While in Huainan last month, we split our time between visiting the children in the orphanage and then those who are in our foster care program out in the community. We had brought lots of little treats to the kids in our orphanage school program: hair bows and flowers for the girls and planes for the boys.
Well, we quickly threw that plan out the window as ALL the kids wanted to look glamorous with hair decorations. They would come back again and again to get another flower or bow until they felt they looked just right. Don’t they look beautiful?
The current Huainan orphanage will be moving to a new, modern facility hopefully in the coming year. Part of our work on this trip was going over every child in our school to best decide what our classrooms will look like in the new complex. They expect to have 200-250 children at the new facility, so our education program here could expand in significant ways. While the orphanage staff and I discussed business, the rest of our team had a wonderful time playing with the kids.
Before our final visits to foster care, I went up to the baby rooms. We help so many children with medical needs from Huainan each year, and we have celebrated so much this year seeing many of those children finally find permanent homes. As I stood in the baby room, however, it struck me once more on just how emotional this work is. Because for every child that we celebrate – when they find healing or a family – there is always, always, always a new baby in need of help to take their place. On the day I was there, two brand new babies had just come in. One had medicine and a hospital discharge note with him, a clear indication that the birthparents had at least tried to get their baby the help he needed. There are so many children needing assistance that it can be quite overwhelming, and I had to remind myself yet again that we have to concentrate on changing lives, one precious child at a time.
The foster care visits were of course absolutely wonderful. Some of the kids have been in our programs for years, first in medical and then healing homes, and many of the kids here I have known since they were tiny babies. It was wonderful to see Charmion and Marshall, both children helped through our Heartbridge Healing Home, walking back from school hand-in-hand with their foster mom.
One of the most emotional moments of the day was when we visited the former foster family of Jon and Ben. These two little boys were so loved in this home, and in every photo we have of them, they were inseparable. The foster mom is so outgoing and kind, and we had heard she was grieving deeply for the boys after their recent adoption. She did her very best to stay cheerful during our visit, and she answered all of our questions about the new children in her care. But then….on the way back to our van, while we were walking on the small dirt path from her home, her sorrow over missing those two beautiful boys finally consumed her. She fell to the ground sobbing, and the love and grief that she had been holding in poured out of her. She kept saying, “It is so hard….I miss them so much,” and her pain was absolutely raw.
What a terribly hard job it is to be a GOOD foster parent. We ask them to love the kids in their homes as their own – and then the kids are adopted usually far, far away. Most foster parents rarely hear ever again how the children are doing. As we all sat in the van crying over this beautiful mom’s anguish, I just kept thinking that without a doubt in my mind, good foster care is the best possible option for any orphaned child. We know that the kids usually transition well to their new homes because they have known what it means to live in a family and be loved. But when it is done “right,” it also means that there is another family in China, besides the birth family, who will forever wonder what happened to the child they cared for. Who will always have a little hole in their hearts that the child they helped raise is now gone. As I said earlier in this post…..there is no getting around that working with orphaned children is emotional. There are intense joys and deep sorrows. We all want every child to ultimately have a permanent family, but this trip certainly reminded me that adoption is filled with complexities.
Regularly, we hear from people about the kids who were in our programs. Some new parents want contact with the orphanage or foster families in China more than anything. Some don’t want any tie to their child’s former life. I hear from foster families and orphanage staff who ask me earnestly, “Is there any news about ________?” or from orphanages who say it is best not to send updates because they can upset those children still not chosen. There is no one answer on how this is handled.
As an adoptive parent, do you take the time to keep the orphanage or foster parents updated on your child? Were you able to make contact with your child’s foster family? I know this is often a very sensitive topic, but I would love to hear your experiences in keeping a relationship with your child’s former caregivers.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer
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