Friday, February 22, 2008

A Must Read

What to Expect When Adopting......

While reading a few blogs I read a very helpful article. This artical is from Amy Eldridge, from Love without Boundaries. I think it is important for all waiting parents to read this BUT I also think it is important for our family and friends to read. I hope that you all will read this. Thanks.

What to Expect When You're Expecting (from China)…….A MUST Read for Adopting Parents

Below is a letter from Amy Eldridge, from Love Without Boundaries, addressing the recent adoption disruptions and parental preparedness. If you are reading this, think about posting it on your site - a waiting parent who reads your blog may benefit from it.*****

I have been so saddened by this situation. 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 perfect child 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 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

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Welcome Baby Tommy!!!

Pat's sister, Kate, delivered a beautiful baby boy on Friday night. We are so excited to have a new baby in our family and the boys are excited to be big cousins!! Pat and I were able to meet Tommy yesterday and the boys can't wait to have their turn! Congratulations Kate and Brian!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


This is the little chart that I have been waiting for the past 10 days. This is a projection chart that Rumor Queen puts out every month and I have been waiting to see our LID included. So, according to RQ we are in the horrid case for a July referral. I am liking that! I am thinking there may even be a chance for a June referral. I can honestly deal with a July referral. Shea gets out of school the end of June and a few short weeks later I see my baby's face. I then spend my summer preparing for the arrival of Lily. OK, so this could so not pan out this way and I know it could even be September before a referral but I will deal with that when the times comes. For now I will think optimistically becasue it feels so good!

Monday, February 4, 2008

February Referrals

February referrals arrived today. The cutoff is December 27th, 8 DAYS! This is so much better than the 3 day batch we had last month. The CCAA is less than one month away from our 1/26/06 LID!!!! I really think this is going to happen for us. At this point it looks like we would receive a referral in the beginning of July, with travel in September. Looking like I will have a picture to stare at on the beach all summer! It is still possible that we could get an earlier referral or a later referral but July is the most likely right now.

With that being said, my heart is still heavy knowing that lots of babies and children are suffering right now in China. Southeastern China is being hit with some of the worst winter weather in recent history. Some of these areas are not accustomed to the snow and bitter cold. The orphanages are running out of heat, diapers and food. Our Lily is quite possibly in one of these orphanages. If you pray, then please say a prayer for all the babies and if you have the means to do so then please consider making a donation to
Half the Sky is tryng to send money and relief to these orphanages and every dollar counts. Thank you for any support and prayers you can give!

Friday, February 1, 2008


Friday, February 01, 2008

The message below is a letter sent to all members of Half the Sky asking for help. The blog entry is long but we ask that you take the time to read it and help all of the children in China if you can.

Thank you Melissa and Patrick

Hi,this one really hit home. In all likelihood, most of our daughters-to- be (INCLUDING Lily) are experiencing something pretty horrific right now. Please read, and if your financial situation allows, help:

Welfare institutions in south and central China are having the hardest time dealing with the weather disaster. This part of the country is simply not equipped to deal with extreme cold or heavy snow and ice.The most common critical problems are power outages, lack of safe drinking and cooking water, lack of fuel, diapers and public transportation. In many places where buses have stopped running, our Half the Sky nannies havebeen walking hours (in one case, 4 hours) along icy roads to get to the children. As conditions worsen, our nannies and teachers are remaining at the institutions day and night. They have given up the idea of going home to their own families for the holidays. They need quilts. They need warmclothing. They need coal, water, disposable diapers and food.Here are the reports I have thus far, while in-flight. I will send more soon. Where you don't see a report, either all is well or I don't yet have information. I will tell you when we've heard from everyone.We'vealso given all the directors an emergency number to call when/if the situation changes.

Hunan Province –Chenzhou has had no electricity or water for six days. They are relying on coal for heat and cooking. The supermarkets and banks are closed. Staff is using personal money for baby food, diapers, coal and water. Costs are rising due to shortages. They have a natural well which,thankfully, is not frozen. Even the older children are helping to fetch water. They have perhaps six days of food remaining. The local government is overwhelmed by the disaster and is unable to help much.Shaoyang has seen heavy snow every day for 20 days. There is sufficient water and, for the moment, there is power, so the children are warm. However, 5 of 6 power poles have been downed by weather. Only one stands and the institution fears it will fall as well, leaving them without electricity. Much of the rest of the city is already dark. Children and caregivers continue to work and play together. High school students are cramming for exams and trying to ignore the cold. Everyone prays that thepower pole will continue to stand.

Yueyang also has no electricity. The one functioning power generator isbeing used in the children's dormitory. They are relying on coal heat but the price has tripled in recent days. They are running out of food and have applied to the local Bureau of Civil Affairs for funds to buy more. Our HTS nannies have been walking for hours to get to work, often slipping on the ice, "even though they try to be cautious."

Xiangtan has had snow for the past 10 days. The main water pipe is"broken again." There is no water for cooking right now but they do have electricity, coal and blankets. They are still able to buy food butprices have gone way up. Not all of the HTS nannies can get to work every day. They are keeping the programs going as well as they can and makesure that at least five nurturing nannies are there with the babies everyday, along with the institution' s caregivers.

Jiangsu Province –Changzhou has seen some heavy snows but the director reports that the children are fine. The director says that he's doing his best to ensure that the children do not suffer. Public transportation is crippled by the snow and HTS nannies and teachers are waiting for hours to catch a bus for home or even walking home in the snowy dark.

Nanjing reports no problems at all despite the heavy snows. I tried tof ly into Nanjing yesterday but it was not possible.

Anhui Province -Chuzhou has both water and power. Only public transportation has failed.HTS nannies and teachers are walking to work. They are leaving home extra early to be there for the children.

Guangxi Province –Guilin has two broken HTS heater/air conditioners in the Infant Nurture rooms and they've asked us to replace. The rooms are very, very cold.They ask for more soft matting for the floors and also snow boots for ourHTS nannies who've been slipping and falling in the ice and snow as they come to work. They are so ill-equipped to handle severe weather.

Jiangxi Province –Fuzhou lost power for a few days but now it is back to normal. The snowstopped a couple of days ago but now is falling again. The directors and HTS staff have gathered all the children into one big room to keep them warm. They've bought New Years clothes for the children and will have a party no matter how bad the weather. This year, however, the foster parents will stay home to keep the children safe. The institution has enough food and water. They want us to focus on those in more serious trouble and ask us please not to worry.

Jiujiang says they've never faced such bitter weather. They desperately need disposable diapers. Washable diapers cannot be dried. They need warm clothes, shoes, gloves hats quilts and warm mats for the floors.They need medicine for infant coughs and colds. There is no water for bathing. The local community has offered totake children in for the Chinese New Year and the institution feels this may be the best decision to keep them safe.

Huangshi reports that the freeze is so severe that all heater/airconditioners have stopped functioning. They need quilts and warm clothesfor the children. They need disposable diapers. Several HTS nannies have fallen on the ice on their way to work and they need medicine to treat cuts and bruises.

Gathering these reports together makes me think about how careful we have always been at Half the Sky to maintain our focus on nurture and education programs. Ours is not a medical or relief organization. There are many wonderful groups who do that work. Probably the primary reason we've been able to accomplish so much and reach so many children is because we've maintained our focus on our core mission -- providing nurturing care forc hildren who've lost their families..But a moment like this really cannot be ignored. The tragedy of HurricaneKatrina in the US taught us that no matter how wealthy a country mightbe,its vulnerable citizens (old, poor, ill, and orphaned children) are the ones who suffer most when disaster strikes. Even as China seems to be entering the first world, a disaster like this is quite simply crippling.We know that orphaned children will be among those who suffer the damage most. I say this because I think we should break one of Half the Sky's rules and, if there are sufficient funds raised in the Little MouseEmergencyFund, we should offer relief (water, food, diapers, quilts, clothing)toany orphanage where children need help. Let's see how this goes.

If people are as generous as I think they might be, we will work with the provincial Bureaus of Civil Affairs in every hard-hit community, and offer assistance to all welfare institutions where there is need.Please lend a hand, however you can. You can donate to the LittleMouseEmergency Fund by calling us in the US at +;1-510-525-3377 or in Asiaat+852- 2520-5266 or by visiting us at Once there, you can click on "Donate Now"or go to http://www.halfthes docs/usdonation- orderform. pdftodownload a form to mail or fax. Donations are tax-deductible in US,Canada and Hong Kong.Please forward this message and tell your friends and familyI will be back with an update very, very soon.

Thank you!JennyJenny BowenExecutive DirectorHalf the Sky