Orphans with Arthrogryposis

There are kids with Arthrogryposis all over the world who wait for a family to call their own. Every child should have a Mama and Papa to love them. Sadly many kids will never know the love of a family as they will live out their shortened lives in institutions. The children posted here are from Reecesrainbow.com If you can't adopt, you can donate to their grants on reecesrainbow.com Don't leave them to die in institutions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We did it!!!

Thank you!!!

The chance to win the $500 grant was posted late last night. I really didn't know if we could do it. Clearly I underestimated you wonderful people! During the night people started giving. Early this morning (or late this morning for you east coast guys) we found out we'd done it!

In one night! Just one night!

Thank you thank you thank you!

I've got to say our donor was surprised and happy too!

Alexis is up to $4,551!

We're still hoping to get Alexis' family up to $5,000 by June 1st. We have two days to do it. They are so close. If you were planning on giving, please still give! Alexis' family is going to be so surprised!

Thank you all so so so much!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

$500 gift has been offered, but we need your help to get it!

BREAKING (middle of the night) NEWS!

We just heard from an anonymous donor who read about Alexis' story on our website. This donor has given to charitable causes in the past, orphans specifically, but ONLY if certain conditions were met. (And I know one case where those conditions were not met!) So here's the deal: If we can raise the Duval's Family Sponsorship Page from $3,044 where it's at now to $4,000 before June 1st then this anonymous donor will give $500 towards Alexis' adoption costs! If we don't reach $4,000 then no $500! This donor made it very clear that they won't be giving it unless we reach the $4,000 goal. I think they want to see who cares about this adoption. (Read all about adoption, living with arthrogryposis and Alexis herself in the posts below.) It would take 80 people giving their $12 gifts to reach this amount. We have 84 people following us on Facebook as well as many visitors on this site, but many of you have already given your $12!! Can we do it?! I told the donor we'd like to try and we are always thankful for the oportunity to raise these much needed grant funds.

Would you all please do me a favor and share this! We'd love that extra money for this family! (Our goal is still to reach $5,000, but with only two days left in Alexis' month, $4,500 would still feel mighty good.)

The Duvals just arrived back home with their son tonight (5/29). He's sleeping in his own bed and surrounded by family for the first time in his life. I can't imagine. It's a big adjustment, and for those who have known institutional living, well, being home makes little hearts full and heavy all at the same time. It gives me goosebumps to think of the unloved being loved and valued, needed and wanted. What a deep hole this love must fill!

The Duvals head right back out to get Alexis (who begs for a family) as soon as they are allowed. We would just love to step alongside this exhausted family and show them that they are not alone. For someone who has needed to raise adoption funds myself, it's very encouraging when others help in this way. It keeps us going.

To donate please go here. It's tax deductible.

Note: Bring Hope to 12 in 2012 does not have a set list of donors. We rely on others! If you would like to contribute towards a giveaway or present a matching grant or gift, please contact us at bringhopeto12in2012 (at) gmail (dot) com. Donors are free to set their own conditions and deadlines. We are happy to facilitate you in any way we can. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A defense of supporting adoption

"Do you have any idea how many people you could help with that money? You're wasting it on one child!"

"I only give to local charities or my local church since the Bible says to. So I cannot support your foreign adoption."

"Why should I help you expand your family?"

"If you can't come up with your adoption fees ($25,000) on your own then you shouldn't be adopting. You should provide for your own child not ask others to."

"Children are better in their home country, even in institutions. You should give that money to the country instead."

These are some of the things that have been said to me after we decided to adopt a child with arthrogryposis and save him from transfer to an institution. In this blog post I hope to shed light on why I believe with my whole being that adoption should be supported.

"Do you have any idea how many people you could help with that money? You're wasting it on one child!"

I hope to argue that an investment into an orphan's life, foreign or not, is a valid investment that is not inferior to a charitable act which spreads the financial net a bit wider to help many. I consider both not only valid, but also on equal footing.

My husband and I support the efforts of AMF (Against Malaria Foundation) to provide malaria nets to those who live in malaria infested parts of the world. Statistically for every $2,000 given to AMF, one life is saved from the deadly malaria virus. We found out about this through GiveWell, a website who reviews charities and shows a top list of those who do the most good with your dollar. This appealed to us greatly since although you cannot put value on a human life, you can put a dollar amount to saving one human life: $2,000.

Feeding America is another charity that has my heart. Because of pooling their resources they say for every $1 donated to their cause they can turn that into 8 meals for hungry families. Personally I like Feeding America because it meets a very basic need in my own community.

My two examples are suppose to show that money donated to great causes can ease the suffering of many people, maybe even save a few lives. So how is that not superior to pouring $25,000 (the cost of our adoption) into one life? An excellent question for the philanthropist.

Firstly there must be some consideration to the longevity of giving. One meal feeds one person one time. One mosquito net covers one family's bed until that net is destroyed by daily use. Giving a child a lifelong home, parents, medical treatment, therapies and an education has a lasting positive impact that can't be easily quantified. Children who go on to be contributing members of (a wealthier) society, generate income and help support others cannot be overvalued. Because of the situation in Eastern Europe an institutionalized child goes from being a drain on society and having zero potential to having unlimited potential once adopted. Because it is hard to quantify the potential of this adopted child it is hard to argue charitable giving towards adoption as more valuable than charitable giving to a broader source. But that is my point exactly: $25,000 can save 12.5 people from malaria. $25,000 can save one child, plus any others he has the potential of helping in his lifetime. And that could be less than 12.5 or many, many more.

"I only give to local charities or my church since the Bible says to. So I cannot support your foreign adoption."

I appreciate the idea that one saves their money to support their immediate family first, then the community around them, and then, in an ever-widening circle, strangers in foreign countries. But I also believe we should reverse that circle of support when the poverty of strangers is vastly greater to our own. (I'm assuming my readers' families are not starving.) The Bible text that was referenced during this conversation was 1 Timothy 5:8 which says, "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

In the context of 1 Timothy 5:8 they are discussing who should care for the widows in their community. They conclude that this falls to the children and grandchildren of these widows, and if a widow has no children, then the church community will care for her. In other words, a person who lives as he pleases while his widowed mother is suffering in poverty is a bad person. Paul implies that even the unbelievers know how to take care of their own mothers.

What is not stated here is the exclusion of helping foreigners. 1 Timothy 5:8 only applies to my adoption if I chose to start the adoption process while my widowed mother or grandmother was suffering financially.

As far as the Bible stating to support "your own" (the Greek word for household there is oikeios but can imply your own local charities, groups, people of the same faith, or blood relatives), I have found that is true, but not to the exclusion of foreign aid. (In fact God's heart is with the foreigner as I will attempt to prove shortly.) In the early church there was a structure in place kind of like communism on a small scale and Paul sums up how it worked beautifully in 2 Corinthians 8:

13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

A lot of giving in the Bible (New Testament) has to do with this set up. Although we do not hold this kind of set up in churches today I do see many good people supporting those in need in their communities.

As for God's laws regarding the foreigner, the conversation moves beyond a few epistles and goes all throughout Scripture. In fact God demands care for the foreigner and the orphan in many of the same passages. The foreigner is sometimes called "the alien" or "the stranger." The orphan is sometimes called "the fatherless" and can be a foreigner or a local member of the community.

(I include a lot of Scripture to make a point about what the Bible actually teaches regarding my foreign adoption. Feel free to skip or skim.)

Deuteronomy 10:18 - He (God) executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the foreigner by giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 14:29 - The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the foreigner, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Deuteronomy 16:11 - And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger (foreigner) and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name.

Deuteronomy 16: 14 - And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger (foreigner) and the orphan and widow who are in your town.

Deuteronomy 24:17 - You shall not pervert the justice due a foreigner or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge.
Deuteronomy 24:19-21 - When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the foreigner, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the foreigner, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the foreigner, for the orphan, and for the widow.

Deuteronomy 26:12-13 - When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. You shall say before the Lord your God, “I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments.”

Deuteronomy 27:19 - “Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”

Jeremiah 7:5-7 - For if you truly amend your ways and your deed, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave your father forever and ever.

Jeremiah 22:3 - Thus says the Lord, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”

Zechariah 7:10 - And do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

Malachi 3:5 - "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.

Psalm 146:9 - The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

(Okay I'm done.)

Everyone will pick and choose between foreign support and local support depending on what they value and who can use the most help. I'm not really here to advocate one over the other. But I do believe the heart of God is clearly for the orphan, the widow and the foreigner. My adopted son fits two of these three categories. Soon he'll fit none of those categories as God intended.

Moving on.

"Why should I help you expand your family?"

If you are part of a belief system that obeys the Bible then you are commanded to help the orphan and the foreigner, also the poor and the hungry. My son fits all those categories so is an excellent choice. (We're fully funded by the way, this was something asked a while back.) If I'm in your local church community it would be a biblical example played out. If you hold no spiritual beliefs then I could argue adoption as a way to better our community due to the cultural flavor my son brings to it. He also informs others about what family really means. And having physical disabilities, as has been argued, can help others in the areas of understanding, acceptance, compassion, perspective and responsibility. All in all I never thought fundraising for my adoption was a selfish act, nor do I expect everyone to help. But having people be offended at my fundraising baffles me. Why should you help bring my son home? For the same reason you should do any good thing. That's all. Don't then.

"If you can't come up with your adoption fees ($25,000) on your own then you shouldn't be adopting. You should provide for your own child not ask others to."

Ah yes, the "only rich people should adopt" mentality. I've also heard, "Fundraising for your adoption is just like welfare," and "If you can't come up with the money for your own child then you shouldn't be adopting at all. Period." Of all the above statements/questions I'm responding to in this post, this is the only one that was said unkindly. So as a lawyer would approach a hostile witness, I feel free to be blunt.

First let's define our terms. You may define "rich" differently depending on how much money you have. But let's put it this way, it costs between $25,000 to $45,000 for a foreign adoption. If you make $25,000 a year you are in the top 10% of the wealthiest people on earth. If you make $35,000 a year, congrats and welcome to the top 5%. $45,000 would put you in the top 1.72% of the richest people on earth. Do you get where I'm going with this? Coming up with a year's income in order to have a child qualifies you as a rich person.

So the above statement really boils down to this: Only rich people should adopt.

So far no one has come out to me and said this, but it's easily inferred.

We in the adoption community jokingly refer to the initial costs/fees of adoption as the "ransom." We don't have it, but we have a limited time to come up with it. And they have our child. Now I'm not here to defend how the money is used by lawyers or foreign governments, or to say there are no abuses in the system, but rest assured the price of adoption fees will not be going down, and they are necessary to move a child's life, residential status and future to an entirely different country. Not having this initial sum does not mean we cannot support a child, even one with extreme medical needs. In fact a homestudy must be done that assesses the financial stability, overall health, home situation and emotional maturity of both adoptive parents by a licensed social worker. After we've been stripped down and laid bare by professionals (over a period of weeks or months), I'm hard pressed to hear we're unworthy by anonymous people on the Internet.

So those who do not believe we should adopt because we "cannot provide" are not accurate since we have been vetted. But really the issue is that we did not pull out of our pocket the entire ransom for our son which only the top few wealthiest people on the planet could. (In our case we did empty our savings account, get a temporary second job and budget for a while so harshly that we couldn't buy milk or bread. That last sacrifice didn't last, but a healthy budget is in place now.)

Tell me something. Should minorities not have children? Should those making less than $30,000 not be allowed to become pregnant? Does equality matter? Does family matter? Are children dying in institutions for lack of parents important? I'm not saying you will agree with me on all these issues, but I'm saying a disagreement shows a prejudice I cannot begin to reason with.

The rich get all the breaks.

"Children are better in their home country, even in institutions. You should give that money to the country instead."

And lastly, there's this statement, "Children are better where they are." It was said simply, gently and thoughtfully, which just made it worse. I've found that people who say this have never done an in-depth study on my son's situation. Allow me to illuminate his situation.

You've probably read blogs about the torture that goes on over in Eastern Europe to those with disabilities, maybe you've seen a video about it, maybe you've read about a life saved from it or maybe you know nothing at all. I can't begin to go into all the abuses happening over there, or even point out which orphanages are doing it better or worse, but I can give you a picture of it using my own son's example.

When my son turns five years old (maybe four, maybe three, or in one case I read about, two) he will be put in a car and driven screaming and crying or quiet and terrified to an adult mental institution out in the country where no one visits and no one has to deal with the imperfect people who live there. Now my son does not have any mental disabilities, but this is where people in EE who look different are thrown away. It's a system so mired in political and social gunk that fixing it seems impossible, although there are small efforts to do so. As it stands now, only adoption can save these kids from this fate. Children transferred to the institution have PTSD, they are not held, they are tied down into cribs (even into their teens) and changed once a day. Sometimes not changed on weekends. They have sores from lying in their own urine and feces. They have no one to talk to. They chew on their hands and arms and rock themselves for stimulation. They are fed what amounts to a cabbage stew crammed down their throats. Some institutions are better and some are worse, but the term "good institution" is an oxymoron. I've heard statistics from 85%-95% of children who are transferred die within the first 12-18 months. I hear it's the higher percentage if you have Down's syndrome. They are buried in the backyard.

In a provocative work called, "Death Camps for Children" those who have been to these places (that still exist even years later) report what they've seen:

“When we arrived at the orphanage we were met by older children without coats, they were begging us to give things to them and not to the directors. It is very hard to write about the rest of this part of the trip. I cannot give a step by step account because we were all in a state of shock. We spoke to the director about our program and he told us that he knows the children need more but he said, ‘I cannot ask my workers to do more, they work very hard, clearing the road, shoveling snow, cleaning the floors and the children, they have not time, they must work very hard all day and then they must dig graves and bury children.’ What do you say to that? Still, the staff took us around to show us how it is. Words don’t come to mind, most of our team was crying and could not stop. Dark hallways, screaming, children clustered together in freezing rooms, some in strait-jackets, haunted looking crying, asking if they were good, asking for food. Water dripping from the dark ceilings, mold everywhere. We held children who were 10 and 13 years old in our arms like infants. One team member said later that she never knew that humans are like fish and will only grow to the size of their environment. One team member threw up outside. Children never leave their beds in some rooms. These children are ages 4-16. In other rooms they leave to go to a room with just a bench and nothing else in it. They hold each other -rocking one another. I have never seen such deprivation and our photographer said it best when he said it was a concentration camp for children. Sorry, this is such a hard part to write but I looked in the eyes of many children who are dying. Their tiny bones fit into the palm of my hands. Their skeleton faces begging for help. No one in our team has really slept since. We talk about it but just end up in tears. I promised the orphanage staff we would come back with a team of people to help them. They are counting on it. The director told one team member that 20 years ago he asked for help there and the soviet minister came and visited. The visiting soviet minister told the director, ‘why do you keep these animals alive? You can kill them, you know how to do it you are a doctor.’ He never sent any money or aid to the orphanage.” (http://eng.maidanua.org/node/581)

For those who say to leave them where they are, because even if their own society does not consider them fully human it's better for them somehow, I leave you with these images from http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/.

But it's a situation not without hope. Here's some hope from one of my favorite adoption blogs.

This is ten year old Katy suffering in her institution. (She weighed 10 pounds.)

This is Katy six months after being adopted. (She's up to 27 pounds.)
So you tell me, should we leave them there?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Alexis' mom

Allow me to introduce to you Alexis' mom, Sherrie, who has written about what led her family to Alexis in the text below. If you haven't yet read Alexis' story let me say that Alexis is a young girl with arthrogryposis living with many other children in an orphanage overseas. She's the girl who begs for parents of her own. She plays mom to several younger kids and would thrive in a larger family. She does not have a great self image and does not think anyone wants her. She does not even know her family is coming for her!  

Sometimes finding the child you are meant to adopt is like a flash of lightening or a mountain top experience. But often it just fits and it just works out against all odds. Many of our AMC parents don't have wheelchair accessible homes, a medical background or rich bank accounts. But ask any AMCer, adopted or otherwise, and they'll all tell you: It. Does. Not. Matter. They just need parents. They need love. They need to belong.

We've asked Alexis' new mom to share a bit of her family's story with us. We can't wait for it to be Alexis' story too. And we hope you will consider going here and helping with the staggering initial costs of bringing Alexis home.

When I was a child God lit a fire in my heart for adoption. He did it through my mom who was never able to adopt but wanted too. It burned in my heart for a long time. Then God opened my husband’s heart and the flood gates started to open. Just one. We adopted one and for 5 years our house had 2 children. I was very thankful for that first adoption since I never wanted to have an only child.

For the first 13 years of my life I was an only child and I remember longing for a sister or a brother. God did bless me with 3 brothers when I turned 13 and I was and am very thankful for them.

Five years after our first adoption God opened my husband’s heart a little more and we adopted a little girl with medical special needs, a year later we adopted an older boy from the same orphanage. Two years later God brought us another boy and then God really shocked us and gave us a baby. Not only a baby but a baby with Down Syndrome and some pretty serious medical needs.

I admit I’m pretty blessed, so when my husband said we were done I didn’t argue. God wasn’t done though. Out next son, whom we are bringing home this summer, was my husbands idea. Yep, the flood gates are fully open. And then Alexis.

When I first heard about Alexis I knew she was special. I knew that about all my children but Alexis wasn’t my daughter. At least I didn’t think so. I advocated for her a family. I prayed for her. I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart hurting for her. Sometimes I felt like my heart was bursting for her and the need for her to have a family. My husband knew all of this and he too prayed for her to find a family. He was sympathetic but there was no way we could do two overseas adoptions in one year.  The cost alone can be prohibitive. We would also outgrow our vehicle, our house isn’t that big, the medical costs have to be considered and how would a wheelchair fit in our house? I mean really it was impossible to think that we could be Alexis’s family. But God!!

But God, once again changed hearts.  And once my husband knew that Alexis was his daughter there was no way we were going to wait any longer to go get her. She has waited 12 years for us and we will do whatever it takes to bring her home. She has waited 12 long years to have someone hold her, love her, tell her how precious she is (and she is precious). She has no idea that she is precious. She believes that no one would want her. Can you imagine if your child thought that?  She has said those very words and we want to take them out of her heart. 

We’re not perfect parents or people by any means but we plan to show her with all that we have how much she is wanted!! We will tell her a story.  A story about how God changed the hearts of two imperfect parents in order to bless then with a perfect daughter!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Winning the parent lottery

I was recently at a disability conference at my university and heard LeDerick Horne give a motivational talk. LeDerick has severe learning disabilities but despite that he graduated college and found his talent in spoken word poetry. He is an incredibly powerful motivational speaker and has immense talent.  

As he described growing up with learning disabilities and the challenges he faced in school because of that label, he described how amazing his parents were and he said "I won the parent lottery." 

That statement "I won the parent lottery" really struck me. 

I have arthrogryposis and it had occurred to me before that if I had to be born with disabilities I was really fortunate to be born to my parents, I had just never thought of it as "winning the lottery" but thats a brillant way to say that my parents are awesome, because winning the actual lottery and getting a boatload of money has to be pretty awesome.

I "won" the "parent lottery" at birth when I was born to these two!

When I ponder just how awesome my parents are it makes me sad that some kids with arthrogryposis weren't so lucky to be born to parents who were able to take on the challenge of raising them and instead left them at an orphanage or the hospital.

Kids who were orphaned at birth get a second chance at "winning the parent lottery" thanks to adoption. They get a chance to reach their potential instead of wasting away in an orphanage.

My parents weren't necessarily prepared to raise me when I born with arthrogryposis but they met the challenge head on. I was my parents third child and the only one with a disability. They were completely clueless when it came to raising a kid with arthrogryposis. But slowly they figured it out.

When you have a disability, having parents who are awesome really makes a difference!

My parents are awesome in different ways and together they make a great team. My Mom is the advocate  who constantly fought for my independence and my Dad is the creative and resourceful one.

Some of the reasons why my parents are awesome:

My Mom made me do puzzles....a lot!!! Making me do puzzles was working on fine motor skills, this is just one of the many "home" therapies she did with me.

I was using Parallel bars at therapy so Dad built me a set for home out of the scrap wood and metal he had laying around and he built steps for me to practice on (his handiwork gets wayyy better 22 years later, stay tuned)

My Mom took legal action against my school when they refused to comply with the ADA and as a result this

was put onto my school so I could access the building w/o using the steps. And the next year they still didn't learn because she had to take legal action again to get busing services!

My Mom didn't let me get away with not doing activities of daily living that I was perfectly capable of doing on my own. It would have been faster to just dress me herself but she didn't do that, she made me dress myself even if it took longer. This push for independence is why I can now take care of myself and was able to move out at 18, into an apartment by myself.

They never questioned whether or not I should drive, they just allowed me to start driving the car around the farms and Mom was the one who taught me to drive once I turned 15 and a half. And they bought me a car that I could drive without modifications.

Once I found a doctor who actually specializes in lower extremity AMC they got me to and from Philly for 3 years straight.

When I was in a fixator and couldn't manage steps Dad built a lift onto our house. He didn't buy this lift and install it, oh no he built it out of mostly scrap metal and parts. My brother, the electrician, even added a safety feature, it won't go up or down unless the doors are closed tight!

and when I graduate college in 4 weeks it will because they have spent the last 24 years pouring their love and energy into seeing me succeed.

Every Orphan deserves the chance to "win" the "parent lottery" even if they are no longer infants or "little". They deserve to have parents like mine, parents who loved me and saw my potential and not my disabilities. Parents who went above and beyond when necessary. Parents who didn't have experience raising kids with special needs but embraced the challenge and met it head on.

If you're considering adopting a child with AMC or any special need and don't currently have a child with special needs don't be worried that your lack of experience makes you any less capable at parenting and raising a kiddo with disabilities. My parents are proof that winning the "parent lottery" doesn't mean they knew what they were doing and had it all together the minute I was born. Winning the "parent lottery" means my parents were willing to learn to parent a child with a disability, willing to be advocates, willing to learn to not sweat the small stuff, and willing to be creative.


has "won" the "parent lottery" (she just doesn't know it yet), she has committed parents but they need our help! So if you have a few extra pennies please throw it their way! Adoption isn't cheap monetarily but its priceless to the child who gets a chance at a decent life!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Our time with Alexis

The day we walked into Orphanage 39 in January of this year, it was freezing cold.  We were bundled up and snow was all over us.  I remember walking down the hallway, wondering how long it would be before we saw our daughter.  In fact, I didn’t see any kids. 

We met with the Director, the attorney, the social worker, and everyone else.  Finally, we could go meet our daughter. 

Down the long hallway, our footsteps echoing on the cold tile floor.

Turn right into the groupa door.  Make our way through the playroom, down the hall with the beautiful mural, past two bedrooms with 10 or so beds each, past a bathroom, into another little room, with a tv, and a table.

A table where four little girls were sitting around in wheelchairs, coloring and cutting with scissors and doing schoolwork. 

One of those was turned around- it was our daughter.  A beautiful, incredible, perfect little girl who is now in our home, laughing and talking in English and learning to crawl and do everything little six year old girls do. 

But one of those other little girls at the table- she’s the one that I’m here to talk about today.

Hi, I’m Renee. I blog over at http://butbygraceitcouldbeme.blogspot.com   Back in January and February of this year, we were in EE to adopt our amazing daughter, Emma Grace.  In the process of our adoption, God opened doors for us to meet around seventy other children, many of whom asked us to find them a family.

Alexis was one of them.  Except she didn’t just ask us to find her a family, she pleaded.  She cried.  She sobbed and begged and did everything she could to get us to promise that someone would come back for her.  But I digress…..


That day, in the groupa, meeting our Emma for the first time, I almost didn’t recognize her.  Our daughter looked really different than her picture that we had seen. 

But I immediately recognized Alexis.  How could I not?  She has eyes that are as expressive as any supermodel’s ever dreamed of being.  They were nearly always lit with this spark of enjoyment, of happiness, of joy.  Her expression that day was of curiosity.  She was subtle, watching us discreetly, trying not to stare, but clearly eager to observe this new phenomenon- strangers coming from America to adopt kids that Eastern Europe didn’t want- kids who couldn’t walk, kids whose arms and legs were twisted and frail, kids who society said were worthless. 

Alexis watched our whole first meeting.  She saw me kneel down before Emma’s wheelchair.  She saw us give Emma gifts.  She saw our tears and laughter and smiles that split our faces in half and left our jaw muscles aching and our cheeks quivering.  She saw the first moment when we lifted Emma from the wheelchair and sat her in our laps.  She watched as we caressed Emma’s hair, kissed her forehead, gently rubbed her tiny fingers.  She heard the facilitator ask if we were sure we wanted to adopt Emma, and as the facilitator translated to Emma that yes, we wanted her.  She heard the facilitator ask Emma if she wanted to be adopted by us, and Emma’s immediate “Da, a America a Mama ee Papa!!!”

And through my joyful tears, I saw Alexis’ face. 

In that second, those beautiful expressive dark eyes were filled with longing.  Deep, to the soul, longing.  Her mouth was slightly open as though she wanted to call out “me too, please, me too, I want a mama and a papa!”  She was leaning forward, hanging on every word.

And I caught her eyes.  She blinked and I saw all that hope, that longing, disappear, replaced by a look of resignation.  She looked to the girl on her right, one I call “Cassie” on my blog, also another older girl in a wheelchair, and shrugged.  Cassie shook her head side to side a bit, as though saying “you knew they wouldn’t come for you, we’re too old, too broken”. 

I vaguely remember the psychologist encouraging us to come to her office to finish our meeting.  I know I caught her eyes as the facilitator was translating, and knew she had seen Alexis and Cassie’s nonverbal exchange.  Sure enough, the facilitator translated to us that the psychologist was worried about the other girls, the ones NOT chosen. 

Like Alexis.


I didn’t understand it then.  Over the next couple of weeks, we got to know Alexis really well.  She would come in and play with us during the breaks between classes.  She’s hilarious- a real fun loving, entertaining young lady.  She’s a jokester, and often participated with the other kids in the wheelchair races and games in the hallways.  She has arthrogryposis, and it may impair her ability to walk, but it sure doesn’t impair her ability to have fun and enjoy life. 

She would hook her hands, twisted at the wrists, over the back of Tyler’s wheelchair, and Tyler would get their chairs going super fast down the hallway.  He would pull her all over and they would laugh and have the best time.  Sometimes, she and another little girl, who I called “Lindsey” on my blog, would hang on to the back of the boys’ wheelchairs while they went very fast in the hallways.  The boys would stop and sling the girls in their chairs to slide down the hall.  They were just everyday, normal kids, having a good time.
Alexis always had us laughing- she could be counted on to mimic our English greetings with a huge smile.  She was definitely the comedienne of the bunch!  When she wanted to get our attention, she would sing loudly, even rapping, eager to make eye contact and get her usual hug from us.  She positively radiated joy, happy for the attention.  She was tender with little Patti, who looked up to her for guidance and care.  Alexis is well loved by the staff and other kids, but she craved the love of parents and family.


One day, when we had been there several weeks, we found out something that literally sent us home in tears. 

The closer it came for time for us to go to court, the more anxious everyone seemed to get.  Finally, the big day came, and we were pronounced the forever mama and papa of Emma Grace.  We carried a cake and lots of sweets and fruit and new DVDs to the groupa, eager to share our celebration.

But Alexis, like some of the others, seemed only somewhat excited about the treats.  Instead, she looked anxious.  Quickly, in her machine-gun style rapid speech, she interrogated our facilitator, who shook her head side to side and responded.  We questioned what was said, and our facilitator responded that the kids and staff wanted to know how much longer it would be before we left and took Emma with us.

They wanted a countdown of how much time they had left with their friend, and with the resident “Mama and Papa”- us. 


I still didn’t get it, not really.  Then came the day we were set to leave.  We brought in tons of gifts, individual gift bags for each girl with all kinds of special things- jewelry and toys and books and candy and personal items and socks and hair clips and purses.  Dollhouse furniture and more movies and puzzles and games and cakes and treats galore. 

And the girls were happy, but also, they were sad.  Somber almost.  Anxious. 

Some of the kids were calmer than others.  The ones who were there as “boarders,” who had families that lived nearby that came to visit, they were relaxed.  A bit sad to see Emma go of course, but not overly emotional.

But a few of the girls, not all of whom were available for international adoption, they were upset.

Alexis was one of those girls.

See, a year ago, our facilitator had appeared to do an adoption there at Orphanage 39.  There had only been four adoptions before ours in the past fifteen years at this orphanage.  It was a rare, rare thing.  No one in that EE country wanted to adopt an orphan with severe physical special needs.  They knew what their lives would consist of from the moment they were old enough to understand that they were special needs orphans- a life in an orphanage, and if they never learned to walk well, followed by transfer to an adult mental institution.  Because in Eastern Europe, crippled or twisted or missing limbs is seen as proof that your brain is defective and that you will never be able to live a normal life. 

It just is what it is.  There’s just no hope. 

But then, last year, in the spring, a family came to EE to adopt a little boy.  And when they got there, they found out he had an older brother, who just happened to have been transferred to Orphanage 39.  So he left, but before he did, the facilitator was able to meet with the Director and find out which children were available for international adoption.  The Director went around and asked those children which ones wanted a family, and wanted to be adopted. 

Emma was the first one to raise her hand.  Alexis was seconds behind her.  Patti and Erin did as well.

So one year ago, the facilitator took the pictures of more than a half dozen of the waiting orphans at Orphanage 39, all older children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or arthrogryposis.  She knew the likelihood wasn’t high that potential families would jump to adopt older kids.  Most adoptive families want young, cuddly, cute babies and toddlers.  But she followed her heart and listed them, knowing she was literally the only hope that they would have to find families. 

Alexis saw us come in, and like some of the others who had their pictures made the year before, suddenly saw that their perception of the world was wrong.  Suddenly, when we came through the door, when we chose and accepted a child who could not walk, there was hope for ALL of the orphans waiting in Orphanage 39.

As long as we were there, there was hope.  As long as Alexis could see us, she could believe that maybe, just maybe, someone would look beyond her twisted and shriveled feet and hands, her stiff elbows and knees, to see her precious heart, her intelligent mind, her witty sense of humor, her never-ending ability to love.  While we were there, I believe she could dream that someday, a Mama and Papa would want her.

No wonder she panicked when she realized we were soon to leave forever, taking Emma, and leaving all the other kids behind.


The last day at Orphanage 39 was one of the hardest days of my life.  Alexis clung closely to Emma.  She was gentle and encouraging and funny and sweet, as always.  We met with the whole groupa, took some pictures, shared our gifts, laughed and talked.  The girls all gave Emma instructions to be nice and work hard and obey us and cheered her on about going to America on the plane with her new Mama and Papa. 

Then one girl started crying. 

And Alexis fell apart. 

We were leaving, walking out to the hallway, and Alexis was sobbing, heartwrenching, from the gut sobs.  Her face was soaked, she was clutching desperately at the hands of our facilitator, grasping at her dress, pleading in the fastest Russian I’ve ever heard, her face broken and full of despair and longing and hopelessness.  They went back and forth for what seemed like forever, before Alexis let go with a sob, and buried her head in her arms sobbing.  

Our facilitator was shaken- she was crying as we walked out the door.  We begged her to tell us what Alexis said, and she couldn’t get it out at first. When she did, we sobbed too.

Alexis was begging her for a family.  Begging us and her to find her mama and papa, to send them back.  Pleading to understand why Emma was chosen and she was not, did they not both have their pictures taken the same day?  Has she not been waiting too?  Where was her family?  Where was her happy future?

The facilitator could make no promises.  She could not say “sure, your family will come” because she knew the hard cold truth- Alexis had been listed for a solid year and no one had any interest in her.  The likelihood of her getting a family was very very low. 

I guess Alexis saw it in the facilitator’s face, that hopelessness- their eyes glued to each other’s, how could she not? 

And that last moment, when Alexis let go and flung her head into her arms, she told the facilitator she knew that she wouldn’t be back.  She knew no one would ever come for her, she was too broken, too old, no one would want her.  She accepted the fate that she believed life had dealt her- a broken body, and a lifetime of rejection and pain, both physical and emotional.  Rejected by her birth family, warehoused in an orphanage out of sight by the government, she truly believed no one would ever want her.


Twelve years old, and believes she’s worthless. 

Twelve years old, and believes her twisted hands and feet make her deserving of rejection and abandonment.

Twelve years old, and she didn’t have anyone to call her own.

It’s just wrong.


So we hit the blog.  From our tiny, dark seventh floor apartment in EE, we begged someone to hear Alexis’ story, to look in her pictures and see if they recognized their daughter.

And a family, one I knew quite well, stepped forward, almost immediately.  They were in progress when we were.  In fact, they’re in the middle of their adoption of their son from the same EE country right now, finishing up their first adoption for this year. And within just the next few weeks, their paperwork will be going over to reserve their spot to claim Alexis. 

They’re trying to hurry.  Why?  Well, it’s not because they have tons of money to fling around and just love flying around the world twenty times a year, that’s for sure.

No, they’re trying to get there as quickly as possible, for Alexis. 

Because they know the three older teens that were listed, all three photographed by the facilitator for the first time THIS year (not last year when Alexis was listed) will have families arrive this summer to claim them.

And they don’t want their sweet girl, precious Alexis, to sit any longer than absolutely necessary, wondering if someone is coming for her.

Because, see, Alexis won’t be told she has a family until the family arrives in the country.  They can’t tell her someone is coming, that they love her already, that they want her to be their own daughter, forever.

So right now, Alexis is waiting, still believing there’s no hope.


I don’t know a lot about arthrogryposis.  I was asked to come here and blog today because I do know about Alexis.  I couldn’t tell you what medical treatments Alexis has had or will have.  I can’t tell you anything about that.

I can tell you I love her.  And that God loves her.  And that I believe every child, every baby, every adult, is fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator, and every one of us desires and needs to be loved and cherished. 

Alexis needs her family, as soon as possible.   No child should have to go through life believing they aren’t wanted or needed.  No child should look at their hands and feet and think “I’m broken, no one can love me.”


It’s been a little over two months since I saw Alexis, that last glimpse of her tear-soaked face buried in her sleeve, the sounds of her heartbroken, helpless and hopeless sobs echoing behind me as I walked out the door. 

Two months, suffering, believing she has been passed over for love. 


I want Alexis to have hope again- that spark of joy and hope that I saw that day that she realized that we had come for Emma, a child who may never walk. 

I remember the hope I felt when I realized that God wanted me as His own child- me, broken, sinful, a mess.   That feeling of being claimed, despite recognizing my own weaknesses and issues, knowing that Someone loved me beyond my limitations and my perceived flaws, that Someone thought I was exactly what I was meant to be, wonderful enough to be His own, oh my goodness, the hope that I felt.

I want Alexis to feel that hope.

And she will, when she feels her mama and papa hold her tightly, whispering “I love you” in her ear. 


Their paperwork is nearly done. 

The only obstacle in their path is one that should be easy for us to overcome- money. 

$8500- the cost of the airfare, the document fees, the immigration fees

$8500 stands between Alexis and her family

$8500 stands between Alexis and hope and joy


If you want to know true joy in your own heart, join us and be a part of bringing a family to Alexis:  http://reecesrainbow.org/34963/sponsorduval-2 

This picture was taken the last day we were there.  See her eyes glistening?  This was just a few minutes before the tears started flowing.  The smile you see is a mixture of happiness for our daughter and grief of her own. 

I can’t wait to see the pictures taken by the Duvals on the day they meet their daughter, can you?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I can't adopt them, but I want to help.

Author's family, San Diego

Alexis, Eastern Europe

I sat down to write about Alexis, who is Bring Hope to 12 in 2012's featured child for May. I wanted to write from the perspective of the non-adopter who just wants to help. There is not often a place for people in this adoption community who are not adopting children. So why should a person who is not adopting, care about orphans?

When I first learned about Alexis, an orphan with arthrogryposis living in another country who was waiting for parents, I knew very little about her. We shared a name, Alexis, which I learned was not even her real name, but it was better than listing her as a number. (Believe me, when talking about children it's not a good idea to say, "Hey did you see that forty-six is still waiting for a family?" Much better to make them human.) At that time in my life I had a little daughter with arthrogryposis who rocked my world. I couldn't imagine leaving her in an orphanage just for having that diagnosis. I just couldn't. And it made me feel sick that Alexis was doomed because of arthrogryposis of all things! It's a treatable condition that makes the best, smartest kids! What the heck?! YOU WOULD BE LUCKY TO GET A KID LIKE THAT!!! *breathing again* *counting to ten*

So anyway, Alexis' only real option for a better life was to be adopted. I couldn't adopt her. For one thing my husband said no. For another thing... no wait, that was it. And before we got married we had these discussions. We wanted two kids. We never wanted to adopt. Typical family of four bliss. I remember having this conversation when we were around 16 or 17 years old (to answer your unasked question, yes we started dating when we were babies) and again when we were engaged in our early twenties. Even if we never had children naturally we didn't want to adopt. Adoption was not something either of us was comfortable with. International adoption? Forget about it. So when I first discovered Reece's Rainbow and all these kids with arthrogryposis (a condition I knew like the back of my hand... until that mole showed up... I'm sure that was recently) for the first time in a long time adoption seemed less awful, more natural. Hey, my husband changed his faith once on me during our marriage, so I felt like I could change my mind on adoption and equally freak him out. Even steven, honey!

But as a non-adopter, with a heart for international orphans with arthrogryposis suffering in institutions, I felt powerless. And so many people told me it was not my problem, and were baffled at why I cared.

So why care for orphans if you're not adopting them? Aren't they someone else's problem? Well, if you belong to a major religion, most hold caring for orphans as a good deed you should do. Muhammad once said that a person who cares for an orphaned child will be in Paradise with him, and he motioned to show that they would be as close as two fingers of a single hand. In Buddhism, acts of compassion are highly valued, including adopting kids out of these conditions. "Be fruitful and multiply" is the first commandment in Judaism; children are at the center of the Jewish vision of family life. Today, more and more Jews are choosing to fulfill that mitzvah through adoption as the ultimate good deed. Now I know only superficial things about these religions, but caring for orphans seems to be a religious good deed. Heck I have an atheist friend who has adopted two kids with arthrogryposis. It's just a good deed. Period.

But it's just a good deed. Instead couldn't you plant a tree or be nice to the lady at the grocery store?

Not for me. For my own faith based on the Bible, caring for orphans is not just a good deed, it's nothing short of a command. As one adoptive parent posted, the Bible is full of commands from God to care for the stranger (someone not in your own country), the orphan and the widow. Caring for the stranger, the orphan and the widow are repeated over so many books of the Bible that they seem to be God's very heartbeat. Alexis' description matches two of those three qualifiers. She must be someone VERY close to God's heart.

And unfortunately for my down time, but fortunately for orphans, I'm not a neutral party when it comes to what the Bible says. If I've chosen this faith then I'm suppose to be a servant (slave, doulos) of God. And therefore I'm clearly commanded by the Boss to care for orphans.

I can't not do something! (My mom wouldn't like that sentence, but you grammar people know what I mean.) My own faith condemns me for hiding from Alexis when she needs an advocate! She needs a voice! I know not everyone can adopt, but (and this is the hard part) everyone can care for orphans. Everyone. We can share on social media sites (I have Facebook), on our blogs and to our friends. We can donate our money to support families. We can give our daughter's clothes to those who are adopting children. We can offer to babysit. We can pray and pray and pray. And we can write these families and tell them all that so they don't feel so alone.

I've got to say though, the logistics of being a non-adopting orphan lover totally made me *that* person. Come on, you know what I mean. You've probably already thought that reading the above paragraphs. Here's an example of *that* person. All of the sudden my Facebook posts go from, "My daughter did well at physical therapy today!" (45 likes) to "Help support this orphan with AMC! Read more about her here!" (1 like) And not just that, I've had the weirdest reactions from people of faith too, who supposedly read those commands in the Bible and then label caring for orphans "a calling" and opt out. They like to say, "That's something for very special people to do. But you and I should live our lives." Um... no.

Then there's the problem of not really being part of the "adoption community" either. When passionate people like No Greater Joy Mom is blogging about how we have less excuses not to adopt than we think, and shows us the grim reality these kids face... ugh. I almost want to change my profile information to read, "Broke homeless teenage satanist" to avoid the inevitable question of, "If you love this orphan so much, why don't you go rescue them!" (Because I think my husband would eventually notice them in the closet!)

Then there are the adoption blogs that have those dreaded "Look Who's Visiting Our Site" thingies on the side. I love those. Not.  At the top of the list is, "A visitor from San Diego, CA!" Then (I swear) a blog post shows up where the family says, "We've been so blessed to have visitors from all the way in California!" And, okay, I LOVE my home state and would not think of moving anywhere else with actual real weather where I could not wear flip flops all year long, but we have a bad rap. The couple adopting from Indiana will have 100 visitors from Indiana on their blog, at least 50 randomly from Texas and then me, San Diego. I'm San Diego. It's almost like they should just put my full name and address since I stick out like a sore thumb. How in the world can I bounce my IP address off a nice computer in Austin maybe? Tell me!

So it's not always easy, but being an adoption advocate, being a child advocate, has been the best, most rewarding decision I've ever made. It's like following the heart of God because it is exactly that! Alexis was one of several kids I got to see go from orphan to chosen. If you've never experienced this, it's like nothing else. Much like an incredible ending to the best movie you've ever seen, the Duvals swept in and claimed Alexis as their own! She was their precious daughter. And it's my job/duty/command to support that family in every way I can. That means I share on Facebook (3 likes today! Woot!), and I donate my extra money, and I pray and I pray and I pray.

I invite you to join me.

<<<epilogue>>>  Last December my husband, broken by something he read about orphans in Eastern Europe, said yes to an orphan with arthrogryposis. This non-adopter, who never under any circumstances wanted to adopt, who already had this discussion and the answer was no, finally gets to put skin in this game. We were proud to be Bring Hope to 12 in 2012's January project. This is our Joel (who we'll name Roland):

Our adoption was fully funded in ONE MONTH. We will travel to meet our son in a matter of weeks. I hesitate to include this because our story is so not the norm. Most people don't have the paper-thin excuses not to adopt like we had. They have legitimate excuses, and as non-adopters in an orphans crisis (over 140 million orphans worldwide!), they have equal footing in the work ahead. I don't feel like I am now finally living out my faith any more than when I was helping others adopting their kids. In fact I was just getting used to my role, and now I'm one of *those* adopting parents. I try to be better to people who are non-adopters (since that was me for years), but you know those parents who hated when people asked them when they were having kids, but once they have a kid then they turn around and pressure you to do it? Yep. It's hopeless. You should all adopt! Don't listen to me! But seriously it's doable. You don't have to adopt to support orphans! But... my kids need adopted friends! SEE I CAN'T HELP MYSELF!!!

My point is that we are all important. I've been on both sides and we are all invaluable. Orphans don't care who you are! Don't treat caring for orphans as optional in your life. You'd miss out on following God's heart. Alexis needs support. I'll give you a dare. Take your first step in supporting her personally by going here. You won't regret it.

Giveaway Pay It Forward winners!

One of our prizes in the giveaway for Igor and Victoria was a prize called Pay It Forward. Three winners got the chance to pick one orphan in need. This orphan would receive $25 towards their grant funds and also be highlighted on this blog. Read about each of the three orphans our winners picked! (Click on their names to learn more about them or to donate to their accounts!)

1). Tammy Dziagwa chose a little boy named Josiah.

Now Josiah has an anonymous donor who is matching funds towards his adoption dollar for dollar! So that $25 became $50! Nice choice, Tammy! Funds will be matched until Sunday, May 6th, so any other donations to his account would be appreciated. His family hopes to travel to get him SOON and would really appreciate the help! Josiah, like Igor and Victoria, had already been transferred to an institution. Josiah will be eight years old next month, and he will experience a family as soon as they are fully funded! To read a great post about Josiah please go here.

2). Charles Wesley chose a little girl named Harper.  

Harper's family was all set up and ready to adopt a little boy, but he unexpectedly became unavailable for adoption. Heartbroken, as you can imagine, the Coopers were a bit lost with what to do. Then one day they stumbled upon Harper and instantly felt a connection. Usually kids in Harper's country have to wait until they are five years old to be adopted, but Harper has some very unique medical needs. In fact she's one sick little girl. So the Coopers not only can adopt her, but must do it quickly! They had already done a lot of the adoption paperwork and are at the end of this process, but they need funds! That $25 was very appreciated! To see the family's blog go here.

3). Julia Nalle was our third winner and she chose a young man named Jack.

Jack is seven years old and has a rare skin condition, xeroderma pigmentosum, which means his exposure to sunlight must be extremely limited. Jack is described as very smart and has had some outside help and schooling. Jack had no money in his grant account until the $25 from Pay It Forward. He also has no family coming for him yet. Of course Julia's heart breaks for kids with no money and no family, and hopes that this exposure can lead to both!

And speaking of paying it forward,

Carla Dobrovits won the $100 Amazon gift card in our giveaway. We worked it out so that instead of purchasing the card, that $100 all went straight to Victoria's account! Her account is now up to $2,803.60!!! Thanks Carla for that wonderful gift!

Not only Carla, but others have emailed about using their gifts for orphans in some way. I love the generosity of all these supporters of orphans! Thanks for making this giveaway fun and beneficial to others! What an encouragement to families both adopting and hoping to adopt these kids!