(Reprinted with permission from Trish Hatton-Jamison This woman thinks like I do. Love her!)
As I become increasingly vocal about my passion for the orphan, I occasionally get some blatantly honest questions from people. I like that. I like it because I have a feeling that more people have those questions and are afraid to start the awkward conversations. So here it goes. My best shot at answering the questions that have (and haven't) been asked.
I don't think I know anyone who would say, “Why would you help an orphan?” Regardless of your stance on faith, I believe the innate goodness in people makes them feel sorry for the orphan and think (in principle, anyway) that someone should help them out. Someone else, that is.
Yet according to UNICEF there are 165 million orphans in the world.
Clearly someone else isn't doing enough.
As a believer who wants desperately to be more Christ-like, I have to take my cues from God's Word. And the Bible clearly shows that God has a heart for vulnerable children. Scripture references orphans a lot. Sometimes by name like this:
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV)
and sometime more like this:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
So in response to my prayer “to make my heart look more like Yours,” God has broken my heart for these children. Is it because I'm a mom now? Maybe. Perhaps I can't imagine my Addie Jane laying in a bed, often sedated, living off of 600 calories a day, with no hope of ever having a Christmas with a family. Perhaps I can't imagine my runny nosed Reese rocking and self-soothing herself to sleep because there is no one to hold her and tell her that she is loved.
So why do I love orphans? Because God loves orphans.
Ok, I get the orphan thing. But why international? And why in the world are you advocating for kids with special needs?
I get this first question a lot. I love the “God bless the USA,” “Made in America,” strong sense of nationalism people seem to have. And I get it, I really do. But in my mind, God didn't create political borders, man did. And while I absolutely 100% support the adoption of vulnerable children in the US, the waiting children have a VERY, VERY different life in this country.
Yes, there are waiting children in the US. Though it is an imperfect system, waiting children in foster homes have advocates and social workers and protection laws and sibling visitations. And did you know that there is a list of over 200 families waiting to adopt an infant with Down Syndrome from the US? These children, when given up in the US, are wanted. Cared for. Cherished.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for waiting children with disabilities internationally. The community of children I feel called to advocate for have lives that we would not subject our pets to. They are living in orphanages from birth because they were born into a culture that does not see them as special, but as a waste. Into a society that does not offer intervention or support. And to parents who, for whatever reason, do not have the strength to raise a child with extra needs without help.
Children with Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, HIV, cleft palates, missing limbs, visual or hearing impairments, facial deformities, etc. often have no one to advocate for them. They are left without intervention or services. With no physical therapy, outside stimulation, or even education, many spend the first few years of their lives in an eerily quiet baby house... where rooms full of babies do not cry because by a few months old they have realized that no one is listening. They say that it is one of the most haunting things to see/not hear.
When transferred to an older child home, some cannot walk yet because there was no early intervention. So they spend hours in cribs, sedated so that they do not fuss, laying in their own filth because frequent diaper changes are too expensive and time consuming to waste on such children. So they are changed once a day. Once.
And then the dreaded transfer. If not adopted before 4, many children with DS are transferred to mental institutions. Yes, you read that correctly. Mental Institutions. When asked about the life expectancy of children with Down Syndrome born abroad, Andrea Roberts, founder of Reece's Rainbow, replied, “They are transferred to mental institutions at 4 and a great many of those children do not survive their 5th birthday.”
But it isn't just children with Down Syndrome at risk. Children who cannot walk because of Spina Bifida, cerebral palsy, or missing limbs are often left in their beds in rooms called “lying down rooms.” They do not go outside. They do not receive therapy. They are not visited and talked to. They just waste away, gagging on the food that is hastily thrown at them, unable to move enough to relieve the pain of the bedsores plaguing their bodies. Can you imagine living a life in that hell?
I don't tell you this to upset you or make you feel sad. I actually hate commercials like that. But I'm trying to make it clear why these children need to be rescued. And why it's the Church's responsibility to love people like Jesus.
The need is so great. How can you make a difference?
You're right. The need is overwhelming. Daily I read the stories and names of children whom I can never hold, never kiss, and never whisper softly that everything will be all right. Children who are days away from transfer that I cannot scoop up and bring to safety.
But I can help one.
There are families who would like to rescue these children. But adoption is expensive. (ridiculously so). By the time a family travels twice (and sometimes 3 times) to a foreign country, staying in a small flat to complete in-country paperwork and jumping through Hague Convention hoops, thousands upon thousands need to be spent.
It takes almost $30,000 to ransom a child that nobody wants.
But that's how it is.