My friend Lori just returned from a mission trip to help orphans in Kazakhstan.
It was an eye-opening experience for her, and she had written a post about how awful the conditions are in many of the orphanages, but that PAPs (prospective adoptive parents) are generally led to believe that conditions for orphans in Kazakhstan are good, relatively speaking. They are not.
What follows is a response to Lori's post from a woman (another adoptive parent) named Cindy LaJoy. I think it speaks volumes and I wanted to share....
It's all a way of mentally tricking ourselves, isn't it? We WANT our children to have been well cared for and loved prior to being placed in our arms, we WANT to think they had enough to eat and good medical care. Heck, in our case, I would have settled for the fact that someone looked our kid in the eyes once or twice a day.
It isn't so. Is it as bad as Romania in the 80's? No. But that's not saying much.
I have been in 10 orphanages in Kaz over 12 years in 3 regions, and 3 in Kyrgyzstan. The thought that this is the best that can be done is a farce. Starvation and malnutrition is the norm not the exception. Lack of medical care is the norm, not the exception. Lack of human contact is the norm, not the exception.
We consider ourselves extraordinarily blessed to have brought home children whose reslience was exceptional, and frankly for whom we were not too late.
No one talks about the suicides in the older kids orphanages...except for the few older children who come home with terror filled memories of witnessing them.
No one talks about the lack of formula from 4 months on, or the diet that sometimes, not always, fills tummies but hampers growth which follows them into adulthood.
No one talks about children being carried facing away from caretakers, about bottles being propped, about infants being placed in huge cribs for hours on end with no adult interaction as they crawl all over one another like rats in a cage.
No one talks about the flat heads due to never being picked up, the sensory deprivation that causes kids for years afterwards to squirm over touch and sound.
No one talks about gifts of clothing, shoes and toys provided for children that are then ripped away never to be seen again as they are sold or taken home with caretakers.
We have five from orphanages in Kaz and Kyrg. Among them we have sensory integration, broken backs due to malnutrition and orthotics trying to correct rickets. We have memories that surface that are horrifying...and not just due to home life prior to orphanage life. We have speech delays, stuttering, reactive attachment disorder, bald spots due to malnutrition, flat heads, cognitive disorders, dental decay unlike anything seen in America, scars across faces which were from caretakers striking with sticks from trees, discussions about sexual encounters in bathrooms where older children preyed on younger children, stories about theft of food and clothing by caretakers on a regular basis, social delays, and more.
We also have loving, spontaneously happy, intelligent, articulate, wonderful kids. Their start in life was something many of us can not really understand, nor can we fathom the life long effects.
Unlike many, we embarked with our eyes wide open, hoping for the best, expecting less, and not being surprised by much. Being in the beginning stages of Kazakhstan's international adoption history, we witnessed what orphanages were like before the smoke screen went up, before foreign dollars flooded so that things were cleaned up a bit while the rest went into the pockets of Directors.
Having been allowed to enter a usually closed orphanage for the handicapped in Petropavlovsk, I can say I have never seen such a horrifying site in my life. It was all I could do to keep from vomiting at seeing children's malformed bodies wasting away in cribs they had rarely left for 10 years or more. Hour upon hour, day upon day, year upon year spent laying in thier own filth with nothing more to stimulate them than the white ceiling that was above them. Children with clefts and hearing problems housed with mentally disabled children so that soon, they too sank into the mental swamp and became dissassociative.
Would I trade our experiences or our children? Not on your life. Would I give just about anything for their life prior to adoption to have been different? Anything.
I don't think this is unique to Kazakhstan, regardless of reports to the contrary from other countries. Orphanages are places to hide the unwanted. Throughout the world, hidden children experience what ours did, and much worse. China's hell holes, Latin American poverty and abuse, Eastern European nightmares...an orphanage is simply a wretched substitute where opportunity for abuse is wide open.
You couldn't be more right, Lori.
A vote a day really helps spread the word. Thanks....