If there were a top ten list of hot button topics among adoption advocates, the question of hosting would probably be right up there at the top. It can become such a hot topic that each side seems to forget that the other has the same goal: finding families for children who need them. What is in question is the best method to do that.

For those who are new to the term, hosting is where a child who is living in an orphanage and available for adoption is brought to the United States and lives with a family for several weeks. That family might be hoping to adopt the child themselves or are hosting with the intent to advocate on behalf of the child to find him or her a family. Either way, at the end of the stay, the child returns to the orphanage. If a family has come forward to adopt, they must then begin the paperwork just as any other family adopting a child from overseas.

So should you host an international orphan? Here are the arguments on both sides.

The positives of hosting 

  1. Sometimes it works. There are more than a few families out there who met their host child, fell in love during the hosting process, and adopted the child. Many of these families say that without hosting, their son or daughter would never have joined their family.
  2. It puts a face and real child to a name and list of diagnoses. Many times, the children who are chosen for hosting are children who have waited for a family for a long time. They are often older and languish on a list without someone advocating for them. Hosting allows them to become real children in potential families’ minds. It is always easier to imagine loving a living, breathing child than it is a faceless name on a list.
  3. It provides children with a needed advocate. Even when a host family cannot adopt a child, they often become that child’s biggest advocate, working hard to find him or her a family. Aside from sporting cute pigtails, this is the single best help to a child who needs a family.
  4. A family can really get to know a child and thus enter into adoption with fewer surprises. An inaccurate file is a huge fear of many potential adoptive parents, and meeting a child, getting to know them, and seeing exactly what they can and cannot do can make adoption seem less scary and more doable. It might even open a family to a special need that they were previously not willing to consider, because they can experience the care of that need and discover it is more manageable than they thought.

It is a fact that there are children out there who now have a family solely because of hosting, and there are families out there who begin the adoption process because they met a host child and their hearts were inclined towards adoption.

Now for the other side, the downsides of hosting.

  1. It inflicts trauma on children who are already traumatized. Children in orphanages have already lost everything . . . parents, home, family. A child who is hosted is brought to the US, lives in a financially secure family, is shown a good time, is loved, and then must say good-bye once again and return to the orphanage. It is another severing of relationships as the child leaves people who acted as his or her parents, even though it was for a short time.
  2. The child can perceive it as an audition for a family. While the children are told the hosting trip is for enjoyment only, this does not mean that they fall for it. Some children perceive it as a performance, in which, if they are good enough, they will get a family.
  3. It can make attachment difficult once the child is finally home. Some families who adopted their host child report that having to put the child on the plane so they could return to their orphanage while the adoption was processed did real harm to their relationship. Because the child was sent away once, it took a very long time for them to really, truly believe that the new parents weren’t going to do it again.
  4. It makes it doubly hard for the children who are not chosen after returning to the orphanage. It is a sad fact that not every child who is hosted finds a family. Some host families are just not in a position to adopt and their advocacy efforts are not successful. The result is a child who not only has lost a family but has once again (or perhaps for the first time) experienced the love of a family only to lose it.
  5. Some children are very young. This would be a simple thing to fix, but it still happens. Sometimes younger children (3, 4, and 5) are hosted. On top of the other concerns, these children are not developmentally able to truly understand what they are doing and what is happening, compounding the above-mentioned issues of trauma and loss.
  6. A child on a hosting trip is different from the child adopted. As mentioned before, a child will often be on their very best behavior during the short-term hosting trip. Being adopted into a permanent family is very different. A child will still have past trauma and loss to work through and new attachments must be formed. It is hard work and not always pretty work. Sometimes a family sees a happy, compliant child on a hosting trip and are completely taken by surprise when deeper issues arise. Hosting may set both parents and child up for a more difficult road by creating unrealistic expectations.

As with all complex ethical dilemmas, it may not be possible to say definitively whether hosting an international orphan is the right choice. Certainly, there is no way to tell in advance how the hosting will be perceived and navigated by the child. If you choose to host, go in with your eyes wide open as to what the potential pitfalls could be. If you decide hosting is not for you, then help advocate for children who need families.