South Africa: Josh, Rene and Addison

21 12 2010

Today I literally saw the face of hope.  As I walked into TLC for the first time in four years I saw a little boy half crawling, half shuffling across the dining room floor.  Instantly I noticed that he had the signs of hydrocephalus – the enlarged, pointed head, the inward eyes.  Instantly I thought of Rene and Addison and my heart broke for them.

TLC, where I was a volunteer years ago, and will be helping out over the next ten days is the best child’s home I’ve been to.  Probably because it is a home, one in which a family (three generations, in fact)  lives along with 30 orphaned children and a host of volunteers from throughout the world to care for them.  If any child with hydrocephalus is going to thrive without the one-on-one attention parents can provide, it’s at TLC.  And that’s just what Josh is doing – thriving.  Skirting around the floor faster than volunteers can catch him.  Laughing at jokes.  And having a three-year-old attitude.

Later in the day I asked Thea about Josh.  She told me that for two years she begged a nearby hospital to let her take him.  For some reason the hospital never relented – they just let him lay there waiting for the shunt that had been placed in his head to stop working and for Josh to die.  But then he found his voice.  He learned a high-pitched, death curtailing scream.  And he didn’t stop.  Within 24-hours the hospital had called Thea to come pick him up – they couldn’t stand the sound of Josh’s scream.  And with that he was free.  For the rest of his life he’ll still need to deal with the effects of his hydrocephalus and he’s suffered from some brain damage due to a second surgery that didn’t go perfect, but, because he learned to scream, he has hope.

I think of Addison who never had hope.  The child care center she was in was ill-equipped to handle her needs.  They chose to ignore the signs of her condition.  And when help finally came, it was of poor quality and too late.  She suffered a slow death.  She had no hope.  Rene, who was lucky enough to receive surgery in time to limit the damage to his brain, is in a facility that doesn’t understand the special care and attention his condition needs.  They are unaware of how to properly care for the shunt that saved his life.  While he’s lived to 12, his hope is depleting and his time is running out.  All this to me just proves how much our lives are determined by the circumstances of the world around us – Addison could have been Rene, Rene could be Josh and Josh could have been Addison.  But somehow Josh is the lucky one – he gets to live and thrive in the closest thing to a family any of these three children have had.

Rest in peace, Addison.  Keep on fighting, Rene.  And keep on thriving, Josh.

Rebecca Harris

The Answer for Nikolas and Be The Answer for Shelby

2 11 2010

To learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign Click Here

A Tale of Two Children

Two children so beautiful, so special and so loved. Both my children but only one I can hold and kiss, teach and provide for. The other lives in my heart and I hold her in my dreams.

In June of 2008 I met Shelby Krystina. She was then 19 months old. Her medical reports include hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, severe malnourishment, global developmental and physical delays; all consistent with the suspicion for cerebral palsy. Shelby sat for the first time unassisted on my first trip. She walked unassisted just prior to my second trip in December of 2008. She remains extremely small for her age. And she remains in an orphanage in Kyrgyzstan. Two and a half years after meeting her government has continued to invoke delay after delay. We have no end in sight. We have no timeline for when or even if she will ever get to be more then the child of my heart.

On a positive note due to continued delays my fiancé and I chose to pursue a concurrent adoption. In December of 2009 (on Shelby’s Birthday) we received photographs of a little boy who we knew instantly was meant to be our son. Six months later Nikolas Benjamin Richard became a United States citizen as we landed on U.S. soil at John F. Kennedy Airport.

I met Nikolas (aka Kolya ) in April 2010. He was just shy of 18 months old. He too is tiny, malnourished and developmentally delayed. But Nikolas has an advantage. Russia, despite recent troubles, has continued to allow International Adoption to proceed. Their government has worked closely with many adoption advocates to unite as many children with families as possible. Kolya turned two on October 10. In less then 4 months he has learned to not only walk without toppling every three steps, he now runs, jumps, skips, and climbs. He has gone from not talking in the orphanage to saying at the very least 25 English words. His latest melts my heart. His new saying makes me sad and happy at the same time. Two days ago Kolya started saying “I wub oo” When going to sleep or being held, “I wub oo” is said over and over. Kolya has transformed from a lonely scared developmentally delayed child into a happy, shining little boy who is almost right on target in all areas for his age.

Kolya came home at the same age that Shelby “should have” come home. I am reminded daily, just by watching him blossom, of what Shelby is missing. No speech, physical, or occupational therapy. No nutrionist to help her thrive, no one to sing her bedtime songs or hold her when she cries. Shelby will turn four in two months. She potentially will be moved to the orphanage for older children. Her world will become scarier as she will go from one of the oldest to the youngest, smallest, and frailest of the children. What will happen to her? Who will watch over her? Who will tell her repeatedly “ I wub oo?”

Nikolas has An Answer.  Be the Answer for Shelby by posting the below message on the president of Kyrgyzstan, Roza Otunbayeva, facebook page (found here):

”Please advocate for the 65 Kyrgyz children waiting to be adopted by U.S families.  To learn more about one of these children read this story.”

Be sure that you link to this Blog Post on the President’s Wall!

Kyrgyzstan – U.S. Dept of State Announcement

29 04 2010

The U.S. Department of State has issued an announcement regarding intercountry adoption in Kyrgyzstan. The text of the announcement follows.

April 28, 2010

Following the recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan, the Department of State (the Department) has expressed its support for the provisional government’s efforts to resolve peacefully Kyrgyzstan’s political problems and renew Kyrgyzstan’s path to democracy, economic prosperity, and respect for human rights.  On April 20, the Department posted a Travel Warning for Kyrgyzstan.  The Kyrgyz government stopped processing all intercountry adoptions in October 2008 due to reports of corruption and fraud in the adoption process.  The Department is working to determine the provisional government’s stance on intercountry adoption, especially the pending cases of American families.

At present, the Kyrgyz government is not processing any adoption cases, including at least 65 adoptions by American families that were in progress when the halt was announced.  Despite the unrest, we understand that the Kyrgyz criminal investigation of alleged corruption in the adoption process is ongoing.  The allegations are serious:  the Kyrgyz press has reported that two local adoption coordinators who worked with U.S. adoption agencies were arrested and released on bail.  The Department urges the provisional government to complete urgently its criminal investigation and resolve the pending cases so that eligible children can be placed in permanent homes.  We remind the Kyrgyz government that many of the children have serious health problems and that American families, despite the children’s medical conditions, distance, and a two-year wait to complete their cases, remain committed to these children.

The Department has repeated this message to Kyrgyz officials in Washington and through U.S. Embassy Bishkek.  In addition, we have raised the visibility of this issue, and addressed questions and concerns expressed by Kyrgyz officials and shared by some Kyrgyz citizens, through outreach programs.  The Department has sponsored the visit of a U.S. adoption expert to Kyrgyzstan and an adoption-themed study tour to the United States for three senior Kyrgyz officials.  Finally, we have encouraged Kyrgyzstan to strengthen safeguards in the adoption process and eventually accede to the Hague Adoption Convention.

On March 19, the Kyrgyz Parliament passed a bill that would amend certain Family Code provisions on adoption.  It was not signed by the president.  If enacted, the government must still approve additional regulations in order for adoptions to resume.  The draft regulations, which the Ministry of  Labor, Employment, and Migration recently posted on its Web site, address the eligibility of children for domestic and intercountry adoption (including relinquishment and abandonment determinations); the eligibility of adoptive parents; and application, court, and post-adoption reporting requirements.  Regardless, the possible effect of the new law and regulations is unclear:  neither expressly addresses the pending cases.  We are working to determine the provisional government’s position on the bill and draft regulations and how these measures would impact the pending adoptions.

The Department will continue to urge the Kyrgyz government to resolve the pending cases and act in the best interests of children involved in the intercountry adoption process.

The Reality

14 09 2009

A few days after the launch of Be The Answer, DSF posted a comment to our initial post.  With a healthy dose of skepticism DSF did not yet commit to  ‘be the answer’.   DSF is interested but wanted more time and information to see if this was for real – or just another fancy campaign.

We hope that the campaign is fancy.  Fancy enough to bring attention to the needs of children.  Fancy enough to motivate all of us to learn more and do more.   So, is Be The Answer real?  Yes it is.  And so is our work trying to ensure that all children live, grow and flourish in a family.  And the reasons we launched this new initiative – those reasons are real too.

Maybe the best way to describe the reality is to read a recent article published by EurasiaNet.   A little Kyrgyz orphan with hydrocephalus is about as real as it gets.  Here is a very small part of her story… read more.

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