Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Finding Birthparents

On Monday, The LA Times ran an article called “Adoptive families' quests to trace Chinese roots often meet dead ends

This article featured one family who went to China and within minutes of putting up a poster at their daughter’s finding site found her birthparents. At the same time there are success stories, there are also stories of failures. Another family featured in the article has traveled to China 13 times and has yet to locate their daughters’ birthparents.


Changfu Chang, associate professor at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa has created a number of
documentaries about adoption in China. In the LA Times article, “Chang says he knows of perhaps 20 adoptive families who have located birth relatives of their children, a minuscule number considering the more than 60,000 Chinese babies adopted by Americans since the early 1990s.”

Have your children asked you to find their birthparents? Have you travelled to China to look for your child’s birthparents or are you planning to? If you have gone, what did you do to find them? If you are thinking of going, what are planning to do to find them?


Karen Maunu LWB

Monday, December 21, 2009

International Adoption 13-Year Low

Last Friday, a new article on international adoptions by Americans came out “Foreign adoptions by Americans hit 13-year low” by David Crary. In 2009, foreign adoptions dropped to 12,753, 27% lower than 2008 and nearly 45% lower than the all-time peak in 2004.

This article sited many reasons most of them pertained to adoption reform. In this article, Chuck Johnson, chief operating officer for the National Council for Adoption was quoted:


"This drop is not a result of fewer orphans or less interest from American families in adopting children from other countries," he said. "All of us are very discouraged because we see the suffering taking place. We don't know how to fix it without the U.S. government coming alongside."


Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services believes that in 2010, adoption numbers could fall even further. He would like to see more help from the State Department saying, "One of their primary functions is to help potential adoptive parents, when their focus should be on children in need of adoptive families."


We would love your thoughts on what this might mean for your family. Were you thinking of adding to your family through international adoption? Does this article make you rethink these plans? Are you planning to contact any of your congressional representatives?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Photo of the Week - Cozy Andrew


What an absolutely adorable face! This is Andrew from our Kaifeng foster care program. He will be snuggly warm this winter in his new coat, courtesy of our Coats for Kids program.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Shall I Leave My Children?

The open sky, the brown earth, the leafy tree,


The golden sand, the blue water, the stars in courses
and the awareness of this.


Birdsong, butterflies, clouds and rainbows,
Sunlight, moonlight, firelight.


A hand reaching down for a small hand,
Impromptu praise, an unexpected kiss, a straight answer.


The glow of enthusiasm, and a sense of wonder,
Long days to be merry in and nights without fear.


The memory of a good home.


Anonymous

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chance Encounters - What Are Yours?

I found this wonderful new blog, One World: Chinese Adoptee Links Blog, a compilation of Chinese adoptees blogs through one of my favorite blogs, Adoption Talk. This new blog is being written by Chinese adoptees around the world. This is their welcome at the top of the blog:

Welcome to ONE WORLD: Chinese Adoptee Links (CAL) Blog! Founded by a
group of seven, Erin, Jazz, Jeannette, Jennifer Bao Yu Jue-Steuck, Julia, Mei-Mei, and Sabrina span 3 continents and represent 5 generations of Chinese adoptees. This is a compilation of stories and articles from around the world, reflecting the diverse experiences of those adopted from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Macau, Malaysia and from around the globe. If you'd like to contribute, please email the webmaster at eclairerin@gmail.com. Visit CAL online at: http://www.chineseadopteelinks.org/

Thank you!


As I read through the blogs, I couldn’t help but think of my girls at these older ages, participating in a blog like this. What would their words say?


One of the blogs really made an impact on me – “Chance Encounters (Part Deux)” . In this blog posting by Jennifer Bao Yu Jue-Steuck, she writes about “8 Chance Encounters That Have Changed My Life”. I couldn’t help but see these events through the eyes of my daughters. Her #4, meeting another adoptee in class while she is in college, or #5 sitting next to a mom and her Chinese adopted daughter in a subway, and then #7 meeting “fellow peer-aged ADULT Chinese adoptees”.


I love how she ended this blog post – What chance encounters have changed your life? What a wonderful blog and definitely one that I will be introducing my girls to.


When you read this, what thoughts come to your mind as you envision your children as adults?


Karen Maunu

Friday, December 11, 2009

Photo of the Week - Surgery for Iris


Little Iris in the US having surgery on the large hemangioma on her neck. Yesterday, she had the first of two surgeries she will have while she is here. Thanks to Dr. Hochman and his team, her first surgery was a success! She did so well yesterday and loved being the center of attention. The only thing that made her upset was that they removed her pretty bracelet after she was put under anethesia. Our hope is that as soon as she goes back to China, her paperwork will be submitted so she will be able to have a forever family!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Status of Adoptions from China - BOYS


The National Council for Adoption recently released a report on the status of adoptions from China to the US. You can read the entire document here.

I had never seen the total number of adoptions broken down by gender before, and was surprised to still see such a disparity between the number of girls being adopted versus boys, especially since many of our programs in China run pretty much 50/50 on the boys and girls we help. In 2008, 3030 girls were adopted to the United States while only 822 boys found homes. I actually found myself thinking that I probably knew at least half of those boys who had found a family!

A little bit later on in the article, they mention a study on boys from China published in April of this year. In this study, 61 families were asked questions regarding their adoption of a son, and it was wonderful to read that the vast majority say their sons are doing well. The main concerns raised were the lack of resources for boys from China, since the majority of adoptions are of little girls, and also a need for more help in framing their son's stories, as most people believe only little girls are available for adoption.

If you have adopted a son from China, what explanation do you give when asked how you were able to adopt a boy? Did you specifically request a boy from China or were you open to either gender? Why do you think the majority of waiting children files returned "unchosen" to China are of boys?

Amy (proud mama to one of the cutest little boys from China ever, and yes, completely biased!)

Monday, December 7, 2009

What are You?

Saturday night, I watched the movie “Grand Torino” with my husband. I loved how in this movie, the character Clint Eastwood plays starts out very racist regarding his Hmong neighbors but in the end, gives his life for them. He asks them to go back to where they are from and doesn’t believe that they are American. As a veteran in the Korean War, he viewed all Asians as bad, especially his neighbors. I loved how at the end of the movie, he pins the silver star he earned during the war onto the neighbor boy Tao, really symbolizing how they are connected and that he saw him as American too.

In addition, a friend was telling me recently that in the year 2050 the Caucasians/Non-Hispanic whites in the US will become a minority. I found this article "Caucasian Race in the United States to be the Minority in 2050" that Reuters is predicting that by that time, this population will account for 47 percent of the population.

NPRs Melisa Goh recently did a story called “What Are You? The Answer’s Not Black or White” about being raised multiracial and how being mixed, with a white mother and an Asian father, that people didn’t know where she fit. She also talked about conversations can easily slip from race to nationality.

She went onto talk about a bumper sticker on her cousin’s car that read, “Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing its idiot”. She responded this way:

But this jab struck a tender spot. He sees the sticker as a purely political matter. I see it as unquestionably racial. I drew blood when I pointed this out, and our conversation took that ugly turn.

But for me, those who question President Obama's citizenship are sending me a personal message: If your father came from somewhere else and isn't white, then you may not be American enough. To them, I'll always be an outsider.

Thing is, my cousin's husband isn't one of those people. Far from it. He and my cousin have adopted three Chinese orphans. He'll never, ever tell them they're not as American as their blond, blue-eyed brother — and I wouldn't dare anyone to try.

He has heard people say his children should go back to where they came from, and he has always put a stop to it. So I don't understand what's so funny about that bumper sticker.

She goes onto say:

Turns out, "What are you?" isn't a question for just funny-looking people like me. It's a question each one of us has to answer. And that answer, for all of us, isn't black or white.

What makes an American? Do you look at the color of someone skin and wonder where they are from? Have you ever made false assumptions regarding someone’s race and their nationality?

Karen Maunu

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Photo of the Week - Healed Heart for Austin


Austin is a little boy from our school in Jinjiang who had a really serious heart defect. His smile is so infectious! He had surgery last week and was just discharged. When his Ayi told him he would be having surgery and he smiled. Our hospital monitor told us that Austin was nervous but very brave ‘and didn’t cry’. We are so happy this beautiful child is now healed!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Grassroots – PLEASE Vote!

In the beginning, Love Without Boundaries started to help orphans in China. The hope was that if 10 children a year could be helped and adopted, we would have done our job. People who were passionate about helping children came together, grassroots style.

Over the years, we have grow, but our grassroots have stayed. We are all about helping children and using almost all volunteers so that our overhead stays as low as possible. The difference today is that we are now helping more than 1500 orphaned children a year and more than 1000 children who we have helped are now in families. We know that we are making a difference everyday.

In October, Facebook wrote a blog about our work in winning last year’s Facebook Giving Challenge sponsored by the Case Foundation "Causes Return to Their Grassroots Online". Between donations and what we won, we were able to raise over $130,000 that directly went to helping children.

We are now in another contest were we have a chance to win $1 Million dollars…..do you know how many children’s lives could be touched with this money? JP Morgan Chase is running the Chase Community Giving contest for grassroots charities. There are two parts to this contest. The first part runs between now and Dec 11. If we can get enough votes and be in the top 100 charities, we will win a minimum of $25,000 and we are able to move onto the second round. The second round runs from Jan 15 – 29 and during this time, the charity that receives the top votes will win $1 Million and the five runners up will each win $100,000.

We need your help! Please vote for LWB and then spread the word to your friends and family. This money could make such a huge difference to some of the most vulnerable children. Please vote and share this link - http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/charities/263934

Thank you so much for your help and support….we are the charity that we are today because of YOU!


Monday, November 23, 2009

"Find My Family"

I was recently watching TV with my girls, and a preview for “Find My Family” came on. This new show premiers tonight on ABC. They sat mesmerized as birthparents and adoptees were reunited. So many thoughts came into my head, but the first was so sad that a day like that would never be able to happen for them if they wanted it and then I felt sad for the people who had been filmed. To me, this event should be private and not be made into reality TV. I looked at my girls, wondering what they were thinking. When it was over, I asked them how the show made them feel, and they both answered “Good!”

With the enthusiasm that I heard from my girls, I now wonder if this is a show they should watch – my girls are 9 and 11. I wondered if this kind of a show would promote good birthparent discussions or if this show would cause them more pain. Martha Osborne from “Rainbow Kids” had a great commentary on her website about this show.

Her first point was based on the show’s tagline. “With the tagline Some people have spent their whole lives searching for the one thing that matters most... Their wish will now come true. Let's find your family, producers completely discount any worth of the adoptive families who have loved and raised these children. Instead the show emphasizes the loss of a child's ‘real family' as the one-and-only central issue of all adopted children's lives.”

She goes further to say that, “Unfortunately, the general public's opinion and understanding of adoption is largely shaped by the media. ABC's exploitive new series will focus on the most extreme issues in adoption, and is sure to have an effect on how our children's teachers, extended family, and friends view and accept adoption.”

In her article, she writes that younger children should not watch this show because it focuses on adult emotions, but that parents should empower their children by using the Wise Up! Workbook . For upper elementary school and middle school, she advises some discussions with children around birthparents and identity, media and marketing of ideas, their feelings around these issues, and how others may start asking them intrusive questions because of this show and how to handle them.

Have you see the previews for this show? What are your thoughts about letting your kids watch it? What will you do to prepare your kids? If your children are older, even if they don’t watch this show, are you going to be proactive in preparing them in how to deal with possible questions as this show becomes publicly known?

Karen Maunu

Friday, November 20, 2009

Photo of the Week - Cindy and Samuel

What an absolutely gorgeous photo of our manager Cindy and baby Samuel. Samuel is a child who is being cared for at our Heartbridge Pediatric Unit. Cindy visits monthly to do reports and play with this kids. With all of the snow that Beijing has had, the roads have been icy, so Cindy's husband joined her on her most recent visit. From this picture, you can sure tell how much Cindy loves her job. We are just so grateful for all of our kind and loving staff who work so hard on behalf of the children.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Racism Around the World

This morning, President Obama arrived in Shanghai, the third leg of his four nation trip to Asia and his first visit to China. I was struck this weekend with the timing of his arrival to China with a photo that I just happened to see…..a photo of President Obama and his Chinese American niece taken during a vacation in August. As I looked at the photo, I thought of how much I wish our country could truly look beyond race.

China is now dealing with the issue of racism as well. As Chinese society opens up to the outside world and more Chinese marry foreigners, they are now dealing with very similar issues. There was an interesting program on NPR last week called “Mixed-Race TV Contestant Ignites Debate in China” about a young girl whose mother was Chinese and father was African-American. She was raised in Shanghai and recently appeared on a Chinese reality TV show. Her appearance has caused an online racist debate.

Hearing about this young girl, I was so struck by how similar her story is to many in our own country. And how much the story of differences causes stereotypes and judgments. I hope that as our world becomes smaller and smaller, that there will be more acceptance around the world with all people in all nations.

As you read news stories, do you feel that worldwide we are becoming more accepting of other races? Do you feel that the media runs stories to sensationalize race? What are you doing as a parent to raise an open family?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Photo of the Week - Harvest Party

It's harvest time....and harvest party time in our Believe in Me schools. Thanks to generous sponsors, these children were able to celebrate fall with a wonderful harvest celebration. We just loved the photo of these children in their party hats. Happy fall!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Prematurity Awareness Month


November is National Prematurity Awareness Month, and that of course made us stop to give thanks for all of the babies LWB has been able to help in China who have been born too soon. Did you know that 13 million babies a year are born premature? And 85% of those babies are born in Africa and Asia.

We are frequently contacted by orphanages who receive babies weighing just 2-3 pounds, and immediate medical care is needed to save their lives. We are so grateful to everyone who has helped us with these tiniest of babies. To celebrate this special month, we thought we would share a few of our recent survivors with you. Each of these babies found themselves orphaned weighing just a little more than 1 kg each. Aren't second chances just WONDERFUL?




This month, join us in saying a special prayer for all of the babies who arrive in this world as preemies. What miracles they are!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Movie Stereotypes?

Recently I listened to a wonderful lesson in racism. As a parent of children from China, I have tried to be really sensitive about racial stereotypes, but I have totally missed the boat on this one.

Our subject was the subtle stereotypes in Disney movies, but our speaker told us that this goes beyond just Disney. The videotapes and DVDs that our cabinets are chocked full of. I really have to say how naïve I have been about what my children have watched. After this hour long session, I will definitely be more sensitive about what they watch and how we discuss the racial stereotypes in the movies they are watching.

The list could go on and on, but a few examples that were presented were - the orangutans in Jungle Book who just want to be real people or the crows in Dumbo who talk with slurs or the hyenas in the Lion King who all negatively portray African Americans, the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp who are conniving, sneaky, with lisps and buck teeth, Tito in Oliver and Company who portrays a fast talking and stupid Chihuahua, the "savages"/Native Americans in Pocahontas or Peter Pan, and the Arabs in Aladdin (whose opening song actually was rewritten after it was first release) but who still portray Arabs as barbaric.

This was all eye-opening to me and made me much more sensitive to the “safe” movies my kids watch. During the clip that we watched, they interviewed children who had watched these movies and their comments were surprising. What cultural messages are my kids getting from these movies?

Have you been concerned about the subtle racial stereotypes in the movies your kids watch? Have you noticed these in children’s movies and how have you talked to your kids about them? As a culture, what can we do to support and demand positive racial stereotypes?

Karen LWB

Friday, November 6, 2009

Photo of the Week - Warm Coats!


Each year our Orphanage Assistance program, Coats for Kids, purchases warm winter coats for our foster care kids and school kids. The first delivery of coats went to 146 elementary school kids at the Xianggen School in Sichuan province. Winters come early to this region and are very harsh. We are so glad that the coats arrived before the heavy snows.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November - National Adoption Month

In celebration of National Adoption month, we would love to hear your stories about what adoption has meant to you and your family. Even if you are someone who has just considered it or knows someone who has adopted, we would love to know your thoughts.

How have you been touched by adoption and how has it changed your life? What were your preconceived ideas about adoption and have they changed? What surprised you the most about adoption?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mommas Can Worry, Can't We?


I was recently forwarded a link to a blog on the Rumor Queen site called “Hard Knock Life.”

I have been there and done that on wondering about how my daughter would feel singing the words to this song about life in an orphanage. She was in a production of Annie two years ago, and was given the part of one of the orphans who has to sing this song. I remember her coming home from the first rehearsal very excited, telling me that she got to be an ORPHAN and that they were going to need tattered clothes and rags to wipe the floor. The interesting part to me was that she didn’t react to any of the words in the song. For those of you who have seen any videos of my daughter singing, you know she has an amazing stage voice, and she thought it was great to belt out “no one cares for you a smidge, when you’re in an orphanage.” She sang it with great conviction, without a single reaction that the lyrics bothered her. Her only concern was getting the dance moves just right. When I questioned her on whether the words bothered her in any way, since she had herself lived in an orphanage, she gave me that “moms can be so clueless” look and said, “mom…it’s a play, as in fiction.” End of conversation in her mind.

Reading this blog post today, however, did make me think about how concerned I always am about anything that could hurt the feelings of my kids. When we first adopted our son with a limb difference, I remember watching Toy Story 2 and then actually throwing the DVD away when one of the characters says something about a one armed toy being worthless (I can’t actually even remember the exact line, but I remember audibly gasping and putting the DVD in the trashcan immediately....yes, I really did!) Ditto the movie “Hotel for Dogs”, which had a three legged dog that someone also called worthless. I remember thinking that TJ could never see it as it might hurt him in some way.

Fast forward a few months later and TJ is at a play date with a friend. The mom dropped him off later that night and said, "oh…we went to the movies and saw “Hotel for Dogs”. My heart sank fearing the worst. When TJ came in I asked him about the movie, and he told me again and again how much he loved it. I carefully padded around the issue of the three legged dog, to see if anything had bothered him, and just like Anna singing “Annie”, nothing he saw had bothered him at all. He thought the three legged dog was cute…nothing more, nothing less.

My older kids accuse me sometimes of being “hyper vigilant” when it comes to issues about adoption or special needs that might hurt my kids. What I’ve noticed is that the things that I most think will bother them rarely do, and then the things I never even considered can bring out real grief and sadness. I still remember seeing “Prince of Egypt” with my daughter, a movie I thought she would love, and then having her sob inconsolably when Moses’ mother floats him down the river away from her. That image touched something inside of her that I hadn't imagined. It made me realize that it is impossible to protect my children from every image or event in life that might cause them pain over their adoption. But we as moms sure want to try, don’t we?

Have there been movies or songs that have affected your child in ways that surprised you? Are you also a hyper vigilant mom when it comes to trying to protect your child?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Photo of the Week - Visiting China

This week, Julie from Ireland and Arlene from the UK have been visiting our programs in Hunan, Henan, and Anhui. We have received a few wonderful photos from their travels. We loved this photo of Julie that was taken on Monday in Hunan. What a precious new baby!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What is a Special Need?

Promoting special needs adoption has been our focus since Love Without Boundaries began. The very first baby helped by LWB and adopted was baby Kang, a beautiful baby boy with a heart defect. Almost all of the orphans we help in China have some sort of need, some really minor others more significant. Every one of these children are just that…..beautiful children….but so often children are defined by their needs.

Today in the Huffington Post, there was an article called "Stereotyping Kids with Special Needs is Looksism" by Ellen Seidman . This post discussed how Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley recently adopted a baby from Korea with a special need. The problem is that no one has been able to “see” the specially need and has commented on how normal she is. What is normal? What exactly are special needs?

Education is the key…..either for anyone may be considering the adoption of a child with a special needs. There are so many different kinds of special needs, some that are visible and others that aren’t. There are children waiting for families with just about any special need in every country, including the US. Because we know how important it is to learn about different needs, to understand exactly what the special need involves in terms of treatment, surgery, or therapy, and for families to decide what needs they are able to handle, we have developed a website for potential parents. This website contains basic facts and treatments for each particular special need – www.adoptspecialneeds.org.

We hope more families will join the Heigl/Kelley family in adopting a child with a special need as every child born deserves a family to love them. What do you think of when you think of "special needs"?

Karen Maunu

Monday, October 26, 2009

Asian Eyes

My 11-year-old daughter and I have been recently had discussions around when she can use make-up. Yikes! I am not ready for this, but I know that she is starting to feel more grown up, and I knew that this would eventually be a discussion we would have. She and her younger sister have a bag of make-up they can use for play, but I knew this recent discussion was beyond just play. She has been fascinated watching me put on my make-up. Although she won’t be wearing makeup out in public anytime soon, we have had some very interesting discussions around her Asian eyes.

She has been very concerned about putting on eye make-up without any eye folds. I have told her that when the time comes for her to be old enough to do this, we would get some books, research, and visit some cosmetologists that specialize in Asian eyes so that we can learn how to do this right. She has been one to comment on our differences in my Caucasian looks and her Asian looks since she was five years old. Her absolutely gorgeous eyes have been a topic of many conversations. When she was five, she had to have an entropion repair, to tilt her lower eyelashes out, as they were scratching her corneas and causing her severe vision issues. From this surgery on, she has asked so many questions about her eyes.

Having just had another discussion this weekend about make-up and her eyes, including the eye surgery she had to have when she was little, I was so interested to read this great blog from Malinda, who runs the China Adoption Talk blog. Last Monday she had a very interesting and controversial blog titled “Eyes Wide Open: Surgery to Westernize the Eyes of an Asian Child”. This blog was about a man who had his daughter's Asian eyes surgical changed to be more Western. I didn’t even know that this surgery existed, and I had no idea that some parents had even thought about changing their daughters' eye shape. I did a little more research and found this article titled "With These Eyes" from the Los Angeles City Beat. I was surprised to read that four out of ten women in Korea have this procedure done. Malinda had a great article today titled “Asian Beauty/Asian Makeup Links". I will be saving these links for our future beauty lessons.

Have you had a discussion with your daughter about make-up or applying make-up to Asian eyes? Do you have any great resources or websites for teen girls to use to tastefully apply makeup? What do you think about eye surgery to change the shape of Asian eyes?

Karen Maunu

Friday, October 23, 2009

Photo of the Week - Esther

This beautiful child is Esther from our Huainan Believe in Me school. She is in our preschool class. We just received some great pictures of each of the children in this program all posed in a different way. We loved this tree-hugging picture!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Abandonment

I think it is a fair statement to say that most of us who have adopted internationally think that our child's birthparents made the decision to abandon their child. I have read many essays and poems where adoptive parents imagine the birthmother hiding in the bushes or watching until the tiny bundle is found. Perhaps that is how you imagine it to be as well. I know I certainly did, until I helped run a cleft mission where many of our patients were rural children with families. On that trip, parents told me one story after another that quite simply turned everything I thought I knew about abandonment on its head.

I want to share one of those stories today, as I have been thinking so much about my son's birthparents lately.

On this particular cleft mission, we had far more babies needing surgery than space available, so very sadly we were having to turn families away. We had set a weight requirement for the kids' safety, and we soon learned that parents were sewing rocks into their babies' clothing in the hopes that their kids would meet our 10 pound requirement. We also had begun turning away babies who were obviously younger than 5-6 months because we wanted to make sure the kids would do well under anesthesia.

I was sitting in the intake room one morning when an anxious young woman came running in holding a tiny bundle. I could immediately tell that the baby was a newborn, and I asked our Chinese director to break the bad news to the woman that the baby was far too young for surgery. As she was given the news, the young lady burst into tears and began pleading and begging to have her child be seen. My friend came over to me and told me that I needed to go and speak with the woman in private, and so I did. She pulled back the blanket to reveal a tiny baby girl with severe cleft lip. The mother told me that her daughter was 28 days old, and that their period of confinement was over in just 2 more days. As she was crying and talking, the mom kept kissing her baby's forehead, and she kept telling me again and again, "I love her....I love her so much."

But then she went on to tell me that her extended family would not accept her daughter since she had been born with a cleft lip. They felt this tiny baby would bring shame to them all. With tears streaming down her face, she told me that her mother-in-law was coming to take the baby away from her in two days' time. The mom was begging me to heal her daughter, to make her daughter beautiful, so that she could keep the baby that she had carried inside of her for 9 months….the daughter she loved completely. When I explained that the baby could not safely be put under anesthesia at four weeks of age, she fell on her knees and was sobbing at my feet, pleading and crying and begging me to help her. Right now...even typing this story....it brings a pain to my chest that I cannot describe.

Over and over on that trip, I heard stories from birthparents who adored their children with cleft, but who were told the children could not stay in the extended family. I met a woman whose daughter with cleft had been taken from her by her in-laws while she slept. She never saw her daughter again. She had come to our mission after reading about it in the paper, to thank us for giving parents a chance to keep their children.....a chance she herself did not have.

That trip changed everything for me about how I view birthparents in China. Many people give pat explanations about infant abandonment that cover the issue in blanket terms: “Babies are abandoned because rural families want sons.” “Babies are abandoned because the medical needs were too great.” Simple, one line sentences, to explain a personal life event that is often very complex.

When it comes to human life, and heartbreaking decisions…..abandonment and loss.....I have learned that there are rarely simple explanations. Every single one of our children faced a great loss in their lives, but the reality is…..we have no idea about the deep, personal stories of the people involved. We have no idea who made the decision that a child couldn’t stay in the family. We have no idea of the anguish, or sacrifice, or resignation experienced. It is easy to think it was a birthparent who lovingly placed the child by the orphanage front gate, but it could have just as easily been an in-law or an uncle who was given instructions by the head of the family to remove the baby from the home. Every child has their own unique story. It certainly hurts more, however, to think that any of our kids have birthparents like the woman I met on that very somber day.

There is still such a stigma surrounding children born with special needs, especially in the rural areas of China. For those of us parenting these amazing kids, the unknowns of their beginnings are very sad to think about, aren't they? Have you thought much about this issue? Do you normally think of a birthparent making the decision to leave a child? Or were you already aware that especially for children with special needs, many become orphaned to not bring shame to the family at large?

Amy

Monday, October 19, 2009

Unity

Last week, I was invited to attend an event on behalf of Kathy Ireland who received a Woman of Achievement Award through her partnership with the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. I have learned through knowing Kathy that she is a philanthropist with a huge heart, supporting many different charities. Receiving an award like this was much deserved, because she works so hard to help others.

Attending this event was a very powerful experience for me. Kathy Ireland is very strong in her Christian faith, and most in attendance were Jewish. We began our prayers with a Jewish prayer and broke bread together in the Jewish tradition. The entire message of this wonderful event was one of Unity – of looking beyond individual faiths and beliefs to come together to help those in need.

Kathy is quoted in this article on Yahoo Finance before receiving this award:

“The extraordinary work of Sheba Medical Center is critical to Israel and all Nations. It is essential that Jews and Christians come together to support the wonderful hope and inspiration that is accomplished at Sheba everyday. The doors of Sheba are open to all people. . .race, gender, religion do not matter to the wonderful people who devote their lives to helping others heal. My prayer is to be able to contribute in some small way to the magnificent work of all those who support Sheba Medical Center," shared Kathy Ireland.

During the talks at the event, I learned that at Sheba, Palestinian babies lie next to Jewish babies in the newborn nursery. The hospital is a place of healing, in ways more than just medicine. In a world that often has so much division, what a wonderful message to hear.

So you might ask yourself, where do Chinese orphans come into this picture? We have always talked about how we are a worldwide foundation, where helping orphans in the very best way is our daily mission. This world might have just got smaller, as Kathy invited me to meet with Emeritus Director of Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Mordechai Shani, and the Executive Director of Friends of Sheba Medical Center, Jack Saltzberg. I hope through this meeting that we might be able to introduce Sheba to hospitals in China….to widen this message of Unity. We are all one people…..a worldwide group….working to better the lives of all.

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Friday, October 16, 2009

Photo(s) of the week - 10/16/2009

Quinn and Cambree from our Anhui Cleft Healing Home both were scheduled for surgery this week. We couldn't decide on just one photo this week as BOTH of these pre-op photos in the hospital were just too cute for words!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Help Us Choose the Top Ten Photos

Each year, LWB shares our Top Ten photos of the year from our work with children in China. This year, we would like YOU to help us decide. Please visit the following link to choose your favorite photo of all. We know it isn't an easy decision, which is why we needed some extra opinions!

Thanks for your input!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Orphan Tourism


I was forwarded a very interesting article last week about “orphan vacations.” You can read the article here:

In the first section, the author discusses that this type of trip could encourage orphanages to purposely keep the children in bad conditions to encourage donations. I have had firsthand experience with this in one private orphanage (not an official government facility). The conditions were terrible, with crowded rooms and broken cribs, and no heat or warm clothing. We were moved to tears when we first visited, and of course our hearts wanted to give in every way possible. However, thankfully we took the time to do our research on the facility, and we discovered that multiple groups had donated large sums of money, while nothing ever improved. More research revealed that the person in charge of the orphanage lived in a brand new building in very nice conditions. I believe in this case the children were being used for donations, and thankfully the Chinese government eventually shut the home down.

I do think there is a big difference between going on an “orphan vacation,” which implies a recreational component for the adult, versus volunteering to go overseas to truly serve children in need. We have sent many teams into orphanages to help with physical therapy, education, and medical care. But I honestly had no idea the term “orphan vacation” even existed. A quick Google search just proved otherwise.

Have you heard of this new type of vacation? What are your thoughts on this topic?

Amy

Friday, October 9, 2009

Photo of the Week - October 9, 2009



We recently had several graduates from our Henan Cleft Healing home. One of them was sweet David-Michael, a true charmer. Before he left to meet his new foster parents, the aunties snapped the following photo. Doesn't he look cute sitting in his Bumbo seat looking like he is ready to strum a guitar? We think he wanted to serenade the lovely ladies who took such excellent care of him in the cleft home!

We certainly will miss you in the healing home, David-Michael....but we know we will get to follow your continued progress in foster care as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Desperation

I read this powerful blog here on abandoning a child who needs life-saving health care that they can’t afford. It really made me about the anguish a family must go through when they feel that abandoning a child might save their life.

We have seen a number of parents in China on the verge of this desperation. We’ve also seen children who have obviously had some medical treatment as they are abandoned with surgical scars or needle marks from previous IVs. Obviously the parents tried to give the child they medical care they needed, but we have to wonder if they ran out of funds and so felt the desperation of having to leave them in the hopes they would get care. This is the reason behind our Unity Fund, our medical treatment fund that helps poor, rural families who can’t afford medical treatment. We want families to stay together, and we love when we can “prevent an orphan” by providing the medical care needed so that the family doesn’t have to consider such a drastic decision.

Can you imagine yourself being so desperate to save your child’s life that you would have to abandon them? Imagine how many families around the world are faced with this dilemma and the thoughts that must lead up to their decision to leave their child. What more can be done around the world to help support these families?

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Monday, October 5, 2009

Disruption

Last week, I saw this article about a woman who was on the Today Show, who adopted a child and later terminated the adoption here. The woman and her husband had five biological children and then adopted a baby boy. However, because the mother felt that she couldn’t bond with him like she could her biological child…..after 18 months they disrupted.

The subtitle on this article was “Of human bondage” and there are five pages of editorial comments on both sides of this story.

I have struggled with the idea of disruption for many years. When a child is born into your family, whether the child has “issues” or not, that child is yours. You don’t have an option to hand that child back. I know that this is a very complex subject, however, and with my motto being “Compassion before judgment” I try very hard to understand disruption when it happens in adoption. In our own extended family, there was a disruption of a child that I knew well….so I have seen this with my own eyes.

What are your thoughts on disruption? Is there ever a time that it is acceptable? In the end, was it better to have a family that will truly cherish this child or would it have been better for this family to fully commit to the child and work on bonding?

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Friday, October 2, 2009

Photo of the Week - Happy Birthday Maria


Little Maria just celebrated her birthday at our Heartbridge Pediatric Unit in Beijing. One of our past Heartbridge Coordinators sent her a birthday gift. Don't you just love birthdays? Guess what else Maria will be getting this year - a family!! Happy Birthday Maria!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Essay from China


We always love hearing that young people want to get involved to make a difference in the world. Recently we received the following letter from a wonderful group of school students in Shantou, China, who have formed a club to help orphaned children in their hometown. We wanted to share their words with you today because they truly touched our hearts. What a wonderful world this could be if everyone believed as they did that reaching out to children can show us the true meaning of love.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.”

I always love reading these poetic words. They are beautiful. They seem to sound right to my ears in a pleasant way. I neither understood the true meaning of it nor gave much thinking of it before my visit to the Shantou orphanage with my teacher.

Two years ago, one day before the New Year, after entering the classroom, our English teacher asked for volunteers to visit a special place to meet some lovely babies. Spontaneously, I raised my hand. On the way to where those babies stayed, I felt nervous and curious. My heart was mixed with a kind of hard-to-explain sadness and excitement. Our teacher told us, “Those babies don’t have parents. We are going there to see whether we can offer some help.”

It was the first time in my life to see so many babies at one time. Two or three babies were sitting in each of their little four-wheel-chairs. Several others were lying in their cribs. One toddler was holding onto the cribs, learning to walk while the other is crawling on the play mats. These babies were NOT cute at all for the mere look at their little faces. One tiny face was covered with tears, saliva and spilled milk. He was a cleft baby. Another tiny face looked BLUE. This baby had a heart disease. One baby was born with deformed legs and it was obviously that he could not walk if he was able to live to an older age. After asking for the permission, I held up a crying baby girl carefully in my arms and started to talk and sing to her. She then stopped crying and suddenly giggled. That was the miraculous moment when something special touched my heart. “I must do something. I want to do something to help these babies.”

“But what can I do?” Together with several other classmates, we joined a charity group in our school. Then we started the “DIAPER” program. Our work was first confined to our school campus, but later we decided to tell our parents, friends and citizens in the community about the babies. On the leaflet, we wrote: “The New Year is approaching. While we are missing our beloved living afar, we hope that we could get a diaper for our babies nearby.”

Not only were we able to raise enough funds for diapers, baby waist-wrappers, winter clothes, portable thermoses and heaters, but found many generous hearts willing to help. Students and teachers at our school surely made the first step. One parent of my classmate heard of news and donated a large box of baby shoes and baby hats from their family-run shop. At the front gate of a kindergarten, parents were urging their children to put a 10-yuan note in our box, saying, “You know? You are helping some little brothers and sisters in Shantou.” Our hearts were warmed by many of these generous people. A tricycle worker, an old doorman, a primary school girl, a grandma on her way to the market, a foreign tourist, all were willing to show their love and care to these vulnerable babies.

In a thank-you letter to Shantou students, (who donated artwork to help heal orphaned children’s hearts,) Amy Eldridge, director from Love Without Boundaries wrote, “We know that one of the greatest gifts in the world is love, and you have shown us how much you care for others, and what it means to help unselfishly.”

Different people may have different understanding of love. For most people, love means being willing to help others unselfishly and the appropriate action of showing it. Love with word, yet without deeds, is meaningless. As a vocational school student, I perhaps cannot do much GREAT deeds, but through this volunteer’s activity, I have gained a deeper understanding of love. I have learned to give off without thinking of rewards; I have learned NOT TO TAKE EVERYTHING FOR GRANTED; I have learned to give thanks; and the most important of all, I have learned to be strong.

In fact, all I have learned should be indebted to those children I visited. It is these children who teach me the true meaning of love.

On a recent visit to the orphanage, in their classroom, I experienced an unforgettable moment. When the teacher announced the time for lunch, several teens stood up, and clearly they are boys with some mental disabilities. But each of them holding a toddler’s hand, together they walked down-stairs to their room. A tiny girl, no more than 18 months, independently toddled off to her room about thirty steps away. A four-year-old girl, who has an incurable eyes disease, gave everyone a most beautiful smile when she waved good-bye.

I see the best character in these children – affectionate and hopeful, caring and strong.

A great Chinese teacher, Confucius said, “To be fond of learning is akin to knowledge. To practice with vigor is akin to benevolence. To possess the feeling of shame is akin to courage.” One student asked his master, “What is Benevolence?” “Benevolence means to help others in the way you want to be helped. It means to love others as himself.” Confucius answered.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”

These are not the simple words lying in the text book, waiting to be memorized. They are the lights that shine upon our path of life. If we follow these lights faithfully, then our world will be much brighter and better.





Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Article on Children from China Seeking Their Roots

We wanted to pass on this article about Chinese adoption and children returning to their homeland in case you haven't read it yet. We agree with the author that the vast majority of children in China's orphanages now have some sort of medical need. In fact, it has been reported that 4 of every 5 babies now abandoned has a medical condition.

I hear again and again from people that China is no longer a country to consider for international adoption. That couldn't be farther from the truth! The waiting child program is still a wonderful way to form a family. Most adoptions can be completed within a year, and so many INCREDIBLE children are waiting right this moment for a loving home....children just like my own son....who brings me more joy than I could ever imagine. For more information on waiting child adoption, watch our video here.

Amy

Monday, September 28, 2009

Generations to come

I was listening to the radio in my car the other day, and the newscaster began talking about a 99 year old woman who had recently passed away in Jerusalem. She had 11 children, and each of those children had large families, and it multiplied out to great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. I was amazed when the newscaster said this one woman had over 1000 known descendants.

Wow.

I got home that same day and found photos in my inbox of a very sick baby girl who has a heart condition. She is almost one, and my first thought when I opened up the photos was of a “smiling blueberry”. What a sweet spirit this little girl obviously has, but my own heart felt heavy as I looked at her blue tinged skin and lips. The orphanage reported that she has become short of breath more and more frequently, and she will need surgery soon to survive.

Having just heard about the woman in Israel, I looked at the photo of baby Natalia and thought again that one single life can have a profound effect on the world. Without surgery, little Natalia will soon pass away as an orphan. With surgery she will get a second chance at life. She will have her paperwork submitted for adoption, and I have no doubt she would be quickly chosen by parents and grow up knowing the blessings of family. I looked at Natalia’s face and imagined her healthy and strong, growing up to someday have children of her own. Can’t you just imagine her grandchildren someday telling their own kids, “Nana’s life began in China.” A piece of the world changes forever if Natalia lives, and I believe it changes in a beautiful way.

I just want to thank everyone again who supports our work with orphaned children. Probably when you donate, you are only thinking of the one single child who needs help right that moment, but it truly goes even further than that. When you bring hope to a child in need and help change their future, it can impact generations to come. Isn’t it a wonderful thought that a single act of kindness can keep moving through the world indefinitely? How many life stories of children can we help write that will begin with the words, “because someone believed in me”?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Photo of the Week - I Love Nutrition

Don't you just love this picture? Seeing this child's happy smile with his bag of nutritious formula made my day. Nutrition is so important to the growth of every child...we just love to see these healthy, happy smiles. How wonderful it is to be a part of his full tummy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Adoption and Divorce


When we adopt a child, one of the issues that we want them to understand so clearly is that they are now in a PERMANENT family. We know that every child who has been separated from their birth parents has already experienced a significant loss, and so I think most of us try to assure our children that their new family is forever. We want our children to feel the security of our love and to believe that we will always be there for them. I know with my own children, I’ve used the word for family from the movie Lilo and Stitch as a private “promise”. We’ve said over and over to each other that “Ohana means family”, and as I would tuck them in at night I would assure them that family is forever.

But what happens when family isn’t forever? What happens when divorce occurs post-adoption? How does that impact a child who has been told again and again that their family is permanent and secure? Very little professional advice can actually be found on the internet about this topic, but it is definitely an issue that occurs, with the divorce rate in America remaining at 50%. Has this been an issue that’s touched your family? How have you helped your child understand that even though your marriage might have ended, your love for your child is indeed permanent?

Monday, September 21, 2009

H1N1

This past week, H1N1 hit our house. Both of our girls came down with it on the same day. I was amazed at how quickly it moved through their school, infecting 12 out of 18 kids in the matter of a week.


On day number two of the virus, my girls were running really high fevers and were so listless. In the front page of our local newspapers, news of H1N1 hitting our community only reflected what we were already seeing. This highly contagious flu caused Minnesota to be put in with 21 other states reporting widespread influenza activity.


When I saw how sick my own girls were, it made me think of what a terrible hardship it would be for any orphanage to have the H1N1 virus spread throughout it. I know the staff could quickly become overwhelmed if so many children got extremely sick in a short period of time. I know that China has been doing a lot to prevent this from happening , including closing orphanages to outside visitors . We have postponed a physical therapy team to China due to the H1N1 virus, and we recently heard another group is postponing their medical mission as well.


Has the H1N1/Swine Flu hit your community? If your child has contracted it, how quickly did they recover? Did you think it was worse than the "regular" flu?


Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China