Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Three girls

I have 3 daughters, but this is not about them.  It is about 3 girls who have been living at an orphanage in Ukraine.  It is one of the better orphanages:  The staff genuinely cares about the children living there.  Still, the children with mental/developmental disabilities are kept in a separate groupa than the children with merely physical handicaps.  This orphanage was "discovered" by Renee when she went there to adopt her daughter "Moxie" last year, but she could not at that time visit this hidden groupa.  She fervently advocated for all the children she met.  All of the children with physical disabilities who were eligible for international adoption have either been adopted or have families coming for them!

And there is a family there right now, meeting their new children with Down syndrome, 15-year-old "Bernadette", whom they will name Jessica, and 9-year-old "Mason", whom they will call Caleb.  They report that the staff cares warmly for these children, as well, although still blinded by their society's prejudice about the potential of people with Down syndrome.

She says, "Unfortunately, it seems that due to a lack of knowledge, training, or because of social norms, there is no expectation that these children can develop any further.  However they show up is believed to be the status they will have for the rest of their lives.  If they make gains on their own, this new level of ability is accepted as their new “normal”, but no effort is made to help them achieve.  There isn’t anything intentionally sinister or malicious going on, it is just the way their culture has taught them to view these children.  I think once we can begin to send pictures and reports of how well these children are doing and the advances that they are making once they are given expectations to meet, that we may see a change in attitude among many of the caregivers.  There is a need for developmental toys here.  It would make a huge difference if we could get at least a crib toy for each crib."

Which brings us to the 3 girls who are still there, waiting.

There is Greta, who at nearly 14 years old is barely the size of a 5-year-old, and developmentally at a pre-school level.

Renee, who is also there now writes: "she's adorable and precious and full of energy and walking and climbing and laughing".  This picture really doesn't do her justice.....

Then there is Clarice, who just turned 13 last month, who is the size of a 4-year-old.  In addition to Down syndrome, she also has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

She is described as, "She has the personality of an impetuous toddler- very high energy and eager to try everything life has to offer."  On the other hand, Renee reports that she is now "using a walker to walk around downstairs, with a nanny.  She was quiet and working hard, but had a huge smile on her face!!!"

Finally, Mabel is only 7 years old, and the size of a 3-year-old.  It is believed that she is not yet walking, and exhibits many institutional self-soothing behaviors.   At this age, though, there is still so much potential to catch up with lots of love, medical attention, and therapy.


Three girls.  How different they seem than my daughters!  They face such challenges that my girls have never faced, and likely never will.  But what they need is the same -- the love and commitment of parents who will take care of them no matter what.

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