Thursday, May 24, 2012

never knowing.

When we decided to adopt a child with special needs, we didn't know a thing about special needs.  Not one little thing.

Our daughter was sitting at the table this morning eating toast with butter.  This is a simple task for a three year old, is it not?

It should be, but it isn't for her.  So I sat, carefully cutting up the pieces, keeping a sharp eye on her (in case she gagged) and cheering for every crunchy bite.  She has feeding issues related to her developmental delays, and has almost since she was born.  When Chelsea visits friends on playdates or when she goes to school, she has meals packed for her, generally by me.  I try to keep the nutrition content high but the chewing difficulty low.  Before she was able to eat table food (which was only about a year ago) I used to make her "baby" food in a special blender.  That way, I could augment the thickness and texture of the food for her needs.  I could also ensure she got some measure of proper nutrition.  (I'm grateful I didn't sell or give away this machine, as I suspect I will be needing it again.  But what do I know about special needs?)

Yesterday, a document came in the mail called an Individual Education Plan.  It's an important document that spells out the types of supports Chelsea will receive in school and home environments.  It's the results of weeks of work with evaluations and meetings - meetings that Chelsea's parents (that would be US) attended and provided input for.  I made sure to note that the extra thirty minutes of speech therapy was included as I had requested.  It was.  When the meeting happened, I had to stand in front of therapists and a case manager, and argue as to why my daughter needed more therapy than they were offering.  I'm grateful they agreed, but my husband and I had to develop a plan of attack in the event that they didn't.  It's called advocacy, and it's something I study in classes and use in the real world too.  But what would I really know about that?  I don't know nuthin' 'bout advocacy.

I'm counting the days (yes, I really am) that I will be permitted to call Chelsea's case manager and begin the process of...hmm.  What do I call this?  I typically call it "nice bitching", but I'm trying to think of a nicer word for it.  It's basically when I call someone who isn't doing what they are supposed to be doing and...very nicely request...that they begin doing what they are supposed to be doing.  I write notes and then make the next phone call, until I finally secure what we're looking for.  In my daughter's case, she hasn't been assigned any therapists yet.  This can take a period of time, but I'm not willing to wait for that because it's not in Chelsea's best interests.  So, beginning next week, I will be working on creative ways to encourage the people involved with Chelsea to move more quickly.  With children who have special needs, it's a good idea to be proactive and as persuasive as possible.  It's not a fun job, but it's the best scenario for the child.  I've been doing this since Chelsea was nine months old and refused to accept the pediatrician's assessment that she couldn't sit independently because she was a "big baby".  (She wasn't; and two different physical therapists disagreed too).

If I hadn't had these experiences with my daughter, I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about special needs adoption.  It is the existence of my child that ultimately led me to believe that parenting a child with different needs could be done.  If I had merely been looking to add to my family, I would have plunked down my husband's bonus to get more rounds of IVF.  It wasn't that; it was so incredibly more than that.

There are lessons our future son will teach us; things that Chelsea never needed help with or things that we never knew about.  For instance, our future son has a terrible situation with his eyes, and Chelsea doesn't.  Now I'm researching pediatric opthamologists in Delaware, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

The truth is, many of the blogs and people I know who adopt children with special needs have experiences in their history that make it appropriate for them to consider.  Some already parent children with special needs and know some of the things that can make this successful.  The unfortunate part is there is a contingency of people in cyberspace, who hide behind "reform" and (fake/inaccurate) "statistics" and pretend to be a voice of reason against what they feel is a tide of insanity...and then they choose a situation like mine to pick apart.  The mostly fully funded, only adopting one kiddo, 30-something, mother of a special needs daughter.  Honor student who stays at home and parents full time.  I mean, let's face it - some parents out there are adopting several children, or parent children in large families, or need complete funding to make their adoptions possible.  This is NOT a criticism of those families, but would you agree that those families are a little "easier" to criticize?  Kind of like the "low hanging fruit"?  If you were generally inclined to criticize adoption, surely you could find things to criticize in situations such as that.  (You wouldn't necessarily be correct, but hopefully you get what I mean).  I mean, when I'm writing a research paper, I try to choose the best resources to support my argument (I don't use, um, SUPERFREAKONOMICS, but...well, I digress). It make sense to do that.

When you see people who choose some of the worst possible examples of international adoption to highlight their disgust, you can draw only one conclusion:  It's adoption they despise.  Never mind what their mission statements say and never mind how they may hide behind fancily-worded diatribes to the contrary.  It's not that.  It's that they hate adoption.  They hate ANYONE who is adopting.  While they preach tolerance, they spew hatred.  They think their hatred sounds better because they can use the spell checker and write pithy, sarcastic responses, as if they somehow cornered the market on that skill.  They don't believe in God and they are intolerant of others who do.  They can't make themselves visible to the public, preferring to plaster blogs they just can't stop reading (?) with anonymous comments and fake blogger profiles.  I've seen many wonderful, Godly adopting parents who post an address on their blog (!) while these Wonders hide their IP addresses and use false email addresses.

Bravery at its finest.

I'm not afraid or ashamed of the choice we've made to pursue a child from The Bad Place.  I do this with full knowledge that he has a family somewhere in his country who is not taking care of him.  I don't know why that is.  I suppose I could use my first trip - not to meet this child - but to find his family, interview them, determine what needs they have so they could parent him (and their five other children) and then be a really strong advocate for them.  This assumes that they are actually willing, but we'll just assume that they are and it's simply a matter of evil circumstance (probably caused by conservatives in the United States) that has separated them from their child.  I'm sure some wealthy rich folks could sponsor this family so they could reclaim their son.  In the meantime, while I'm doing this, a little boy sits in an orphanage, getting two diaper changes per day, as his eyesight atrophies and his legs bow still further from poor nutrition.  His developmental delays become more profound, the important window of learning in his life closes still further, and he continues to suffer absent of parental care.

Collateral damage while we figure this out?

UNACCEPTABLE.  Inhumane.  I saw pictures of a child who weighed 14 pounds at 9 years of age.  You wanna sit and "think on a solution" while she's laying in a crib?  You wanna go scare up her parents and see if you can shoot them a couple of grand so they'll take her back?  Really?  Is that the answer?  Or would you rather she lay there until she died, just like over a dozen of her friends and neighbors did in the same orphanage last year?

My future son is sentenced to that fate if he does not leave that place.  My future son will be cast off too.  My future son can live his life, breathing the native air and sleeping on the native soil, and he could die.


Some may believe that a good orphanage (and there are good ones, comparatively speaking) in a child's native country is better than a family in a foreign land.  I don't agree, but you can debate that.

You can never, however, debate that the place my future son is in, nestled in his native country, is better than  what he will have when he lives with us.  I want to see that debate.  Hell, I'll let you use SUPERFREAKONOMICS for the citations if you can prove that one.

Stand up and be heard. Don't hide behind a facepalm.  Don't let fancy words and misplaced sarcasm rule the day.  Stand up.  Be heard.  Do what is right.  Identify adoption hatred for what it is.  See it for what it is. Let those voices speak, and then speak more loudly.

Thank you for reading this blog.  For supporting us and praying for us.  For supporting our future son and the terrible place he lives.  Thank you for the help you've given as we move forward.  If you are reading this, then I hope you care about what you've read.  I hope you are ready to stand bravely in the face of adversity.  Thank you for sharing this space with others.

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