went straight to the bathroom, and began to clean up the little boy. I had been thinking all along this was his mother, but she was in fact a different lawyer who had picked him up at an orphanage and brought him to the embassy appointment.

During this whole ordeal with the little boy, I had the privilege of meeting three of our foster mothers. These ladies were holding the children, feeding them bottles, playing with them. It was such a beautiful contrast to that which was happening in the case of the little boy in the bathroom.

Finally I had to ask our attorney what was going on, since I could not understand the language being spoken. She told me that this lawyer had gone to the orphanage, picked up the little boy and was waiting for his visa appointment. When he had the accident, she said she had no desire to be with him, or clean him up. She had called another lady that worked at the orphanage, and told her to come clean him up.

This whole incident spoke volumes to me. There is such a stark contrast between a lawyer/orphanage director care, and the care of a foster mother. The foster mothers show love, attention, and care to the children that they have with them. It showed me that yes, foster care does cost money, but it is money well spent. The foster mothers are pouring into these children, love, acceptance, guidance, and most importantly what it means, and looks like to be part of a family. This is not something on which you can put a price tag.

This was revealed to me by first hand experience as we traveled to pick up two little ones out of foster care. I was welcomed in the area where the two foster mothers were sitting. A welcoming hug was extended to me. As I sat down, they spoke to other women around the home, and people started to scurry about. I was not completely sure that this moment what was going on, all I knew for sure was that two little ones had been taken inside. They came back out wearing different clothes, hair fixed, lotion and powder on, and looking precious. At this moment, the ladies asked the children to come to where we were all sitting. They began to speak into the face of the little two year old. Holding her face in their hands, speaking words that I did not understand, but I could feel her heart through the words. As tears came down this lady’s face she moved on to the six year old. She held his hands and smiled. There was a man that came and joined us at some point during all of this. To my great surprise, he spoke English! I asked him to please let me know what they were saying to the little ones. He informed me that they were telling them how much they loved them; saying how they would be taken care of and loved; to be the very best they could be; to carry Jesus in their heart until they are old and gray and to never forgot how much He loves them. Individuals like these pouring into children that are being adopted, is priceless! I am extremely thankful for my journey, seeing deeper into the lives of these precious children.


Photo Credit: Espen Faugstad

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.