Is Our Family Right for an “Orphan” Hosting Program? 7 Questions to Ask

Dawn Davenport


should your family consider an orphan hosting program

If you are committed to the benefits of adoption and the importance of “forever families” for children around the world who wait in orphanages, then you might wonder about these international “orphans” hosting programs. You might even wonder if your family would be right for hosting.

What is an Orphan Hosting Program?

The goal of international child hosting programs, often known as orphan hosting programs, is to help find adoptive families for older harder to place children in orphanages throughout the world. For many of these children, it will be their only hope for being adopted. It is a simple fact of life that it is easier to adopt a child if you have met the child. Hosting programs usually run over December and in the summer.

Keep in mind that most of these children likely have at least one living parents since only a minority of children living in institutions throughout the world are there because both parents have died. Almost all kids who participate in a hosting program, however, are available for adoption because their parent(s) and extended family are not able to raise them. Most children are over the age of eight and are considered “healthy”.

Hosting programs differ in how they are organized, but the general format is that prospective hosting parents apply to an agency with an orphans hosting program, the program selects families and provides education and training, a child is assigned to the family and usually flown to the US with a group of kids and a chaperone. Orphan hosting programs differ on how hands-on and involved they are during the hosting period. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a orphan hosting program.

The host family could be considering adoption themselves or they could be hosting with the intent of advocating to help find an adoptive family for this child. The hosting program charges a fee to the host families to cover the cost of the program.

The children always go back to their country after the hosting program, but a family can apply to adopt that specific child by going through the regular international adoption process. The majority of children who are in orphan hosting programs are eventually adopted.

Should Our Family Host an Orphan?

If you are intrigued by the idea of an orphan hosting program, honestly answer the following 7 questions.

  1. Can we be a “sprinter” for this child? Can we put our lives on hold for the duration of the hosting program, to prioritize the goal of being a champion and advocate for this child if we decide that we are not going to adopt?
  2. Are we able to understand the child’s culture and personal background is different than ours and requires us to be flexible? Are we flexible enough to make the child feel comfortable enough in our home to understand what a family can be like?
  3. What supports can we as a couple or family line up in advance to help us make it through the hosting experience while we prioritize advocating for this child? Do we have meal support? Do we have clothing donations? Do we have moral and emotional support from our community?
  4. Can we create and sustain a predictable schedule during the hosting period in order to help the child feel secure and be able to understand what “family” means?
  5. Are my children, particularly my adopted children, ready to handle the hosting experience? Are they secure in their attachment and in a healthy place in their understanding of their role in our family? Will it be traumatic for them when the host child returns to the orphanage at the end of the host period?
  6. Is the agency we are considering reputable and focused on education and training? Is that agency committed to minimizing trauma to the hosted child? Do they encourage ongoing connection within the program? Do they have staff available to help us navigate the issues we might face during hosting?
  7. Can we keep our family’s “world” small and fairly limited during the time of the hosting experience, to focus on meeting the needs of the child and creating a healthy family experience for the host child?

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Image credit: Photo by Andrew Branch on Unsplash

11/09/2017 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Other Adoption Resources | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Is Our Family Right for an “Orphan” Hosting Program? 7 Questions to Ask

  1. Avatar Tracy says:

    Close friends of ours hosted three children ages 8 to 10 and 16 this past summer. Our family was able to spend a fair amount of time with these three boys this experience Sparked interest in becoming a host family for four weeks this winter. My husband, my oldest child who is 14, and I definitely want to host a child from the Ukraine. My youngest child who is 12 is very reluctant. He is worried that we won’t be able to do anything “fun or normal” , And is nervous about having a stranger, Especially one who speaks Russian in his space. He also saw some frustrating behavior from the three boys that were hosted this past summer.
    My two children will be in school for two of the four weeks of the host experience and my husband and I plan to take time off from work to give the host child plenty of attention and support. We are both self-employed and plan to devote an enormous amount of time to the host Child. We have made a list of fun activities that we could do while the Child was here. I’m not talking Disney World – we were thinking snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, family pottery class, ice fishing and bonfires. The host Child expressed interest in sports, outdoor activities and art. I actually think that we will do many fun family activities all this child is here as long as he is on board. I can’t seem to convince my youngest son of this.
    My youngest son has valid concerns and I want to honor his opinions and feelings. For the last six months I’ve been researching international hosting programs, reading books about international adoption , Reading articles on Ukrainian orphanages, and listening to your fabulous podcast.
    I know that the hosting experience would be extremely challenging but I feel called to participate. Several people I’ve spoken to told me that I shouldn’t let my 12-year-old make the decision for our family, I dont want to sabotage the experience by forcing him to participate. We highlighted some of the possible positive experiences that could be a result of the hosting program but he disregards them.
    I am very conflicted. I would love to hear your thoughts and if you have any suggestions regarding Podcasts articles or books on this topic I would much appreciate it.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Hi Tracy,

      I think it’s great that your family is talking so candidly about the issues related to hosting. It is potentially challenging. It is potentially a life-changing experience for you and your family, as well as for the children being hosted. You mentioned that you have listened to our show, I’m assuming you mean specifically the one on hosting ( If you haven’t caught that one yet, it’s well-worth the time and addresses many of the issues you mention in your comments. I would also recommend that you look into our resources on Older Child Adoption, as many of the issues that come up on that experience also come up in hosting. It would give you a great perspective on whether you and your family are equipped to do this right now. Or if maybe you should wait and prepare yourselves (yes, your kids, too) differently. This resource page is a good starting point for doing that research:

      I’d also recommend plugging into a community of support and education that will help you learn from the “been there done that” crowd. We have a great online support community that exists to support adoptive and foster families, as well as those walking through fertility issues. Though it might not be exactly what you need to walk through this decision making process, it might help to connect with others who have adopted older children from the Ukraine. You can find us on Facebook, here:

      Best wishes to you, whatever you decide to do. Thanks for digging into our stuff!

      • Avatar tracy says:

        Update thank you Tracy for your reply. It’s very helpful. We are hosting! Funny story – I told my 12-year-old that he got to choose which child we hosted from a small list – my husband & I narrowed the group of children down to 5 & my son chose from there. Turns out he DID want to host, but ONLY a particular sibling group. The two boys who we are hosting Actually were our first choice alllllll those months ago, but my husband & I thought 2 children might be overwhelming. i know it will be challenging – but we are all excited & preparations are well under way. I was wondering if you ever considered doing a Podcasts Specifically geared towards birth children or adopted kids already living in the home? I know you have Podcasts on this topic geared towards parents and caregivers but is there something that the children could listening to Themselves to help get them ready for their host, foster or adoptived siblings. My children are 12 & 14. Thank you!

        • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

          To my knowledge, we have not yet done a show “to” kids as our audience. But it’s an interesting idea! Good luck with the hosting – we’ve got some good resources coming up regarding support for kids with sensory challenges that you might find helpful for the kids you are hosting, as it’s likely that an American holiday season could hold potential for serious overwhelm! I hope you come back and read it after Thanksgiving.

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