As many of you know, in addition to my work as CEO of Worldwide Orphans, an international direct service organization for orphans, I still practice pediatrics by helping parents with their adoption process. How and why I created Worldwide Orphans (WWO) was inspired by my work as an adoption medicine specialist. I saw depression and malnourishment in newly arrived adopted children from China, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, et al and I decided to create an organization that would provide education, medical care, and psycho-social support for orphans. I wanted to ensure success for orphans in their own countries.
Lately, I've been receiving referrals from families adopting from the U.S., Taiwan, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, and China. The numbers of international adoptions are 1/3 of what they were in 2003 (i.e., 7,092 as compared to 23,000), but the stories of the social circumstances of these children are still the same.
Today, I spoke with a family who is adopting an almost two-year old girl from Ethiopia. The girl's birth mother relinquished her daughter in September because she was a single mother and met a man who would marry her only if she gave up her child -- another man's baby. She did just that; she placed her 15-month-old toddler in an orphanage. Unfortunately, the adoption will take a year so the child will have spent over a year living outside of parental care in an orphanage, and hopefully in foster care. The adoptive parents will visit the child in a few months and they asked me what they might do to help their daughter grow normally and feel less sad. The photos show an emaciated baby with empty eyes and signs of depression.
There are some things I can't lie about. There is nothing to be done for waiting children in orphanages, unless there is foster care or trained staff who offer enrichment services like the kind WWO provides. There is simply nothing, but injustice in orphanages. Parents ask me if their visits to the child are beneficial or harmful. The visit will be a moment in time for that child; she will enjoy them after the initial days of bewilderment and shock that comes from love in an orphan's world of empty, long, boring days of "nothing." Then the parents will leave and she will be lost again unless the caretakers have training and professional development to teach them the principles of early childhood development. I would never tell anyone not to go. A bit of love is better than no love at all, in my opinion.
That said, training is affordable and professional development is quite easy to provide in an orphanage. This is an area where WWO thrives. We train staff, conduct developmental assessments, and provide psycho-social and enrichment programs to orphans and at risk children.
If I had more money, I would make the world a better place for children. YES! I just made that claim. We'd train the elderly, youth, and other caring community members to work with children in orphanages and transform their lives. Next would be transforming foster care or better yet, domestic adoption because I firmly believe that all orphans deserve permanent homes. We might even be able to re-integrate and re-unify families and improve pre-natal care and education for women.
Orphans are under the radar and they should be made a top priority. Stay tuned for news about an organization called Hopeland that will help us change it all up.
Dr. Jane Aronson
CEO, Worldwide Orphans