Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Complex Ethical Decisions 2 - Adoption vs. In-country Help

Renee is one of my favorite bloggers.  I am totally awestruck by the impact she has been able to make in just a few months for the children of Orphanage 39.  So many older children with special needs who now have families coming for them!

At the same time, I recently started thinking out of the box on this issue.  A few of these teenagers were ready to qualify for government scholarships to university studies in Ukraine, but were unable to pursue this because no Ukrainian universities are wheelchair accessible.  Hmmm.  How much does it cost to build ramps and elevators?

International adoption is expensive.  Whether you pay for it out-of-pocket or spread the cost around by fundraising, it takes alot of money to complete the process.  Multiplied by the number of kids at Orphanage 39 and elsewhere who could benefit from improving accessibility in their own country, and it really adds up!

I think that it is wonderful that these boys and girls will have new homes where they will have many opportunities opened to them in the United States.  But it will be stressful for them to learn a new language, culture, and even religion.  To break with all that is familiar to them and connect with new family and friends. In many ways, it would have been easier for them to go to a Ukrainian university if accessibility was improved.  Furthermore, installing handicapped access would benefit not only them, but many others for whom this is a major obstacle to higher education, both today and in the future.  Instead of rescuing just a few children, the money raised could be used to improve the lives of many, many more.

Another benefit to in-country help is that by enabling handicapped children to participate in their own society more fully, other people learn that the disability does not define the person.  A person can be in a wheelchair and participate in all activities with their peers.   A person with a disability can have a normal life.  What would be the impact of this on new parents of a child with special needs?  What would be the impact on the doctors who advise these new parents?

How do you decide how to spend your charity money?


  1. I've been following a lot of RR-related adoption blogs, and yours is a very refreshing viewpoint in a sea of like-sounding voices. I cringe sometimes to hear the well-meant enforcement of certain belief systems - especially how quickly they go from, as you say, "I'm right" to "everyone else is wrong" - and how this might impact the lives of the very orphans that need help.

    I'm so happy to read that you have an understanding of disability in culture, too, and how there are ways to help people function in a society that isn't quite accessible.

    1. Thank you!

      I think that Judaism is a big influence in the direction of "seeing both sides of the issue". Arguments and disputes are long-standing traditions for us!

  2. One of the things we decided to do is to spend the same amount of money we spend on adoption on supporting in-country programs for orphans. The 37 000 dollars spent so far go a long way in country. We do sponsor those kids who age out of orphanages. We sponsor a high school in Sevan, Armenia, who are offering classes to orphanage graduates so they can catch up. Our reasoning is simple: while that much money gave four children a future here, it will give two dozen children a future there.

    As for disabled orphans, I have witnessed a great change happen in a certain country in the past 15 years about families choosing to raise their children instead of giving them up/sending them to boarding school if possible. Work has to be done to change attitudes... and it's something we are passionate about. I used to have two girls from Serbia (ethnic Hungarians) live in my basement for free while they attended a special ed teacher training college in Hungary so they could go back afterwards to Serbia and work there. I wish I still had that opportunity! It didn't cost me much, but I know children's lives will be better because of them.


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