One Less Lonely Girl

Patience, love, and strength–that’s some of what it takes.

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Family Saga Fiction at Middlemay Farm

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It’s been a year since our foster girl first pointed out she could kill me with a steak knife–and it wasn’t the last threat on my life. Each time she casually mentioned killing me I casually responded that I had no fear of death and if she wanted to kill people she’d end up in a jail for evil kids who all wanted to kill each other. I said, “Go for it if that sounds like fun.”

It occurred to me today that those threats ended some months ago. She hasn’t picked up string beans off the floor of public restrooms and eaten them in a long time either. My big fear before picking up M last year (the week of the all important county fair) was that I’d find her unattractive. Yes, I’m that shallow. She was cute but a wreck. She was eager to be taken home (by…

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The Children of Alenah’s Home

Story and photographs by Juliet Ercolano

This summer, I traveled to China for the second time in as many years. My purpose was to volunteer as a temporary “ayi” (caretaker) at Alenah’s Home for a two full weeks alongside my mother. For those of you who don’t know, Alenah’s is a Beijing-based non-profit foster home run by Children’s Hope International to provide between 20 and 30 babies from orphanages all over China with medical care (including surgery) that they need. The children’s medical issues range from cleft lip and palate to heart conditions to small birth anomalies.

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Working at Alenah’s was an incredible experience! My mom and I lived in the foster home and ate most of our meals with the regular workers in the home’s bustling kitchen. (It seems there is always steam coming from the big rice cooker, and vegetables being chopped on the big, round, wooden cutting board.) The meals are prepared by the foster home’s excellent chef, a young man with a beautiful smile and a wonderful way with the children. In fact, “Gege” – “elder brother,” in Mandarin — was an orphan himself, so he has a special bond with Alenah’s children.

The fact that my mom and I knew hardly any Mandarin – she can say a few words, such as “hello,” “I like Chinese food,” and “I love you,” and I have just a year of college Chinese under my belt – did not prevent us from bonding with the children and the staff of 15 devoted ayis who care for them night and day. It’s kind of amazing how much you can communicate with a smile, a touch, and even some energetic pointing!

Juliet

Juliet

As a Chinese adult adoptee working at Alenah’s, I found myself becoming emotional from time to time, no doubt because I could relate in a very special way to each of those babies and children. Twenty years ago, I, too, was an orphan being cared for in an institution, and needing to rely on the kindness of strangers to get my basic needs met. Although it’s certain that the conditions at Alenah’s are far, far better than the conditions of the orphanage I lived in for five months back in 1994, the realization that these babies and children still need “forever families” sometimes brought me to tears.

In the month since I have come home, I can honestly say that I think about the babies and children there multiple times a day, and long to see them again. Fortunately, Alenah’s staff has created a Facebook page, where I can get frequent updates on each of them and see their photographs.

What struck me the most in my time there (other than how hard the staff work every day) is that each baby and child at Alenah’s that I fed, held, read to, played with, helped walk, sat with, or talked to radiated the simple human desire to be loved. It was a true delight getting to know each ones unique personality.

Although I did not spend as much time with the older children – they go out of the foster home to school every day — they remain my biggest concern and worry. Most families who want to adopt prefer the cute babies and toddlers. But what about the children ages 3 to 8, who need families, too?

One boy, in particular, is stuck in my mind and heart. “Tony” (he told us that was his American name!) is 8-years-old and is paralyzed from the waist down after surgery for spina bifida. He can get around just fine in a wheelchair, and enjoys being the fastest and first at things. He loves to play, to read, to listen to and sing music, and is already a gifted visual artist. Though he and I didn’t have much shared language (he knows some very simple English and I know very simple Chinese), we spent hours drawing together and even writing back and forth in my elementary level Chinese. What came through to me, loud and clear, in every interaction with Tony was his intense desire to be loved and to be adopted by a family in the U.S. (Several of Tony’s best friends at Alenah’s have been adopted by Americans, leaving him behind. It is very painful each time.) I worry about this boy aging out of his eligibility to be adopted. He needs a permanent family in order to thrive and explore all his abilities, especially his ability to love and be loved.

"Tony"

“Tony”

Prospective adoptive parents, won’t you please consider bringing one of these “older” children into your home?

Can you find it in your heart to help the children with a donation?

Please consider a one-time donation to Alenah’s, or better yet, a monthly donation (tax-deductible) of $30 or more. Many Americans spend this much a month at Starbucks or buying lunches at work. That dollar a day could make a huge difference to helping offset the expense of running Alenah’s, including paying the staff of warm, wonderful ayis, feeding the children, their medical care costs, and the rent and maintenance of the home itself. Donating is as easy as going to this link, and you will get a receipt to use on your taxes to prove you donated.

Adoption: Teary-Eyed Blessing or Horrific Abuse Factory

by Marisha and Luanne

You know those happy adoption stories that the media loves to feature? Adopted woman meets birth father just before he dies and all is well. Yay! Five siblings have been in foster care for three years with no hope of reunification. They are adopted by a middle-aged librarian and all is well. Yay!

The media loves those stories and so, too, do we. By “we” I mean our culture. We eat up this stuff. It makes us feel as if all is well with the world.

We don’t look behind the stories to see that this woman had to wait until she was 55 to meet half her DNA.  She lived through being a baby, a child, a teen, a young woman, a pilot, a mother, and now a first-time grandmother without this knowledge. Without knowing how he felt about her or if he even knew about her.  Without ever meeting him.  We don’t like to think about what those kids have gone through in order to have this happy “ending” (which it is not–an ending or unendingly happy either) with the librarian. Or what baggage they all (librarian included) bring to the table.

On the other hand, the media loves horrible stories about adoption. The child who is locked in a cupboard, fed only scraps, and eventually discovered weighing thirty pounds at age eleven. The child of a celebrity who either dies of a drug overdose or accuses her adoptive parent of abuse who is always identified as “adopted son” or “adopted daughter” by the press, as if that is a title or name.

By the way, all of our examples except the celebrity ones are made up, but representative of what we’ve read.

Why does the media do this? Apparently it is what we demand. We want these superficial and dangerous images of adoption. We want to tear up with joy and we want to fill with outrage.

What we don’t seem to want to do is think rationally and with common sense about adoption.

What would happen if we did? What would change about how our culture sees adoption? And how we treat adoptee rights and issues?

What do you think?

Camp for Siblings Split Up in Foster Care

Did you know that over 70% of siblings placed in foster care are separated from one another and have limited ability to interact?

In some cases, programs like the one above provide the only opportunity for these siblings to connect and develop a bond that has proven to be critical in positively impacting their life’s path.

From someone I know who is involved in this program:

This summer marks our 10th year of offering our Camp to Belong, MA program, a week long camping experience in the Berkshires, and we thought it was an appropriate time to celebrate this milestone.  I hope you will consider attending our 10th Anniversary Celebration which is designed to be a night filled with good food and drink, lively entertainment and also provide you with a glimpse in to the experiences our campers enjoy during their week at Camp to Belong, MA.

If you live in the Boston area, you can register for the event by clicking on this link below. There are also opportunities to promote your socially responsible business. They are looking for sponsors!

Register Now!

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But What Do YOU Think About the Baby Box?

by Luanne
Last Monday, Kasey wrote about the Baby Box in Korea. She talked from the perspective of an international Korean adoptee who has been thinking more in-depth about adoption recently.

The Baby Box is one of those painful controversies where it seems both sides have very valid concerns and the best of intentions. Pastor Lee and the people who support the Baby Box are concerned for the lives of babies who might be at risk because their mothers feel they cannot keep them. Opponents of the Baby Box view it as dehumanizing and a permanent severing for these children from their rights to their own familial and genetic histories.

Many adoptees feel a powerful need to search for their birth families and to learn more about the people they come from and the genes they carry. This will never happen for babies left in the Baby Box.

Here are two videos to help you decide. Then look at the photo of the baby girl left in the Baby Box. Maybe you will cry, too.

Baby girl left in baby box

Baby girl left in baby box

A Korean Adoptee On The Baby Box

by Kasey Buecheler

Living in the InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service) guesthouse, I have met and made many adoptee friends who come from all around the world (Australia, Denmark, France, Belgium, and Sweden, just to name a few!).  As a result, I have developed a stronger interest in the adoptee community that exists in Korea.

Meeting all kinds of adoptees during my stay so far in Korea has opened my eyes to new issues that I never recognized before.  Growing up, I had many adoptee friends, but we were all from similar families, with similar financial upbringings.  I didn’t have a broad perspective on the subject of adoption, but I did learn to embrace it.  However, coming to Korea and hearing different opinions has really changed the whole way that I see adoption.  In some aspects, I can say it has made me a bit more cynical, but I am glad to have been made aware of certain topics.

One specific topic that has gone viral within the past few weeks is the issue of the baby box in Korea.  Although it has been in use for a while now, recently it has gained media attention due to a documentary called “The Drop Box.”  In this documentary, Pastor Lee is commended for his humanitarian effort with his baby box, which is a box he created as a means of “collecting abandoned babies” that are unwanted by their mothers.   Many believe that this box is saving the lives of children who would have otherwise been abandoned on the street to die.  When I first heard of this story, I was also moved by Pastor Lee’s actions and began to read more on the subject.

The more I read, the more I began to realize the problems that arise with the usage of this baby box.  While some may perceive it as a way of saving babies, it also encourages an unethical method of giving up babies.   Instead of going through the proper steps in putting a child up for legal adoption through an adoption agency, it enables single mothers to abandon their children, leaving them with no birth registration. I can understand the importance of having this information, as many of my adoptee friends have sought this information in order to do birth family searches and know more about their past.  I have met adoptees whose information was incorrect/missing and seen how devastated they are when they come to this dead-end.  On top of this, there is also no way to know for sure who put the child in the box to begin with (which, in itself, has some scary implications).

While I am certainly no expert on the subject, I have read enough to know where I stand on this issue and encourage others to learn more about it and form their own opinions as well.

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What About Children Who Were Adopted by Koreans?

Guest blogger Kasey Buecheler is still living and studying in Korea. She is involved in an organization which seems quite unique to me. InKAS Mentoring: Normalizing Domestic Adoption in Korea offers a mentoring program to domestic adoptees in Korea. The service is provided by international adoptees like Kasey who want to help change the situation for Koreans who were adopted within Korea.

We spend a lot of time talking in the adoption world about the first choice for children is to stay with their biological families. The second choice is usually to keep a child in her own culture, in her country of birth, rather than sending her to a family in another country. But in Korea there is still a stigma associated with adoption.  Kasey and her peers want that to change and in the meantime they are helping other adoptees.  Here is information from their website.

For international adoptees, the concept of a “closed” adoption is difficult to grasp. While Korean children who are adopted internationally are met with unconditional love, domestically adopted children face a much different environment — one filled with secrecy, shame, and varying degrees of societal scorn. The government is trying to promote domestic adoption and eliminate the secrecy that perpetuates the stigma behind it; but unfortunately, Korean society and its emphasis on bloodlines needs another push. InKAS, with its ground-breaking mentoring program, aims to provide just that.
Through InKAS‘ “Mentoring Program: Promoting Awareness of Korean Domestic Adoption” we provide a safe atmosphere for domestically adopted children. While all of our mentees have had “open” adoptions, they still confront circumstances largely unacknowledged and unsupported by Korean society. We want domestic adoptees to feel comfortable in their own skin, never feel the need to conceal a part of their identity, and push for a more tolerant society that is open to all types of families.
Our program pairs an adult international adoptee with a teenage domestic adoptee, as well as the mentee’s adoptive parents and, in some cases, a bi-lingual Korean translator. Through an overnight retreat and individually-scheduled meetups, mentors and mentees form a strong and long-lasting bond. This bond, though new, lays the foundation for conversations about greater triumphs and deeper struggles (either about adoption or anything) in the future.
Sadly, due to budgetary constraints, our end of the year dinner (Friday, December 13th) will be the last mentoring program event InKAS can fund.
We want to continue the events, so we can continue to build strong relationships with our mentees, make them feel comfortable with their 언니s and 형s, and be proud of who they are. In order to do this, we need your generosity.
Once in January, and once in February, we will have large-group gatherings in Seoul. The itineraries haven’t been decided yet, but they will be one-day events filled with food, fun, and maybe a theatrical performance. A lot of the programming depends on how much we receive in donations.
Your donations will enable us to continue doing the work we love and give greater hope to those we serve. By investing in our mentors, you’ll not only be contributing to the continuation of this program, you’ll also be sending a message to our mentees. The continuation of this program will show the mentees, as well as their parents, that the international community does not disapprove of their situation, will not shy away from it, and will not buckle under societal pressures. Donation or not, your consideration and conscientiousness has already planted the seed for a shift in perceptions on domestic adoption.On behalf of InKAS, and everyone participating in this program now and in the future, thank you so much.
Click here to make a donation!

Yae-song and Katelyn were a great team during our balloon race!

If you would like to help these young people mentor other young people and make the world a little better for some adoptees, you can donate here.

My State’s Hidden Epidemic

by Luanne

This brief post isn’t about adoption, but it is about children. The welfare of children. Last night I was watching the local Phoenix news, a CBS channel, and my blood started to boil.  As a society, we rely on bureaucracies to take care of our at-risk people: children, seniors, and others. I knew CPS wasn’t perfect–that, in fact, it has a lot of flaws. But I hoped that stories of abuse being swept under the rug were mainly confined to old Law & Order episodes.

Not so. In Arizona, at least 6,000 (that’s SIX THOUUUUSAND) child abuse reports were never investigated!!!  Here’s a link to the article: read it and weep.

http://www.kpho.com/story/24035182/6000-arizona-child-abuse-reports-not-investigated

What has happened to these children?  If even 20% of the cases are children in danger, that is at the very least ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED CHILDREN.

Budget constraints have been blamed for this, but the truth is it’s up to people who know what is going on to open their mouths at the first sign of trouble. Last January Governor Brewer begged to hire 150-200 EMERGENCY CPS workers. What has happened in the meantime?

In my state, the only areas of the government in dire straits like this are the ones related to children, the elderly, the mentally ill, and others who need our help.

And CPS is an EMERGENCY division, much like 911.  Can we say HELP loud enough to get help for the kids?

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