Monday, December 3, 2012


Every time I try to upload a photograph, I get this error that says "server returned invalid response".  So, while I'd love to share photographs with you...for some unknown reason, I cannot.

Joshua has been home just three days.  He was not the sickest little boy in Pleven.  He is not the sickest little boy you will see.  He will not shock you with his condition.

For some, this means that he is "okay" and would have been better served in his country of birth.  It means that our choice to adopt him wasn't the "most needy".  He does not yet have a formal diagnosis.  He is not skeletal. 

For others, you see these tiny, sick, precious little ones and think, "If that is adoption, I cannot do it.  I am not prepared to parent a child like that."

I want you to know what even a reasonably healthy child brings to the table, and why even these healthier children cannot be raised in institutions and will not be accepted in their home countries.  Orphans are outcasts, and if you think about it, even in a very developed country like the US, we have a stigma against children without families (like children in foster care).  It is not nearly what it is elsewhere, but it exists.  In Bulgaria, I had not one but two people - people who are not affiliated with the business of adoption! - stop me and tell me how my son would never have a future in his country and that someday, he will thank us for removing him from the orphanage he lived in.  I had to smile and remind them that we felt equally blessed.

Our son has the worst diaper rash I have ever seen.  We will bring him to the doctor on the 6th to get this checked out. 

He screams when we put diaper rash cream on him.

He rocks his head rhythmically when he goes to sleep.

He does not speak.  He cries primitively when he doesn't get something he wants.  He throws food when he doesn't want it and arches his back and thrashes when we do something he doesn't prefer.

His teeth are atrocious; I doubt he's ever seen a toothbrush.

Although he is only six months younger than his sister, he is a full five inches shorter than she is and more than 15 pounds lighter.

He likely has a bacterial or parasitical infection on the back of his head that has never been treated. 

He cannot climb stairs.  He cannot feed himself.  He only recently learned to walk.  He barely chews and eats little more than purees and broths.  He drinks nothing but water and will not eat anything that isn't sweetened.

And this is a "healthy" child!  Trust me, there is more to come with him.  There is much we do not know.  We left Pleven with little more than an immunization record.  The rest is lost. 

This little boy has a mother who lives in a village near Pleven.  Thus, by definition, he is a social orphan.  This means that he has at least one living parent but she isn't parenting him.  According to court papers, she lives on about 102 Leva.  This is about $60 US per month.  Yes, Bulgaria is a cheaper country, but trust me, it would be nearly impossible to live on this money. 

I know his mother meant him no harm when she relinquished him.  She did not understand about the baby house in Pleven.  She simply lived near there and that was the orphanage that was close to her.  She signed papers to say that she understood he would be adopted and she had a year to contest this or reclaim him.  I don't know why she didn't except that she likely couldn't afford to and thought it would be best for him to remain there.  She was an older woman who had a nearly grown son, according to what we now know.  There is claim that she had mental illnesses and was in and out of institutions for treatment.  I do not know if this is true.  I don't know if he was ever visited by her or not.  The papers said he wasn't, but who knows?  I don't pretend to blindly believe all that is written.

What I do know is that a reasonably healthy little boy lived in a terrible orphanage and he is home with us.  "Reasonably healthy" doesn't mean healthy.  It doesn't mean what it means to most of us.  Reasonably healthy means he wasn't skeletal and he wasn't diagnosed with some sort of birth defect. 

His story is yet unwritten; we do not know what he will become.  But we know that his chances of becoming anything on his native soil were pitifully low.  Yes, he could have grown breathing beautiful Bulgarian air, enjoying his native language, but as the woman in the one hotel said to me, "He is marked."  (She pointed to her forehead)  "I am Bulgarian, and I will say that children from the 'special houses' [she meant orphanages], they have no future here.  It is a sad thing.  I wish it were not so."

Orphans are a social problem and it requires societal changes to encourage domestic families to care for the children and recognize their worth.  This is happening, but change is dreadfully slow.  For many, the changes are not happening fast enough and they are languishing in institutions without proper supports and services - even food, clean clothes, etc.  It is not about raining money into broken systems.  It is about changing the systems.  Until those systems change, children will live without the basics of life and will never realize their potential.  They may live in their native countries, but they will never really live.

Our son, and many other sons, will live.  Please pray for the families who pluck these children out of these places, and for the children who remain there.

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