Here are a few more questions we get often. These relate more to the orphan crisis/abandonment of kids in China. I spared you from a really long blog post yesterday, but today it's a long one. Take it in bits or grab a snack and settle in for awhile.
1. Why are there so many abandoned babies in China?
There are many factors that contribute to the orphan crisis is China. I hate to answer this question too simply and make it seem like the orphan crisis in China is less complicated than it really is. That being said, I'm sure you would rather the reader's digest version than a thesis (because on question #4 I give you a thesis), so, here goes. Here are some general reasons children are orphaned in China.
Due to the One Child Policy, that began in the 1970s, couples are only allowed to have one child. The cultural pressure and the desire to have a boy leads to the abandonment of many girls. Although it may be due to long time cultural importance of having a son first, sometimes the reason is much more practical. Boys stay close to their families and help them when they are older. Girls leave and join their husbands' families. In some ways, boys are China's version of Social Security.
If a baby (male or female) is sick or has a defect at birth, they may be abandoned. Parents who will only have one child don't want to settle for a less than perfect one. Also, the Chinese are not very kind to people with physical disabilities. Often it is perceived that a family is cursed if their child has a visible abnormality. This makes schooling for the child and employment for the family, quite difficult. People do not want to hire someone that is cursed or allow that child to attend their child's school. The child, when grown, will also struggle to find employment.
Also, even if the child is very loved and wanted, they may be abandoned if they are sick and the family is unable to pay for the child's medical care. Medical care must be paid for upfront in China, and this is very difficult for many Chinese families to do this. Couples may abandon their child so that they can be taken to the orphanage and receive better medical care than they can provide. There are many boys and girls (of all ages) available for adoption through the China Special Needs Program. The severity of the needs range from minor or already corrected to more severe.
2. Do you know anything about her birth parents?
No. It is illegal to abandon your child in China. In fact, it's a crime punishable by jail time. Hannah's parents kept her until she was 2 weeks old and then they let her go. She was very sick when she was brought to the orphanage, so we assume she was abandoned because her parents were unable to provide for her medical condition. We have learned some interesting details about her abandonment/finding that would prove that she was very loved by her family. We hope to learn more when we go to China. These details are precious to us. They allow us to provide more information to Hannah as she begins to understand it all and ask us questions. This is her story so we will keep these details private and we will let her decide how much she wants to share with others.
We pray often for Hannah's birth mother who loved her enough to let her go. My heart breaks for the mothers that have the terrible decision of abandoning their children to provide them with the much needed and expensive medical care they need. I can't imagine the lifetime of sadness that comes from such a heart wrenching decision. We also pray that cultural and governmental changes will take place in China to prevent parents from having to make the difficult decision to leave their children.
3. I've heard that it takes many years to adopt from China. How did you guys complete a China adoption in less than one year?
China Non Special Needs (NSN) adoptions have slowed considerably over the last 5 years. Currently China is matching children with families whose dossiers arrived in China in June 2006. WOW! All agencies strongly warn families of the massive slowdown, and some have halted accepting new families into the China NSN program.
China has said that they are focusing their efforts on placing orphans that have special needs. The Special Needs (SN) program is a little different than the regular program. In the SN program you discuss the needs your family is open to with your agency and social worker. You are offered referrals based on that and you can either accept or decline the child. It is a tough part of the process, but it is important for families to be aware and prepared for the needs of the child they are adopting. Many of the needs are minor or correctible and many of them are more severe. The children that wait for a forever family range from very young (6 months old) to 14 years old, when they age out of the system. These kids are smart, adorable and so in need of the loving arms of a mommy and daddy. My heart breaks for the many left unclaimed.
4. What is Hannah's Special Need?
Hannah special needs were listed as Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) of her heart, Pulmonary Hypertension (blood pressure in her lungs) and growth delay. Her VSD was a 10 mm hole between her heart ventricles that needed to be surgically closed. It's the most common congenital heart defect and it would require open heart surgery when she came home. The doctors that reviewed her file all felt like the surgery would be pretty straightforward. They also felt like the pulmonary hypertension was caused by the VSD and would most likely reverse when her VSD was fixed. She was labeled as having a growth delay because she was teeny tiny and at about 3% on the growth chart for both height and weight. All the doctors felt like this was most likely due to how sick she was during the first few months of her life. VSDs allow newly oxygenated blood to mix with oxygen poor blood and so instead of the heart pumping out freshly oxygenated blood to the body, her heart was pumping out oxygenated blood mixed with some oxygen depleted blood. This causes a child to get winded easily or struggle to do physical activities. Here is a quote from Hannah's file relating to her condition at admission. We first read this info about her on May 8th, 2011 - the day we first saw her sweet face. Her nickname at the orphanage is Nini....
"Little Nini was just 15days old when she came to the welfare institute, she’s a born beautiful baby: Roman nose, round face, she’s very weak on admission because of congenital heart disease, two big eyes were glassy and trembling and curled up in the swaddling clothes. The caretakers love this little very much and gave her the best caring.
Nini’s appetite was poor and besides she’s a child with congenital heart disease. She couldn’t suck when the caretaker put the soother into her mouth, she tried hardly but still couldn’t suck in the milk, the caretaker had to squeeze the milk into her mouth."
Oh how thankful I am for this person that worked so hard to nurse my sweet baby back from the brink. One month after God caught our attention and we began praying about adopting, our daughter was struggling to live, but was cared for and loved. As God was restoring her, he was filling us with this new vision for our family. I love it!"
When we reviewed her file, she was 14 months old but the file had been written when she was just 7 months. We felt comfortable that she was "the one" and decided to proceed with adopting her. We wanted to get her home ASAP to have her heart surgery so that she would have the best chance at getting her pulmonary hypertension (PH) to go away before it caused permanent damage that could lead to her having PH issues throughout her life. 2 hours after we decided she was the one, we received an update with new pictures and the news that she had already had her much needed surgery! We were so thankful! We still don't know the date of her surgery (although we can determine that it occurred when she was between 8 and 10 months old) or the circumstances that led to her having it done in China. We hope to learn more details of her surgery when we go to get her. Obviously she needed it, but many children in orphanages need heart surgery and don't get it. Sadly, it's unusual for heart surgery to be done in China unless a child is very very very sick and it is feared they may not survive without it. Many children must wait until they are selected for adoption and can come home to get the care they need. Sadly, many will die due to complications related to their conditions and others struggle for years with the debilitating effects of their damaged heart while they wait for a family.
It is no surprise, that with her rough start, she was delayed in her growth. We were pleased to read in her file and subsequent update that she was hitting all of her development milestones (crawling, walking, etc.) right on time. Hailey has always been around the 5% for height and weight, so we were comfortable with Hannah being on the small side.
The truth is that when Chris and I prayed about her the night of May 11th, we knew she was the one God had intended for us. She was ours and nothing we could have learned about her medical condition at that point was going to change that we were going to pursue her and bring her home. Imagine our giddy excitement and joy when we discovered that the surgery our little girl needed so badly she had received 4-6 months earlier. Honestly, God continues to overwhelm me with His goodness! When we get her home, we will take her to all the doctors she needs to see. China does a great job at heart repairs and we expect she is doing great. When we get her home we will take her to all the doctors she needs to see and we will tackle whatever she needs together, with a thankfulness for the gift she is to us.
I've given you a lot of info about Hannah's physical needs. I know it is important and we don't take it lightly that she did, and may still have, physical issues that need medical care. These were all listed as her "Special Needs" but honestly they aren't really her special needs. These may be the reasons she was abandoned or the reason she needed extra attention when brought to the orphanage, but her special need is simply that she needs a family. She has the same needs as Travis, Chase, and Hailey - she needs a mommy and a daddy to love her, to be her advocate and to treasure her. A family is her primary need and the rest is just the details.
When Hannah was between 8 and 10 months old she went to the hospital for open heart surgery. Orphanages cannot spare a nanny to accompany a child to the hospital. She was alone without a caregiver, without someone to cradle her or to stroke her head, all the while reassuring her that she was okay. It breaks my heart to think about my daughter going through such a major surgery and recovery (roughly 2 weeks in the hospital) all alone. It is simply unimaginable to all of us, but it is the picture of the unclaimed child.
I'm so overcome with the MILLIONS (163 million by the latest estimates) that are fatherless. I've looked at detailed files of some of these children and I've looked and the pictures of hundreds more that wait for a family to claim them. 163 million is such a giant number, but when you start to see the faces of so many of them that are represented by this staggering statistic, I know that no matter how helpless I feel in being able to do anything to change it, I am still responsible. In so many places in the Bible God tells us to care for orphans. It is clearly not optional in God's eyes. So, as we get ready to go get Hannah, and see the faces of the fatherless up close at her orphanage, I'm overcome by the orphan crisis in our world. I beg you to pray for these children and to ask God how you can play a part in their care. Can you foster a child? Can you help an adoptive family raise the funds needed to adopt? Can you visit orphans on a mission trip? Can you be a monthly sponsor for a child? Or, to risk sounding crazy, can you adopt? Can you get beyond how crazy it sounds and all the reasons not to and just for a second consider it?
I stood in my kitchen one day in April 2010 and told God I knew it was crazy we were considering adoption, but asked him to guide us in the decision. I remember looking around and thinking, we have enough room in the house, enough room in the Tahoe and enough love, so maybe I wasn't sooo crazy. Then the fear of how we would afford it took over and I was sure I must be crazy. I'll tell you, we didn't have a penny saved to adopt a child. We opened a bank account specifically for this adoption and God has proven faithful. HE FUNDS WHAT HE FAVORS and he cares deeply for the fatherless. Remember that he rarely calls the equipped, but instead equips the called. He has amazed us with his provisions. We aren't there yet, but I have no doubt he will complete the good work he has started. No doubt! I know that it is unrealistic to think that all 163 million orphans could be adopted (although NOTHING is impossible for God) but I really believe so many more of these children could come home to a family. I hope I didn't offend any of you, but these faces cry out for someone to ask the uncomfortable question on their behalf. If you ever want information on adoption, foster care, sponsorship or how to visit orphans, please let me know. I'd be glad to point you to some resources.
Here are some pictures of the kids that wait...
And this is our Hannah, but her wait is coming to an end soon...
If you are still reading, you have great endurance! If you have questions, anything at all, leave me a comment or send me an email. I have a few more questions that we are often asked, but I'll save those for the next few days.