Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause. - Isaiah 1:17
I have written this post a million times in my head but I sit frozen again at the computer. How do I write this post? How do I make known what I have seen? How do I express the plight of orphans sentenced to 'laying rooms' and God forbid...mental institutions? What do I do for the ones I had to leave behind? What CAN I do for the ones I had to leave behind? What about the ones I didn't see?
I have written this post a million times in my head...yelling and screaming at the injustice, no that's too harsh...gently asking people to help...that's too soft.
Honestly, I don't know how to write this post. I am disgusted as we, the church, have yet to heed the words of the Bible to care for orphans. We have done a miserable job. You only have to peek inside one 'laying room' to realize that. But, I also must remember it's not my job to convict the world of that, it is the Holy Spirit's job. And there was a time I walked blissfully in ignorance about the plight of orphans so who am I?
After a lot of prayer all I can do is share what I have seen. I wish I had powerful and motivational words to move people to adopt the kids I am about to talk about. I wish I could somehow express adequately the blessing of adoption and how it has forever benefited our lives. I don't have eloquent words for this post and with every sentence I write I have to push down the anger I have and constantly surrender it to God. All I have is what I have seen and I hope I can express it in a way that will lead to the adoption of the kids I will talk about. Please read to the end and do not miss the links I have to some documentaries. You really just cannot understand the environment these kids live in and the horror of being transferred to a mental institution until you see it. If we are to "care for the orphan" we must first understand their plight. Let's educate ourselves together.
I actually started this post while we were still in country. I had just seen Daniel's room and I was trying to process seeing where he had lived for 6 years and trying to take in every detail to try to piece together what his first 6 years had been like. However, I knew that I was also standing where VERY FEW people were ever allowed to stand. I was trying to survey the room and take a mental picture and also look at, memorize, and pray for each child sentenced to life in that 'laying room'. The kids in that room had been shut off from the world, written off, and the orphanage kept it that way. I knew that if the other kids in that room had any chance at all of ever leaving that orphanage I better pay close attention to them so that I could do exactly what I am doing now...advocating for them.
Here are the quick notes I typed up that night:
-worse then I expected. smell was bad even with the window open - I wonder what it is like in the winter with the window closed.
-7 cribs, 3 children plus Daniel. only saw one toy in one crib. Daniel did not even have a sheet, just a mat. very lifeless environment, no color, almost nothing to look at. the only colors in the room were the clothes.
-I have seen many kids outside and have memorized their faces, I have never seen any of these kids outside of their room
-No chairs or anything to indicate the nannies spend any time in there. couch in another room where it appears they spend their time.
-2 kids very obviously soaked in urine
-when changing Daniel's diaper, just re diapered, didn't wipe him. it was only when nanny saw me that she fumbled around for something to wipe with, grabbed a kitchen sponge and wiped
-already I am fighting the urge to scream and yell to let these children out. My heart is breaking and I am starting to experience what so many others before me have experienced, the pain of knowing the ones left behind.
-So many emotions, I can't even process them now
Those were my first impressions and after a few more visits they did not improve. I was allowed in the room a few more times and every single time I went there were two kids soaked in urine. I never saw them dry except on the last day I visited. The other child was always covered with a blanket so I could not see if he was laying in his urine but he was laying in his drool and/or vomit so I assume the same was true for him.
So let me introduce you to the precious children, made in the image of God, who are forever etched in my mind...
There is some confusion as to whether or not Stellan is available for international adoption. The laws in his country say that he has to be older then 5 before he can be adopted internationally unless his special need is one that is on an approved list for children to be adopted younger then 5. His special need is indeed on that list. We are trying to get it sorted out. He once was featured on Reece's Rainbow but was taken down and now we are working to get him listed again. I will keep you updated if he get's listed on Reeces's Rainbow again. Regardless, he is either available now or will be in July 2013 so families can still consider adopting him and I know Reece's Rainbow would be willing to set up a donation account.
***UPDATE: Stellan is indeed available for international adoption and has been listed on Reece's Rainbow: http://reecesrainbow.org/17742/stellan310
The fist time I saw him he was sitting up and smiled at me. I will never forget that big smile! There he was laying in his own urine and probably feces, locked in his crib day after day, receiving very little adult attention, and yet somehow he still had the ability to smile and love. The facilitator we worked with in country is absolutely desperate to see this boy adopted. She has visited him for years now and when she speaks of him she gets tears in her eyes. She believes so strongly that he would blossom in a family.
I want to start off by saying I AM ABSOLUTELY NOT AN EXPERT. Everything I say about a child's physical and mental ability is just conjecture using my few years of experience raising kids with physical and developmental special needs.
If I had to guess I would assume he has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy like Daniel. I am not sure that would be a true diagnosis but I would guess that is what his file says. Completely a guess though. He is physically much more 'able' then Daniel. In fact despite his obvious lack of proper nutrition he was very strong. He stuck his feet out of his crib on the floor and pulled himself to a standing position. He cannot walk but with help he can take some steps. I strongly suspect this is due more to lack of opportunity than actual loss of ability. He is able to sit up and pull up on his crib. I cannot figure out why he is in that room. He vocalized vowel sounds and made good eye contact. I believe that given a chance and some therapy he would be able to walk and be at least semi-independent. And I do not say that lightly because the last thing I want to do is mislead a family into adopting him only to find out that what I said was not true.
I really cannot speak to his mental ability because I just did not get to spend enough time with him. There was one special day that visitors came to the orphanage so the staff let him out of his crib. That's how I got a picture of him in a stroller. It was very hard to get a picture of him because he was very near a toy and he was obsessed with getting to it and playing with it. I could not get his attention as he was fixated on the toy. Who could blame him? I would do the same thing for a toy too if I was never allowed to play with one. So I do not know if his obsessive behavior was again due to the institutionalization or connected to some 'special need', I just want to mention it so that a family that considers him has a good picture of him and his behavior so that can prepare to help him. He seemed to just pull and toss toys. Like most institutionalized children he has not learned how to play purposefully with toys. No one has taught him so he does not know any better. Daniel used to do the same thing but as we model how to play with toys and once he realized he has access to the toys every day he has come to play with them correctly, enjoy them, and put them away.
I did notice Stellan licking his hands a lot. When you are in an environment that is void of sensory stimulation you will find ways to get it. We had to work on oral sensory input with our Emma and she is doing wonderfully now. His oral sensory seeking can be corrected rather easily with things like chewy vibrating toys, chew sticks, vibrating toothbrushes, crunchy foods, etc. His licking really just speaks to his level of neglect and it is just so sad to me.
The one thing I will always remember about Stellan is that he had a very sweet demeanor. Despite his lot in life he was very happy and very sweet. No child EVER deserves a life sentenced to a mental institution but especially a child like Stellan, who really has the chance to blossom with some opportunity to work on his abilities. I just know in my heart that with some therapy and some love, like Daniel, he could be a completely changed boy. Please...someone...rescue Stellan.
Sweet Janna captured my heart! I spent time while in country trying to figure out if there was a way we could adopt her too. She was an absolute delight to meet.
Her medical records indicate "congenital anomaly of the brain" and she has a profile on Reece's Rainbow. I did not see her moving much but she would arch her back occasionally and make a few noises. She desperately wanted to move though. Desperately! She was the only child I ever saw that was given toys (I would suspect it was because the other kids would likely throw them out of the crib but Janna would keep them in the crib and play with them). The fact that she would play purposefully with toys speaks volumes about her cognitive ability. She would dangle the toys over her face and wiggle them around. She could move all of her limbs but did not seem to have enough strength to sit up on her own (although she almost did it). I do not know if she can roll herself over but when she did move she seemed to have more trunk and upper body strength then I expected.
If I had to guess (and again it's just a guess) I would guess that she has hydrocephalus and seizures. If that is true, I believe the care takers are hesitant to touch or move her. They may not understand hydrocephalus and seizures and are afraid to trigger one. Maybe she has even been made to lay still and that accounts for her lack of big movements? She was given one opportunity to sit up and be on her tummy and SHE LOVED IT! She reached for toys and enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror :-)
What touched me the most was every time I would rub her head or hands she looked at me like it was the most soothing thing that had ever happened to her - I will never forget that look. It was as if she was saying "I have longed for someone to touch me and care for me, thank you." I am crying now remembering that look and the sheer pleasure she took in someone gently touching her. It was as if years of horrible memories were released and she soaked up the gentle attention.
My heart is absolutely broken for her (and all the kids), will someone please consider adopting her. Janna is 7 years old and is living at the orphanage on borrowed time. It is believed that she will be transferred to a mental institution in September. However if a family commits to adopt her the orphanage director may keep her at the orphanage until they come (like she did for our Daniel). I cannot even bring myself to think of her life in a mental institution, she is far too sweet and too gentle to deal with what she would experience. Please...someone...rescue Janna
Oh sweet Travis. As I was looking around the room for the first time Travis was the last child I came to and once I saw him I could not longer hold back my tears. I was trying to choke back my emotions in front of the care takers because on one hand I wanted to scream at them to take care of these kids and on the other hand I wanted to fall to my face sobbing on the floor. When I saw Travis my heart completely broke.
I remembered his picture on Reece's Rainbow where he was sitting up (it's the first picture above). It was obvious that in the time since that picture was taken his health and any ability he once had had deteriorated. He laid nearly lifeless, covered with blankets (mind you it is very hot in the room). I only have the one picture of him because his position never changed. He rarely moved and seemed to be asleep all the time. Like with Daniel, he could be heavily medicated, I just don't know. The only time I ever saw him move he just rocking his head from side to side very slowly as he grinded his teeth...and grinded...and grinded. My instant feeling was that Travis had given up on life, and it breaks my heart.
Every time I saw him there was vomit on the blanket next to his mouth. I suspect it is due to improper feeding. Like Janna, Travis is living at the orphanage on borrowed time.
Please friends, let's not let Travis give up on life. I don't know what his future ability would be in a family but even if it never changed isn't he deserving of the love of a family? Please...someone...rescue Travis.
Please make no mistake, THE ONLY HOPE FOR THESE KIDS IS ADOPTION. I have to say it again...the only hope for these kids is adoption! We should, we MUST, work to get these kids out of their desperate situations. I know how hard it is to consider 'taking on a kids with special needs'. If anyone gets it, we do. But please prayerfully consider it. As ambassadors for Christ it is our duty to love our neighbor as ourselves and to care for 'the least of these'. I should not even say it is our duty...it is our pleasure! I would love to see the kids' grants grow (Stellan will have a grant once he becomes available) so yes I plead for donations and you can donate to their grants on the links I provided above. As you know Daniel and Bohdan would not be here in our house if you all had not given us your hard earned treasure! Money makes a huge difference to a family who wants to adopt and relieves a HUGE burden. But if no family steps forward we can throw all the money in the world at these kids and it will not change their circumstances. So let us band together to pray for, search for, and ultimately support a family for these kids. Maybe it's you???? Let's not rest until EVERY orphan has a family!
What about the kids at Bohdan's orphanage? Unfortunately the director of his orphanage is not very friendly to international adoption. Which is very sad because I will never forget the looks of so many of the kids faces as if to say "did you come for me?" I will never forget their intense interest in me and why I was there or how they cried when Bohdan left. Bohdan was available for adoption only because he previous orphanage had listed him. I do not believe that kids are listed by the current director once they arrive there so if their previous orphanage did not list them either, they are stuck. I am digging trying to figure it all out and see if there is anything that can be done. If I find any are available for adoption I will certainly share it here! There is a charitable organization that has working in his orphanage before so I am working on a way to help the children there. In the mean time the least we can do and the MOST we can do is pray for them! Let's not cease in praying for them!
I know this is such a long post but I beg you to take a look at some of these documentaries and links. Not every orphanage is the same, some are 'better' then others, and I use the term better loosely because any orphanage, even the best, is still very damaging to a child and could never replace a true family...the way God intended it. But these documentaries give you a peak into what life is like inside Eastern European orphanages.
This is a documentary called Ukra*n's Forgotten Children. "Shot over six months in an institute for disabled and abandoned children, the film takes us inside the lives of a handful of children who were abandoned by their parents - with a simple signature - to state care."
This documentary is called Bulgar*a's Abandoned Children Revisited. "In 2007 the documentary film 'Bulgaria's Abandoned Children' caused an international outcry because the images of neglect were so shocking to witness in a country that had just become a member of the European Union. The film is a heart-rending and eye-opening look into the life of one institution. Eighteen months after filming it, director Kate Blewett returned to Bulgaria in 2009 to film with a handful of the children featured in the original documentary, seeing where they are today and how their lives have changed."
This is part 1 of 6 and rather then post all 6 parts here you can watch the first one and then follow the You Tube link to parts 2 to 6.
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause. - Isaiah 1:17