A Compassion Ministry of First Evangelical Free Church

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Heartwarming Response for "Forgotten" Children

I received this message this morning on Facebook from a college friend I haven't seen in 15 years. I love her heart and that she gets Christ's call to care for orphans.

I was brainstorming while listening to KLOVE and driving today trying to think of how I can make a difference. I have also had all the orphans around the world on my mind since following Sofia and a number of families on their journeys.

Do you know if the various adoption agencies have ever sent various therapists into the orphanages? I was thinking it would be really cool to band together a group of therapists including Music Therapists, Physical Therapists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Infant Educators to go an visit the orphanages for a period of time and work with the children. It would also be cool to organize fundraisers to leave equipment, materials, etc that could be left for those children to utilize.

I am familiar with Reese's Rainbow, are there other agencies like this that would be open to exploring some options. I don't know if adoption is right for our family or not but doing our part to reach these children by providing interaction and some hope through Music Therapy and other therapies would be a cool new avenue that would open the eyes of many to the world of adoption and what these orphanages are like. Any suggestions? I would love to shoot for doing something next summer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What to Expect

This was posted on a public forum by Amy Eldridge, from Love
Without Boundaries, and I thought it was worth sharing!

I most definitely wish there was a way to educate ALL adoptive parents about the
truths of institutional care, however I have come to realize in my daily work
that there are just as many parents who are not online reading everything they
can find on adoption as are.

There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of parents out there who have no
idea what life is like for a child in an orphanage, and who head overseas to
pick up their "China doll" only to be handed a baby who is unresponsive, thin,
unable to eat? and on and on and on. While adopting my son last month, I walked
several times over to the White Swan to talk to parents, and over and over I
spoke with moms and dads who had no clue whatsoever about the issues their kids
were having. I heard so many times things like, "she won't eat solid foods"
(oral aversion), "she has no muscle tone" (muscle atrophy from lying in a crib
all day), "she won't smile" (pure grieving from being taken from her foster
mom). I guess since I live China 24/7, I assume everyone adopting does, too,
which is not the case.

I talked to at least a dozen parents who didn't even know their child's
orphanage name, and while I gently said "you might want to memorize that for
your child's sake", at the same time I was trying to process how many parents
get all the way to China without ever reading about post-institutional issues.
It was sobering to me.

Babies in the NSN (non special needs) as well as the SN (special needs) path can
have issues with attachment, motor skills, emotional issues and more. I think
all of us on the WCC (Waiting Children China) list acknowledge that, while also
acknowledging that all children (whether bio or not) can have these same issues.
Living in an orphanage of course increases the odds.

I think the easy out is to say that agencies have to do more, as well as social
workers, but I do think that most of them do try to give information to the
parents but often parents don't want to hear it or else think it won't happen to
them. Again, I am often surprised to talk to parents leaving soon and to realize
they are not prepared. One family was adopting from our foster care program, and
when I told them that the child was DEEPLY attached to the mom, the father said,
"guess she might cry for an hour or so then?" An hour or so? She had been in
foster care for over a year! I tried to explain that this little girl was about
ready to lose everything she had ever known, and that they should not expect her
to be sunny, happy, and full of personality after an hour. I told them to please
remember the 72 hour rule.......that after 72 hours they would probably see her
spark, but that she would probably grieve for a long time after that as well.

I think for many adoptive parents, they just don't want to read the "bad stuff",
and so I do think that ultimately it is the parents who are at fault for not
doing more to educate themselves. There certainly are books galore out there
about post-institutional issues. I equate this to when I was pregnant with my
kids and I would read "What to Expect When Expecting", and I would get to the
C-section part and always skip it. Each and every time I would jump to the next
chapter as "that wasn't going to happen to me". Well, on my fifth baby, when
they were rushing me in for an emergency C section, I sure was wishing I had
read that section earlier! But at that point in the OR, while they were
strapping my hands down to the table, it was too late, and so I felt complete
panic when I could have been prepared. I think adoption from China is very
similar to giving birth...it is much more rosy to only read the happy stories on
APC, but I now encourage every family I meet to read the harder ones as well,
because if you are the family who is handed a child that is limp and listless
and who looks autistic, what you have learned in the past will help you make the
right decision for your family during those very emotional first few days.

I have been called many times in the last few years by parents in China worried
about their children. I agree that having a support network to help you through
the initial time is essential. Everyone should go to China with at least one
phone number of someone they can call if they are panicked upon meeting their
new child. I remember feeling so alone when I was handed my daughter and she was
so tiny and limp. Because our foundation often helps with the kids who have been
disrupted, I am aware that sometimes there are children who have much more
serious issues than originally reported and that is such a hard thing for a
parent to get to China and then discover their child is truly autistic or has
serious mental delays. I think everyone on both the China and international side
would agree that it is absolutely wrong of an orphanage to not be honest in
their reports, and no one would excuse that, but I also know without a doubt
that the majority of kids who are disrupted are just suffering from
institutional issues and would catch up quickly in a loving home. It is always a
very sad day for the orphanage and everyone involved when a child that they know
is absolutely fine, but perhaps thin and grieving, is returned by their new
parents for being "delayed".

I think far too many people believe their child's life is going to begin the
moment they meet them. The truth is, and everyone must realize it... a child's
life is going on RIGHT NOW in China, and all of their experiences are shaping
who they are. The vast majority of aunties that I have met in China are such
kind and caring people, but it absolutely is not the same as having a mom and
dad at your beck and call. I have had new parents call and say "we didn't think
living in an orphanage would affect her at all", and those statements truly
puzzle me. How could they not contemplate life in an orphanage?

Walk through Babies R Us and you will see every gadget known to man to make our
children's lives here as ideal as possible. Now Americans have two way video
monitors, so that when baby awakens not only can mommy see when to immediately
rush in and comfort him, but she can talk to baby so that he doesn't even have
one single second where he feels alone. How many new parents would have a
newborn and then put that baby in a crib 22 hours a day on their own? How many
would only feed their baby, even if they were really crying hard, every 8 hours?
Or prop the bottle in her crib and then not watch to see if she ever really ate?

Of course no one would do that...we feed newborns on demand, comfort on demand,
love continuously... and whether people want to recognize it or not, that is NOT
the life of an orphan in an institution. ...even when the aunties are as good as
gold. I remember one night when I took some volunteers in for the night shift in
an orphanage, when normally just a few aunties are working. One mom looked at me
with tears in her eyes as she slowly realized that it was absolutely impossible
with just two hands to feed every child, to comfort every child, to soothe every
baby who was crying. She said her heart was aching to realize that her own
daughter most likely had many, many times where she cried without someone to
comfort her.....and she told me that for the first time she finally understood
why her daughter had such a deep seated fear of being out of her mom's sight.

The aunties are trying their absolute best, but that doesn't equal mother/child
care. I remember being in an orphanage in the north this past winter and the
aunties were so proud of how they had 6-8 layers of clothes and blankets on
every baby to keep them warm. They were swaddled so tight that they couldn't
move, but it was freezing in the orphanage and so the aunties wanted the babies
to stay as warm as possible. What alternative did they have? It really was
freezing there..I was cold in my wool coat, so the babies couldn't be up and
about with just 1-2 layers on, with the ability to move their arms and legs. To
stay warm they had to be immobile, and so of course all of those kids have weak
muscle tone. But the aunties were truly trying their best, and when a parent is
given one of those beautiful children on adoption day, I am sure they will go
back to their room with concern and say "she can't sit up by herself..she can't
put weight on her legs". That is absolutely the truth, but she also survived 10
degree weather in a very cold province and she will catch up soon enough with
parents to encourage her.

To not acknowledge that living in orphanage circumstances can cause lower body
weights, low muscle tone, inability to make good eye contact is very sad to me.
Can it be overcome? Most definitely! The one thing I have learned over and over
again about the kids in China is that they are fighters and survivors. But for
some reason, people seem to want to ignore these issues in public forums.

Recently, one of our medical babies that we had met several times in person was
adopted, and we all knew that this child was a "spitfire". When the family
arrived and spent a few days with her, they decided she was too much of a
handful for them and they wanted to disrupt. She absolutely was not what they
expected. When they called their agency, they were told they had two choices:
adopt the child, bring her to the US, and change their expectations of what they
were hoping for, or adopt the child, bring her to the US and the agency would
have a family waiting at the airport to adopt her locally. Option three of
leaving the child in China was never once given. I admire that agency so much,
as they were thinking of the child and the child alone. The family followed
through with the adoption and handed the little girl to a new family upon her
arrival in the US. As horrible and tragic and emotional as it was for everyone
involved...I still feel this was the right decision for the agency to make. It
was done in the absolute best interest of the child, who had waited a long, long
time for a family. I wish more agencies would advocate for the rights of the
child, instead of always seeming to give in to the parents, especially in those
cases when they know with absolute certainty that nothing is permanently wrong
with the child. Recently with another disruption, the agency I spoke with told
me that it was "easier" to just get the family a new baby.

Sometimes easier does not equal right. The first baby who was rejected has now
been labeled "mentally challenged" even though the agency knew the child was
really going to be okay.

I think all of us, who do realize that delays occur and that babies can usually
overcome them, should be these children's advocates by continually trying to
educate new parents on what to expect in China. By helping them be better
prepared, we just might help stop a disruption in the future. I love Chinese
adoption with my whole heart, and it is my life's work? but I also want every
family who goes to get their baby to go with their eyes open and to be as
emotionally prepared as possible, for the child's sake.

Amy Eldridge, Love Without Boundaries