THE Jordan family have fallen in love with a tiny but otherwise normal and lively, 11-month-old baby boy. Carol Jordan treats Johnny, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, as her own. But in three to six months time she will have to say goodbye to him. For Carol and her two sons, Matthew, 11 and Caleb, nine, and husband Brad, that is the hardest part of being a foster family. Like the two previous youngsters from the child-care home Mother's Choice that the Jordans gave a foster home to, Johnny is most likely to be adopted by a family in the United States. But until a permanent home is secured and the lengthy adoption procedures completed, the American family have agreed to give him a gentle initiation into normal family life, a contrast to the more institutional care he has received for the first 11 months of his life at Mother's Choice. Janette Pepall, foster care supervisor for Mother's Choice, saw Johnny for the first time since he left the children's home the previous week. ''He has already changed,'' she said. ''He is much more social and interacting more. He is happier.'' Mrs Jordan and her husband, a businessman in Hong Kong, began fostering just over two years ago. Their first charge Sam, aged four, had Down's Syndrome and his hearing was impaired. The family communicated with him through a mixture of signing and speech. ''He was a very active boy, into exploring everything,'' said Mrs Jordan. Caleb recalled finding him in the sink in the mornings, trying to bathe himself, and drinking half a pint of whipping cream from the fridge. The second child, a girl, was two and had spina bifida, being paralysed from the waist down. ''She was a real joy, very vivacious, outgoing and determined,'' said Mrs Jordan. ''By fostering children with special needs we get to see them as whole people.'' The girl left them less than a month ago, to join her new family in the US. At the airport, she knew who her new mother and father were, thanks to videos she had seen while at the Jordans. ''We spent a lot of time preparing her to go. It was not easy forher. We talked a lot about it and the trauma was minimised,'' said Mrs Jordan. ''When a child is living with us we treat them as much as possible like our own children. We weren't planning to do it right again, but in hearing about Johnny's situation we felt it was right. You cannot put a child on hold for six months, when so much good can be done in that time. This is his time to be given a chance.'' Fostering helps prepare children for the transition to their permanent family lives. But it also requires adjustment and a challenge for the family taking the child in. ''Even within the same family there will be people responding differently,'' said Mrs Jordan. ''One of the boys wants to do it right away and jump in. The other is quite reserved and wants to know the whole picture. They have to find their own speed of adjustment and develop their own relationships with the children.'' The Jordans' home at Tai Wai is 700 square feet. They do not have a car or household help. ''I am not a supermum. I do not do this by myself,'' said Mrs Jordan. ''We have to work together as a family, working out problems and being careful of all our needs. It certainly makes for a rich life.'' The family has also found support through their religion. Ms Pepall said that about 15 families were currently fostering children awaiting adoption through Mother's Choice. Until the adoption is completed, the children remain wards of the Social Welfare Department. ''We believe that every child is adoptable. Somewhere there is a family that will give a child the nurturing, love and acceptance it deserves,'' said Ms Pepall. Nearly all Mother's Choice's special needs children are adopted overseas, mainly by families in the United States. While they are awaiting placement Mother's Choice seeks foster homes for them in Hong Kong. ''The best place for them is to be in a family,with one-to-one attention. But there is always a shortage of homes for the children,'' said Ms Pepall. Mother's Choice is on the lookout for Western families to give a home to children who will go overseas and Chinese families for children staying in Hong Kong. It currently has 11 children waiting for foster homes, including a girl aged four with cerebralpalsy, a boy aged one with brittle bone disease, a girl with a hearing impediment and several children with Down's Syndrome. Some of the children were abandoned by their natural parents after they were found to be handicapped. Ms Helen Stephens, managing director of Mother's Choice, said: ''This is a fairly new concept of child care in Hong Kong. In the past we have tended to put children in need of care in institutions. But it is increasingly clear that there is a better solution. Children have a much better chance of thriving and growing in a family setting. ''The basic thing we are looking for is families open to providing love in a family setting for a baby or young child. To be such a family is not that easy. They have to be willing to invest themselves in that baby but be prepared for the grieving of saying goodbye.'' Mother's Choice sought ordinary families for children with special needs, but Ms Stephens added that they required a little more patience and compassion. ''We are really pleased with the families which have come forward. We have seen the children make tremendous strides. But we need more homes,'' she said.