Cultural and Environmental
So! Verity turned a year old! You know what that means! Time for a height and weight check! Our little dumpling weighs a whole 16 pounds, 13 ounces, and is all of 27 1/2 inches long!
This nifty interactive growth chart tells us that for a one-year-old girl with Down syndrome, Verity is almost perfectly average.
This particular measurement represents another milestone for Verity.
According to the most recent stats we have, one-year-old Verity has finally caught up in length to Katerina. Except Verity is a good five pounds heavier.
It is true.
Remember this photo of Verity sitting on Laura’s lap?
Picture this child sitting there instead, taking up less space than Verity does.
Yes, it is very difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that she is nine years old. Jane is nine years old.
Surely there must be some mistake?
How can this be??
There are many possible causes, and Katie’s extreme condition is most likely affected by more than one cause. It is difficult to separate the environmental, physical, and emotional causes, as they are so closely intertwined, but I’m attempting it, anyway, by making several posts out of one.
As you read about the various causes of Katie’s condition, I want to encourage you to understand that her caregivers might be doing the best they can do, with the limited knowledge, training, and resources that are available to them. As far as we know, she is not in one of the orphanages which drug or abuse the children in their care.
Simply stated, many times the caregivers have kindly intentions, but they suffer from the general mindset of their culture toward people with disabilities, seeing them as useless defectives. Some would argue that this mindset is partially a result of the godless teaching her people received for years while they were a Communist country.
Of course this cultural mindset produces a profound ignorance about the true needs or potential of the children, and no motivation to learn how to help them develop best. This inevitably results in a callous attitude toward the children with special needs who are under their care. They are being paid to change diapers, clothes and bedding, and to fill and prop bottles. They have no conception that many of the children could have been out riding bikes and climbing trees by now if they had been cared for properly from birth. They think that the children are being cared for properly. They look at children like Katerina and say, “That’s just how they are. That’s their condition that causes them to be like that.” They don’t understand that the level of care that the orphanage is providing has caused many of the problems they are seeing.
They tend to think of orphans or children with special needs in a separate category from other human beings. “This is just how those kind of children are.” They don’t look at them and see people, fully as human and in need of love and life and family as their own children.
Still feel disbelief that human beings could allow a child to get to the state Katerina is in?
You may be able to relate with this scenario better if you consider an unacceptable problem we have here in the United States. Let’s just pick one…say…the porn or prostitution industry. You know about that, right? You may even know where your local “adult” stores are located, or bars that got their moral character from a sewage tank. Human beings, including children, trafficked and trapped in squalid and miserable lives of slavery. It’s outrageous. So. What have you done to change it? Nothing? Nothing at all? How can you know about such a serious problem and do nothing? Doesn’t your silence and inaction condone this deplorable situation?
Okay, I know this analogy can’t be made to walk on all fours, but it’s enough to remind us — we all know it gets complicated, don’t we?
When we received our double dose of adoption training, we learned that Katie’s country has the long-term goal of closing all their orphanages, and moving to foster home-based care such as we have here in the United States.
There are a few people who are intervening now with education to help change minds about people with disabilities.
There are a few people, like our adoption attorney, who are passionate about finding homes for these most vulnerable of children. She intimately understands her culture’s mindset toward people with disabilities. She herself is partially paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. She has said that when one of her adoptive families gets off the plane in her country, we can’t miss her. She will be sitting in a wheelchair holding a sign with our name on it. And we might not see another wheelchair while we’re in her country.
God is sending a few people–more all the time!–to adopt the children who have legally been made available for adoption. Some of us want to find out how we can help make more children available for adoption, as well as to help provide proper care for all the waiting children.
Those of us who are adopting the children, and those of you who are helping with others’ adoptions, are to these orphans like the Underground Railroad was to the southern slaves. Some opened their homes, some hid the escaping slaves in their wagons and drove them to the next checkpoint, some gave extra food from their farms to help the neighbors they knew were hiding and feeding slaves, some provided emergency medical care. At the same time, there were those like William Wilberforce, who worked hard all his life to pass just laws against slavery. And perspectives have changed, slowly but surely, over many years. There is still plenty of racial prejudice to be found in our country. And there is still plenty of prejudice against disabled individuals in our country, both those who are born and those who are still in the womb, committed by self-identified Christians and self-identified non-religious people. But we don’t have plantation slaves any more, nor do we automatically warehouse children with special needs in orphanages as we used to do.
God can and does change minds.
And from where we are, we see God moving in remarkable, even dramatic ways to open the hearts of His people to special-needs adoption as a mission, a ministry, a calling.
[Coming next: Part Three, or Physical/Medical]