When preparing to host a child from another country there are more ways to prepare than simply getting your host child’s room ready. Here are some other ways to prepare your home and family in advance for orphan hosting.
Educate yourself. Pay close attention to the host parent training material, take notes and highlight important information you may need to reference later. Talk to other families who have hosted or plan to host. I would also encourage you to do your own research. For example, what do you know about Ukraine? Did you know there is a 7 hour time difference? Did you know that in Ukraine they shake their heads when saying “yes” and nod their heads when saying “no”? Take an interest in learning more about their culture so you understand a little bit about where your host child is coming from.
Childproof your house. Ensure that your house is safe for your host child. Install childproof protections as if you are hosting a toddler. If you have a gas stove, for example, make sure there are childproof knob covers installed. While your seven year-old son may have already learned not to mess with the stove a child in an orphanage may not know this already. Install safety latches on all cabinets and drawers to keep children away from household cleaning products and chemicals. Children are naturally curious and until they have learned the household rules there needs to be safety measures in place to protect your host child.
Plan activities and a daily schedule. It’s important for your host children to have some idea of what to expect each day. Let them know what the daily schedule will be, and prepare them in advance for any changes in the daily routine. Since host children have the expectation that their visit is like a vacation it is important to plan some vacation like activities. This doesn’t mean you need to take them to Disney World, but you will want to plan some day trips or activities such as going to parks, museums, sports events or visiting other local attractions.
Establish house rules. Don’t be afraid to set limits and enforce rules. Write out household rules in English, translate them to Ukrainian and hang them up in your home in a visible location. It is the parents’ responsibility to communicate their household rules and ensure that their host children have a clear understanding of expectations. Do not assume that they automatically obey common societal rules such as harming others or destruction of property. There should be no exceptions to these rules and parents should be prepared to respond immediately and consistently to enforce these rules so that expectations are clearly understood.
Language. Online translation websites and mobile translation apps like google translate are great because they are easy to use, mobile and they will pronounce the words for you. Since the Ukrainian language uses a different alphabet system it is even more useful that these tools read the words for you. You can also purchase a Russian/English dictionary. It will be very important to learn key phrases in their language too. Translators are available by phone if necessary.
Prepare yourself emotionally. Hosted children may take longer than anticipated to adjust or warm up to you and your family. Some children may be overly clingy while others may seem shy or standoffish. Meet your child where they are and don’t be overly pushy; let them connect on their terms when they are ready.
Prepare children already in the home. Children in the home may be excited for another playmate but they need to be aware that host children may need extra attention and may have a difficult transition. Help your children to understand that there may be tantrums and crying and you will need their help to be good role models for the host children. Make sure that everyone in the household understands that the topic of adoption should not be discussed and should be completely avoided. It is imperative that host parents do not mention adoption because there are no guarantees that you will be able to adopt this child; there is no need to get a child’s hopes up. Hosting is an opportunity for a child to have a vacation and an experience that they otherwise would not be able to have.
These are only a few areas to prepare in advance of your host child’s arrival. Generally being prepared, educated, and having a plan can ease the transition and make hosting less stressful for everyone. If issues arise after your host child is placed in your home please seek assistance from your support group, other host families, Hosting Coordinator, or from the Social Services Department at MLJ Adoptions.
For more information on hosting, please contact Lydia Tarr, Hosting Program Coordinator.