History of Caring For China
For many years, China was a closed country. From the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 until the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1981, foreigners could not live in China. All missionaries were forced to leave in 1949 as well, and the church was forced to go underground to survive. IN the mid 1970’s, a British couple named Cyril and Gabrielle Thomas were given a vision of going back into China to reintroduce the good news of the gospel.
It took 7 years for this vision to become realized, and in 1982 the first teachers associated with the organization went into southern China and found a deep spiritual hunger that only God’s Word could satisfy. Teachers from all the English speaking countries of the world were recruited thereafter and spread to all parts of China. Everywhere the teachers found curious students who had no problem grasping the life-changing implications of God’s promises. In the early days, teachers were given minimal accommodations and low salaries. Today, teachers are well paid for living in China, but the wages are still much lower than the West. Accommodations have improved as well. Demand for English language is high, and there are many unfilled requests for foreign teachers. This is partly due to the high standards Chinese universities are seeking when they hire foreign teachers. Caring for China has a reputation of providing dedicated teachers who care about their students in all aspects of their lives. The organization also takes care of the teachers’ curriculum from a pastoral standpoint, visiting them during the school year and helping with the teaching supplies and curriculum. Our office in China negotiates the teachers’ contracts and makes sure the teachers are connected to other foreigners who can provide friendship and assistance.
On Christmas Day in 1990, some teachers sought out a local orphanage to visit so they could volunteer to help with the babies. Because of China’s one-child policy, and because of cultural preferences for boys, there were a lot of abandoned baby girls at that time. The teachers found very challenging conditions for all the babies, and in their subsequent visits, they were able to confirm an alarmingly high mortality rate. This caused them to pray that God would extend his mercy to these defenseless infants. The teachers kept returning on their days off, after four years, their prayers were answered: the officials at the orphanage asked them if their organization would consider opening a model baby orphanage that could look after the newly abandoned babies, and train childcare attendants to international standards. Caring for China, and related organizations in UK, Ireland, and Australia all agreed this should be considered a door that God had opened, and we immediately started recruiting early childcare professionals to look after the babies. In 1996, another orphanage in the same province invited the organization to take over their abandoned baby section, and then in 2000, a third welfare center did the same. Childcare soon became the biggest proportion of the work, and the expenses of staffing the centers, feeding the babies, and training the carers soon eclipsed the academic division. One of the functions of the childcare team was to prepare the paperwork for the babies to be adopted. In the 15 years since childcare was initiated, over 1000 adoptions took place from all three orphanages under our management. With only a few exceptions, all the children were adopted internationally.
In the early years, many of the abandoned children were girls with normal needs, whose parents were willing to give them up in order to try again for a boy. The orphanages also saw a high percentage of special needs children who were abandoned due to the high cost of medical care and the social stigma that accompanies visible physical deformities, such as cleft lips.
God provided a pediatric doctor from Australia who moved to China, establishing a practice to look after the needs of all the orphanage children, and to provide surgeries when necessary for the special needs kids. As the years progressed, the percentage of special needs children who were abandoned also increased; today, almost all the children have some identified physical special need. We routinely deal with Autism, Down’s syndrome, cleft lip/palate, sensory loss (vision and hearing), Cerebral Palsy, and a wide range of other ailments.
As this trend toward more special needs arrivals was happening; changes were also taking place in China’s welfare system and their employment laws. In a series of unpredictable events, it became clear that the structure developed to handle the childcare and healthcare services was not sustainable. In addition to the soaring costs, the administering agencies made it known that there were officials who did not want foreign nonprofits to be responsible for so many aspects of children’s welfare. Caring for China (and international sister organizations) decided to transfer all the assets and governance over to a Chinese nonprofit formed just for that purpose.
The new local nonprofit has a Chinese Board of Directors and they now have complete authority to run all the childcare and healthcare related projects. The academic portion – which was the foundation for the original organization, still operates under the charter of the international nonprofit organization. Both Chinese and International Boards work closely together today, even sharing the same offices.