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Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Ole Grey Mare....

She just ain't what she use to be.

The same goes for this community that I am so passionate about.
Things evolve,
Some for the better, some not so much,

The adoption community is no exception.

When I first learned about the plight of special needs orphans internationally [2009],
I saw it for what it was,

Kids with special needs being persecuted and in many ways executed because of their special needs,
Served a life sentence.
A life of starvation and often death.
I saw the children for who they were,
CHILDREN.

 It was very black and white.
They are kids.
They are suffering.
We need to do something.

It was easy.
The answer was clear.

In 2009/2010 the plight, movement, and advocacy had a pretty grassroots feel to it still,
It was very humbling, genuine, and real.


I'll call this next part,

-The Blessing and The Curse-

In 2010 so many kids I love came home.
Of those came at least 3 bloggers who over the years have acquired quite the large audience.
The word was being spread,
People were listening.
The community was growing rapidly.
It was a blessing to see people pouring in both to advocate and to adopt these children.
An incredible blessing.

With rapid growth and popularity though,
Comes opinions,
Different view points,
and disagreements.
It leaves people two steps behind and scrambling to catch up to rapid explosion of community that had surfaced.

Rapid Growth.
It was without a doubt a blessing and a curse to the adoption community.
Statistically speaking,
The blessing has far outweighed the curse.
I know of several adoptions from a particular country that had their own set of major bumps along the way, in large part due to the scrambling to keep up with the new found growth.
Those families probably wouldn't agree with it,
But still the blessing has far outweighed the bumpy curse.


Next we'll call it...

-The Decline-
"Changing Face"

Hmm, I would say 2011 was when it happened.

*The Priest*
*Pleven*
*Terri Lynn*
*Court Rejections*


Break my heart for what breaks yours.

It really is what drives me to write the posts that I write on this blog,
I can go months in between posts, I really don't blog just to blog.
I blog when there is something to be said.

And those four things above.
People were blogging.
Hearts were breaking.
Wounds were fresh.
People were listening.
It sucked you in.

"The Priest" destroyed many families whose wounds are still raw.
Pleven broke hearts, it has also changed lives.
Terri Lynn, her face will forever be etched into many of our hearts.
and three families battled their way through very scary court rejections and after a long fought battle were able to bring their children home.

It brought great awareness,
Hearts broke for the cause.
When I write,
I write with the intent to break the hearts of others toward the very things that break my heart.

Many of my friends are in the adoption community because of one of the things above or from a giveaway that broke hearts,
A giveaway that started with a plea to find Olga and Kareen families.

New faces,
Lots and lots of new faces,
New passion,
New ideas,
New drive,
Fresh stamina.

Old faces dwindled.
If you look through the 'Already Home' page,
Very few families who adopted from early 2011 or earlier are still within the same community, if around at all.

Why is that?
You will get many different answers.

-My kid is home, I needed to focus on him.
-We can't adopt again and it's too hard to follow.
-Things have changed in the community.
-We can no longer support the foundation that the community is based around.
-We had a less than perfect adoption and have decided to "boycott" supporting it.
-There is too much corruption.

Do they know something the "new" kids don't?

-DIVISION-
"What are we missing?"

I can tell you,
I've lived within the community,
And I've lived on the outside of the community.
It is very CLEAR CUT division.

The reasons given.
-Families have been done wrong by the team in country.
-The team in country interfered with families adoptions that were using another team
-Their ethics are questionable at best
-They are functioning as an agency
-They are overstepping boundaries
-They are sabotaging adoptions
-Money is going missing
-Money is being withheld

The phrase that is often used is,
The ends don't justify the means.
Or at least that they shouldn't.

CLEAR CUT DIVISION
You are in or you are out.
You are friends with us or you are friends with them.
You are for this ministry or that ministry.
You advocate for these orphans or those orphans....


WAIT!
What?
ORPHANS.

Scroll Up.
Find the last time I used the word ORPHANS.
You will need to scroll up a ways.

It's missing from a large majority of my
 'Adoption Community Evolution Breakdown'

Not because I forgot to mention them...
But because the devil has caused the focus to shift.

us vs. them
these vs. those
this vs. that
ours vs yours

The problem with that is that God never said I will only take you, you, and you in.
We are all his orphans.

I hate to burst any bubbles but 
you and your enemy,
you have the same Father.
He cares about you both equally,
Especially when you each stray in opposite directions.
He loves you both the same,
Unconditionally.

I can promise you,
We ALL got into it to for the Orphans.
When we got into this Orphan/Adoption community I doubt it was conditionally.
We each said we'd fight because THEY ARE WORTH IT.

They are still worth it.
All of them.
The ones listed on this site and on that site.
The ones in this country and that country.
The ones with this facilitator and that facilitator.
This agency or that agency.
The family fundraising through this site and that site.

When you started this journey,
I promise you, you thought they all deserved to come home.

You would have helped any family.
You wouldn't have had stipulations.
You wouldn't have alienated.
You wouldn't have forced families to choose a side.
Your focus was on them being orphan no more.

Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

The "new" crowd.
They are where you were when you first got involved.
It isn't that they are all naive,
They are just still focused on the cause that we evolved and strayed from,
And there is no reason to fault them for it.
We were all there.
Even if you think you were smarter than that,
You really did start there.

You are taking away from an orphan every time you stir up the drama of Satan.
He wants you to shift focus, he wants them to remain in orphanages.
Every time you start drama, you are making the plight less and less "real",
Less desirable to want to be a part of,
You are causing families and advocates to think twice before jumping in.
You are not saving anyone.
Leave the saving to Jesus.

Like I said in the beginning,
I've been on both sides,
And I can tell you that you both think that your $#!+ don't stink,
You both think you have the answers to the way things should be,
and you both want to help families.
And funnily enough, you both do what you do for the same exact reason,
Because you think it's in someone else's best interest.

How does the common Down Syndrome saying go?
More alike than different.

You see, not many people can write this post,
Not many people have been on the inside and the outside,
Been on good terms and bad,
Been at one point or another alienated from both sides.
Been hurt by both sides.
Been broken and can understand why some have made it us vs. them.

I get it.

And I can honestly say that as long as there are sides
The focus will continue to be lost.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that despite my personal feelings toward specific staff,
I have never boycotted sharing the kids,
 nor shouting for the families.
My goal has remained the same.

Have I been outspoken about my feelings/judgement of people on both "sides",
I definitely have.
I have been honest about that from the very beginning,
I have said things I wish I could take back about certain people.
I have gone about certain things the wrong way.
I'm not perfect and I have never claimed to be,
But I have never lost sight of the the fact that

ALL OF THE KIDS MATTER.
They all are worthy.

So this is what I have to say....

There is no better side.
There really shouldn't be any side other than HIS side.

We are in this for HIS orphans.


Come back tomorrow for more on this topic,
I'll be breaking it down in a more personal way.
How I was in, and then out, and feel no shame for requesting to be "in" again.

Because in all reality,
I've always been in.
IN IT FOR THE ORPHANS.
ALL OF THEM.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Double Digits: Some fun Stats!

When I was starting the Double Digits series, 
I searched through all the Already Home families that were listed on a Down Syndrome Advocacy site, trying to figure out how many families have adopted children age 10+ with Down Syndrome and who those families were.

It was a sad, eye opening, realization that there was only a handful of families.

In 2012 we started to see Double Digits children with Down Syndrome find their families.
The Daultons brought home 11 year old Marina Joy
The Brown Family brought home 11 year old Amelia and 16 year old Sophia (along with 5 year old Jeremy, and 6 year old Joshua)
And the Rogers brought home 15 year old Jessa (along with 9 year old Caleb)
(You can read our Double Digits Guest Post from their mama here)


In 2013 a few more Double Digits kiddos with Down Syndrome came home,
The Pickett family brought home 10 year old Viktorya,
The Duncan family brought home 10 year old Kolina,
The Daultons adopted again, 12 year old Molly,
And the Drakes brought home 12 year old Boden.
(You can read our Double Digits Guest Post from his mama here)



And that brings us to 2014.....
One Double Digit child with Down Syndrome has come home so far this year,
The Stickleys brought home almost 14 year old Ava.

Welcome Home sweet girl!
BUT THERE'S MORE....
Be ready to be in awe of what God has orchestrated in the hearts of so many in the last year....


EIGHTEEN

That is the number of Double Digit children that have families working toward getting them home right now.

From 8 in TWO YEARS, to EIGHTEEN in 2014!?

That is an amazingly beautiful number.
These are amazingly beautiful families,
I have the blessing and honor to know almost all of them.

2014 is going to be a game changer!
When we started the adoption process of an older child,
I had two friends to talk to about it,
The Drakes and the Rogers.

Lord willing ALL 18 will be home by Christmas!
All should come home by September,
What a blessing to walk this road with so many others for the first time in our community!

Older children are worthy.
Older children deserve to know the meaning of family.

Now is the time to take the leap,
our Double Digit community continues to grow,
Be a part of it!

Email me for agency contact info for each of the above waiting children!

SUPPORT THE FAMILIES

Kaleb's Family (TBA)


Help make 2014 an amazing year for all these kids,
And pray about possibly being a family to a Double Digits child!





Saturday, February 15, 2014

Double Digits: Guest Post - Older Child Down Syndrome Adoption



Meet the Drake family.

With three young children at home, they took the leap to add a much older child to their family, an older child with Down Syndrome.


His name is Bodan and he recently joined the Drake family at a little over 12 1/2 years old. This is the photo that was available when they committed to pursuing the adoption that would bring him home!

I want to thank Mehgan in advance for taking the time to answer these questions for us, with a newly home older institutionalized child, I'm sure spare time is hard to come by.
____________________________________________

Did you go into adoption seeking a child that was older?
Boden seemed so unlikely to find a family.  His picture and profile stayed with us; we wept over him for days.  We had always considered adoption, and believe whole-heartedly in it, but we didn't know if it was possible for us.  We started looking at the profiles thinking of different ways we could help orphans around the world.

What was the scariest part?
The unkown of the whole situation, but mostly how an older child would affect our biological kids.  We had no idea if Boden was aggressive, or if he could sexually abuse the other kids.  We didn't know if the severity of his needs would traumatize them.

How old was your “Double Digits” child[ren] when they came home? How old were they developmentally? Someone asks “How far "behind" can I expect him/her to be now? Will he/she ever advance beyond toddler type behavior/self care?”
Boden was 12 when we brought him home, and he is develpmentally about one or two, and the size of a 4 year old, and emaciated.
He is capable of learning, He has been home for 2 months, and he can already feed himself, and he understands commands, and he is learning to self-regulate some of his actions.

Has your older child struggled to learn a new language? Did they just catch on or did you use specific teaching opportunities?
Boden is nonverbal, so isn't speaking English, but he understands what we say to him.  A few times we would say something in Russian, followed by the English, but mostly we are just being repetitive with him.

Having spent so much time in orphanage/institutional settings, did your child come home with institutional autism? What has that looked like? Has progress been made to overcome it?Stimming behaviors. Did your PI child grow out of their institutional behaviors? Have they  decrease? Or are they likely to stay with the child forever? Did your child regress when coming home, did it get worse before getting better?
Boden did come home with pretty severe institutional autism.  He spent 8 years in an adult mental institution with no stimulation.  His DS is extremely mild (we had to have him tested to make sure he actually had it), and he could have been high functioning, but now he has developed institutional autism.  Boden rocks a lot, doesn't really focus (getting so much better though!), makes lots of loud noises (some is "talking" but others are when he is overwhelmed).  He likes floppy things, and doesn't know how to play.  He hates the feel of terry cloth on his feet.  I have to wash his feet with my hands, and he will refuse to put his feet down if there is a towel on the floor when he gets out of the bath.
He is starting to focus more, and he is being more present. He is even starting to interact/play somewhat, but only in small amounts.  I have seen Boden be able to stop some of his stimming, and I believe he will make great improvement, but he will always be autistic.
Like anyone else, Boden has good and bad days.  If we try to do too much on a particular day, it will be followed by a day of regression.  However, we did not experience him getting worse before getting better.  I think his DS and IA protected him from the grief and feelings of anger and mourning from his life lost that neurotypical kids experience.

Fear of aggression is often mentioned as a common concern, what aggression issues did your child have? How did you handle them? Has the aggression stopped/improved?Another common fear is the safety of other children in the home, specifically young children, was your Double Digits child a threat to your other young children? If so, how did you deal with keeping everyone save and has it gotten better?
We really haven't had aggression issues with Boden.  That really depends on how their institution was, and how their personalities are.  Boden did not come from an institution where the kids are abused.  The nannies/director genuinely seemed to care about the boys there.  Also, Boden has a pretty calm nature about him.  When he is SUPER worked up and stressed out, he has hit Caleb's arms, furniture, or himself, but never to hurt and never in the face.  He will also pinch when stressed.  But this was how he has coped with stress his whole life.  It's all he knows.  And these behaviors are most often directed at himself.  Sometimes at Caleb or me, but never the other kids.  These behaviors have decreased tremendously the past 2 months.
Boden is cognitively younger than my biological kids, even though he is my oldest child.  He is the size of my two youngest kids.  I was worried that he could be a threat to them, but that's so far from reality.  However, that's just our experience, and not the case for every child.

What does day to day life look like with a post institutional child with Down Syndrome, or how does it vary from the life before they were home? How has it changed over time?
Day to day life has changed in this way:  I have to stop, focus, play, and make a better effort.  We have re-prioritized.  Right now, Boden is still new, and he doesn't interact very much.  But I have to stop and sit and be still just to hold him and love on him (which he craves).  I have to be patient and get on his level, and teach him how to play, and celebrate every victory.  And this is making me so much better than what I was.  I am interacting with all the kids more, and we are finding a new normal. Sure, we move in slow motion now, but life is great.

Some other questions that were asked, and they go along with this one.... Did they come home able to walk? Were they in diapers? Were they able to eat solids and drink from a cup? Can you go out to eat with your PI teen?
Boden has to walk holding on to someone, and it is very time consuming.  But he is getting stronger.  He will be walking on his own soon.
Boden has to be spoon fed soft solids and purees,and it is time consuming, but he is already doing it himself sometimes (which leads to more than one bath per day).  And he is also in diapers.  The extra time is so worth it.  We needed to stop what we were doing and be with our kids more.

Boden has an aversion to drinking.  We have tried every sippy cup, bottle, and different types of regular cups/glasses.  We have to keep him hydrated with the foods we give him.  However, he has even tried drinking a handful of times since the end of December, and even drank most of my hot chocolate yesterday!

Boden does well in restaurants. I order his food to come out as an appetizer so he doesn't have to wait too long.  If he gets too hungry, he freaks out.

If you sought out services, did you have a hard time finding services that people were able to really understand your child's past? If this was an issue or you chose not to seek out services, can you share what works for your family?
We are just beginning to navigate doctor/therapists.  We hope to be in PT and OT soon.. There are free services at our school, but we will go where is most beneficial for Boden.

If you feel comfortable sharing, what is your long term care plan?  What happens as you age and possibly can no longer provide total care?What has been the best, most useful resource for you and your family?
Lord willing, we will be around until Boden is an old man.  We plan on getting him enrolled in Medicaid so that he medical needs will always be provided for.  He has smart, loving, compassionate siblings that I pray one day could take him in should we not be capable of the task anymore.  I don't want him to have to return to a group home/institutional setting--he's had enough of that for one lifetime.

The most useful resource so far has been the wealth of knowledge/experience SN adopting moms have provided.  The online support is such a blessing and life-saver.  I am currently also seeking out local support.

Bonding and Attachment, How has it gone for you and your PI older child? What was/is your biggest hurdle to overcome? What really worked for helping you and your child bond?
Bonding seems to be going well.  He loves his Momma, and he prefers me the majority of the time.
The hardest part is telling people they can't hug/hold Boden, because he loves to go to others.  But that has seemed to decrease the more he attaches to me.
We are the only ones who provide for his needs--bathing, changing, feeding, comforting.
It teaches him that we are set apart from others, and that we are safe and can be trusted.

WOULD YOU DO IT AGAIN?
We would absolutely do this again!



*******
If the Drake's journey inspired you,
Please prayerfully consider one of the double digit boys who continue to wait