Back in 2007, a newspaper advertisement caught Huanbi’s attention: OneSky was looking for a full-time foster mom for our Loving Families Program, which provides family-like care for children with special needs in China.
“One of the requirements was that the foster mom needs to be full-time while the foster dad can work outside and return home in the evening,” she recalled.
Huanbi was exhilarated by the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and showed the ad to her husband Chunhua while saying enthusiastically: “I want to have that job. It’s sad to see that those children with special needs have no parents. I really want to help them and give them care and love.”
Hearing this, Chunhua gave her a supportive nod without the slightest hesitation.
That night, she tossed and turned in bed and didn’t fall asleep, her mind full of scenes of the future, caring for and educating four foster children as if they were her own. The next day, she applied and got the job … a dream come true.
“An initial thought just came up naturally to me that I was going to make each child feel loved. Most importantly, my own child had grown up and my whole family supported me fully in becoming a foster mom, so I was determined to raise other children with carefulness, selflessness, and patience,” she recalled.
Before this job, Huanbi had accumulated two years of experience serving the elderly in the local social welfare institution. Although her background was not in early childhood education, she and her husband knew what it was like to be parents and were determined to excel in this new caregiver role.
Their determination paid off. Now, fifteen years later, they are still serving as foster parents in OneSky’s Loving Families Program. Looking back, the couple recalled that it wasn’t easy at first, taking care of four young children, all of whom were diagnosed with developmental delays due to their severe special needs and hadn’t quit using diapers. In addition, three of them couldn’t walk steadily or talk clearly.
Yet, however difficult the caregiving task seemed to be, Huanbi and her husband pushed on, wanting to give their foster children the best possible start in life. They found creative ways to parent these vulnerable children, thanks to numerous sessions in early childhood development and education provided by OneSky trainers.
For instance, to train the youngest, 3-year-old Junjun, to walk and talk, the couple spent a great deal of time holding his hand and walking together while leading him to talk and playing the “tongue stretching” game.
“Thanks to the training, I learned how to build emotional connections with children, the steps in providing responsive care, and other concrete skills, such as guiding them to wear clothes, use a spoon and a cup, and ensure their safety,” said Huanbi.
Shortly after becoming a loving dad, Chunhua became a chef at the Chinese welfare institution (where his foster children had previously lived and still attended day programs) cooking delicious and nutritious meals for all the children there. “He has excellent culinary skills. The fact that he’s working for our institution has an advantage to having more free time to spend with us after work,” Huanbi said, proudly.
“He has always been a pillar for me and our children, and I’m eternally grateful for his playing an active and important role in the children’s lives. When he looks after them, he is careful, amiable, and loving. They all love to hug and kiss him. In spring, he would teach them to grow sweet potatoes in the vegetable field, and in summer, he would teach them to swim, play basketball, and other kinds of their favorite games,” Huanbi added.
All of the couple’s hard work over the past 15 years has paid off. Their four children have grown up very happy, with special talents. Their daughter Honghong is artistic and good at not only singing and dancing but also drawing. Their sons, following in Dad’s footsteps, love cooking and can cook their favorite dishes independently.
As their three sons entered adulthood and then left the family in 2020, three new children all under 4 years old (named Ruru, Hanhan, and Xiaohai) came to live in Huanbi’s family.
At first, they looked frail and unsure of their new surroundings, frequently having colds and diarrhea, and one of them, Xiaohai, had intestinal surgery. To revive their health, Huanbi and Chunhua got up several times every night to check on them, covering quilts, changing diapers, and touching their foreheads.
“Quickly, my energy had almost run out. What’s more, I needed to learn related skills in nursing children with special needs. But no matter what happened, my dear family and lovely OneSky colleagues were there to support me,” Huanbi recalled gratefully.
Showered with unconditional love, two years later, Ruru has now learned to dress herself and help her mom do simple chores. One of her favorite activities is reading with Huanbi.
“Mom, can you tell me what this is?” Ruru would ask, pointing to a picture book, as they snuggled together reading. Huanbi is always ready to teach her whatever she wanted to know about.
Xiaohai is flourishing too. Once in a family concert, Xiaohai voluntarily served as the host of the show, and his fluent speech and poised demeanor won the warmest applause from everyone. During the Spring Festival, the whole family was making paper cuts for the celebration. Among all the children, Xiaohai’s meticulously-made artwork grabbed Huanbi’s eyes, and she praised him for doing an excellent job and being very focused during the process.
Honghong is the oldest child who has been with the family since the year 2007 when Huanbi first became a loving mom. They both have built a strong loving bond over their years together, and now Honghong helps to look after her younger siblings.
On Huanbi’s birthday last year, Honghong prepared a gift that made her feel unforgettable. Honghong’s teacher later told Huanbi that at school, Honghong herself had made the gift box which contained candy, rice crackers, dried tofu, and other snacks that her teacher usually gave her and she had stashed away for her mom. At the time, she told to the teacher, “Although I’m a little hungry, I can’t eat them, because I’ll save them for my mom’s birthday.”
That day, as she returned home, she happily ran to Huanbi, “Happy birthday, Mom! I have a gift for you.” Opening it, Huanbi was pleasantly surprised and immediately moved to tears.
Honghong hugged and comforted her: “Mom, don’t cry. Thank you so much for taking care of our family and contributing to our growth every day. When I leave the welfare institution, I will silently wish you a happy birthday from afar! May you be happy and healthy forever in the years to come!” Honghong’s words deeply pulled at her heartstrings.
When asked how being a foster mom has changed her life, Huanbi recounted: “The best part of my job is to be with the children because I can see their growth and development. Thanks to OneSky for giving me this platform … this big family, including other loving and caring families too. The environment has enabled our children to grow healthily and comprehensively. I treat every child wholeheartedly, carefully, patiently, caringly, and lovingly, and therefore, I feel that my life is full of happiness.”