Monday, December 22, 2014

The Bad Kind of Incredible

There is so much need, it's incredible. It's always there, but this time of year is when it really seems to be all over the place.

The homeless begging on the street. The representatives from a charity standing outside stores. The fundraisers at church and at work. The local groups asking for donations so that each of the children they serve can at least get something for Christmas. Reece's Rainbow is just one of many.

We have raised over $100,000 for the Angel Tree in the last month and a half. THAT IS AMAZING. However, there are still over one hundred children who haven't met their goal of $1000 raised.

The need is incredible.

The good news is that all of the children DO have at least $100 in their grant account, so there isn't a need to raise another $100,000 (though of course they can receive donations after they've met their goal). The bad news is that we only have nine more days until 2014 is over and the Angel Tree ends.

As I write this, the child lowest on the Angel Tree needs $892 to reach his goal.

The child closest to that goal needs $130.10 to get there.

Could you drop $5 or $10 in one or both of their grants? And if you're reading this later today or tomorrow and they've already met their goals, could you pick a child from the Angel Tree and give them the same amount instead?

$5 isn't a lot. But if we all gave $5, the children could reach their goals.


Samantha still needs about $870 to reach her goal. Please don't let her go forgotten. Not Samantha, and not the child with the least money, and not the child closest to their goal, and not the children in between, and not the five who already have families (they still need our support!), and...

The need is incredible.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tiny Dot

As we were coloring, I asked, "Peter, do you remember living in Russia?"

He...took a new sheet of paper and drew a big blue circle around the entire page.

"This is Russia." He held the page up to me. He placed the paper back on the floor, took a color and made one tiny, delicate, almost invisible dot. "And this is Peter." I looked at him; he was clearly sad. He was eloquently expressing how he felt at the orphanage, where he'd been special to no one, just one of dozens of anonymous babies.

I smiled sympathetically at him, then raised my eyebrows and said, "But that isn't Peter anymore, is it?" He shook his head no, and smiled back.
-Bruce Perry, M.D., The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook


Orphan advocacy stems from the idea of anonymous babies. Of course, it's not just babies - there are toddlers, elementary schoolers, preteens, and teenagers in need of adoptive families. About one hundred and eighty-three million in the world, actually.

According to RR, more than three and a half million of them are in Asia. Almost five thousand of them have Down syndrome.

I can't show you 183 million children. I can't show you 3.5 million children. I can't show you 5,000 children. But I can show you this one.

This child is a tiny dot.


The cost for an American family to bring her home is expected to be at least $25,000. A bit over $1,000 of that will be covered, but the closer her grant gets to that $25,000, the more likely it is someone will see her and be able to choose her.

Her current donations from the Angel Tree are $130.18, meaning in order to reach her goal she needs just under $870.

Please SEE this little girl. She is just a tiny dot right now, but there's a family out there for her that doesn't even know about their daughter across the sea yet. Even $5 or $10 will help boost her up, getting her a little closer to not being a tiny dot any longer.

$870 in two weeks. I know it can be done. Stranger things have happened.

Monday, December 8, 2014

On Attachment Issues in the Adopted

The overwhelming majority of adoptive families want to adopt newborns, or children as young as possible. (In many communities, the term "older-child adoption" refers to adopting even two- and three-year-olds. Adopting internationally is a little different in this respect.) This is understandable for a lot of reasons. You don't want to miss out on years of your child's life. You want them to get the benefit of early intervention services if they need them. And not least of all, you don't want your child developing attachment issues.

Attachment issues aren't uncommon in adopted children. Often it shows up as an individual who has difficulty showing and receiving affection, as well as bonding with others.

There's no denying that these kids have been through a lot, particularly as the children on RR all have disabilities of some kind. Is it better for those who deal with their parents' death at an early age, or those who are given up as newborns because of how they were born?

It's a trick question; there's no right answer.

Those who are diagnosed HIV positive will sometimes end up at boarding schools. The physically or intellectually disabled go either to foster homes or to baby homes, the equivalent of orphanages. And the caretakers they have there are not always safe to bond with.

Some abuse the vulnerable individuals they have easy access to, just because they can.

Some neglect them simply because they're understaffed and underfunded.

Not only that, but they rotate. RR children are transferred from their baby homes at a young age, routinely before they reach the age of eight (though there have been cases where it happens as young as eighteen months). And just like that, everything and everyone they've grown up around is gone. Readjusting to an entirely new place would be hard enough for an able-bodied, neurotypical child who is seven or even younger.

The ones in foster homes can expect moves, too. Maybe they got in trouble. Maybe their carer is having unrelated issues. Maybe they just got bigger and stronger than their foster parents feel capable of handling. New home, new people. Everything keeps changing.

And the longer they wait and the more they are exposed to, the lower their chances of finding a family get.

Isn't it sad that the children who need the most help are often the ones most often overlooked? We avoid them because of what they've been through, something they can't control any more than they can control whether they were born a boy or a girl.

I think if we only took some time to understand where these kids are coming from, we could see why possible attachment issues begin. Once we understand, we can figure out how to help. We are the ones who need to defend the vulnerable, to help rebuild the connections that broke early on, instead of faulting them and passing over them because of what other people have done.

The children are not to blame or be feared. They are surviving the only way they know how.

"If you can't come in from the cold, then you gotta grow ice over your heart."
-Martin Finnegan, BioShock

Monday, November 10, 2014

Examples of Ableist Language

The title of this post is a search term that led someone to my blog, and one that I believe merits talking about again.

If you are uncomfortable with the thought that you might have to change something as simple as what you say in order to make a huge difference for many other people, click away now.

For those of you who are reading this, thanks for staying with me. Of course we know oppressing people is wrong (at least I hope so!), but what if we're hurting other people with our language and don't even know it? What is ableist language, anyway?

  • Slurs.
This is the first one most people would think of - using the r-word (r*tard) to mean "stupid" or similar words. It is far from the only word society has turned from a medical term to an expression of ridicule, however: some people view words like "moron" or "dumb" in a similar light, as they were once used the same way.
  • Slang or comparisons meant to be unflattering.
There is an internet meme popular among preteens and teenagers in which the term "herp derp" is used to make fun of somebody viewed as less than intelligent. What a lot of people don't seem to know is that this phrase surfaced as a way to make fun of people who could not speak clearly, specifically those with Down syndrome (a characteristic of this disability is low muscle tone).

The second part of this bullet point refers to cringe-worthy sentences such as "he's dumber than the special-ed class" - and I really hope I don't have to explain why this is ableist.
  • Sympathy for the caretaker of the individual over the individual themselves.
Here is where I believe I will lose some readers. You don't have to look far on the internet to find talk about how hard it is to raise a child with disabilities (especially intellectual ones) - and I completely understand that. It can be hard to take care of a child, or even an adult, who is disabled.

However...it is much, much harder to be the person with the disability. Yes, it is hard to explain boundaries to some people with intellectual disabilities, but it isn't you who's going to get in trouble if they don't understand it (at least, not once they hit the age of about ten - a little older if they're lucky). Yes, it is hard to communicate with someone who is nonverbal, but it isn't you who's going to run into problems when they find people who are not willing to compromise.

At the end of the day, it isn't you who's disabled. It isn't you who is going to have to be in that person's body and mind for the rest of their life.

  • Not respecting the wishes of the individual in situations that affect their disability.
Let's say you think it would be nice to take your child to a movie. However, your child has sensory processing disorder and says the movie theater would be too loud (or dark, or crowded, etc). You're sure they'll have a good time anyway, so you take your child to the movies, and when they have a meltdown in the theater because of the concern they mentioned earlier, you get angry with them - when it's you who wasn't listening in the first place.

This can be much more serious than going to a movie. If your child doesn't like a therapy designed to help them, it is time to ask very careful questions. Individuals, especially kids, being physically abused at therapy is far from unheard of. If your child is complaining of not wanting to go, that is reason to suspect something bad may be going on.

  • (Possibly) Not using person-first language.
This isn't one-size-fits-all. For the most part, it's thought of as correct to refer to someone as a person first: "a girl with developmental delays" or "a boy with RAD." The mentality of this is that even without their disability, they are still a person.

However, there are individuals and even communities who prefer to state the disability first - asserting that the disability is a part of them and helps to make them who they are. Some examples of this are the majority of blind people and the Deaf.
  • (Possibly) Viewing the disability as something that needs to be fixed.
I wrote this as possibly because there really are some people, mostly those who became disabled later in life, who would like their disability to be "fixed." This point mainly applies to intellectual disabilities that can't be cured. We can't, for example, cure Down syndrome, because we have no control over how it happens (although some try to "cure" it by promoting abortion of fetuses determined to have it...but that's a topic for another post). If you are born with Down syndrome, you will always have Down syndrome. You won't know what it's like not to have it, just like someone without the syndrome can't know what it's like to be in that body and mind.

So you have this disability, and you're the same person you've ever been, and now people are asking you, "Don't you ever wish you didn't have that?" or talking about ways to cure it. Of course, if you didn't have that disability, you wouldn't be you. You'd be somebody different, somebody you wouldn't understand.

"I wish we could cure Disability XYZ" is often heard as "I wish people with Disability XYZ didn't exist."

--

Thank you for sticking with me through the post. I've done my best to make this a clear list, but it's possible I missed something. As always, I am open to suggestions in the comments.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Angel Tree Warrior

Today is the first day of the RR 2014 Angel Tree. From now until the end of the year, every warrior has a goal of raising $1000 for their child.


"Samantha" is the girl I'm a warrior for this year. She turned seven last August, and has a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Physically, she is healthy with no heart issues or any other problems. Her profile describes her as active, with good motor skills, but normal language delays. If there is singing or dancing on the TV, she loves to imitate it, and she enjoys "looking pretty." A family would be blessed to have her.

Samantha is in a country it typically costs at least $25,000 to adopt from. The more money she has in her grant fund, the more likely it is she will be CHOSEN and the faster her family will be able to get her home.

Right now, her grant fund is just over a thousand dollars. Reaching her Angel Tree goal would double that. If we can get her fund to $2500, she'll be moved to a special page on RR that lists children with large grants, further increasing her visibility.

So my goal this year is to raise $1500 for her and get her on that page. That divides out to about 43 ornaments. It is a big goal, and I don't know if it will happen, but I know I can try.

You can see all of the children here. It's possible to either make a regular donation of any amount, or to buy an ornament with that child's photo on it for $35.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

OMG, Your Kid is Neurotypical?

So, like, do people stare when you go out in public?

When did you find out? Was it upsetting?

That's so nice of you to take care of a kid like that.

I would have such a hard time being your kid's mom (or dad).

My sister has a neurotypical kid, and it tore her family apart.

That's not catching, is it?

Don't you ever wish you had a child with disabilities?

I'm sorry. This school just isn't equipped to handle a neurotypical child.

Wow, I didn't even know people like that lived around here!

But if there were a way you could flip a switch and have a kid with a disability instead, you'd do it, right?

Don't they still put people like that in, you know..."homes"?

Isn't it really expensive to look after a kid like that? How do you afford it?

My best friend's kid is neurotypical, too. I should introduce you two.

We learned about those kinds of people when I was in high school, but I've never actually met one.

I'm sorry my daughter is so shy. She's never been exposed to a neurotypical before.

But I thought all neurotypical people were happy all the time.

Just wait. They'll find something a few years down the line.

Are you sure? My brother is neurotypical, and he doesn't act like your kid.

I'm so sorry. That must be really hard...

Monday, October 6, 2014

That Time Again

For every holiday season I've been blogging, I've been a Christmas Warrior for a RR child. For those who don't know, this is the biggest fundraiser they have, and it's every year running through November and December. Warriors sign up for a specific child and are given the goal of raising $1000 for their kiddo.

If you donate $35 or more to one child's grant, you get a cute little ornament with their picture on it! These are the ornament designs from the last three years.


In 2011, Carmen was my warrior child. That's her ornament from that year in the top row.

In 2012, I signed up to warrior for Carmen again. The second ornament is of a little boy named Trey, who is also stuck in the closed country. (I should add that this was not the full design of the 2012 ornaments - mine were not handled well in shipping and the "starfish" part of the ornament cracked.)

Last year, I was terrible at being a warrior. I admit it. Those ornaments are for little Andrue and Prudence, both of whom still really need a family. (Prudence also needs a Christmas Warrior this year. Andrue is not on the tree because he already has a large grant!)

I'm going to do better this year.


This little girl (her alias is "Samantha") has been overlooked too long. I'm going to be sharing plenty about her with you from now through the end of the year.

But for the moment, the fundraising efforts haven't started yet. They begin on November first, which means we have less than a month to get every child a warrior.

Here is the list of every child on the Angel Tree. Many of them are still in need of a warrior who will help raise funds for them and lift them above the crowd. If you aren't already a warrior, please consider signing up. You could change a child's life.