Sunday, January 15, 2012
Waiting Child Program
Currently, the majority of children being adoption from China are from the Waiting Child program. In April, 2011, over 75% of all US Chinese adoptions were from this program and that percentage was growing. Meanwhile, the non-special needs program has continued to run smoothly, but slowly. There are many reasons for this, a quick internet search will lead you to many articles, blogs, info, etc... that will explain the reasons for this.
The biggest thing to remember, is that ALL children adopted, especially those who were raised for any length of time in an institution, will have some kind of special need. The emotional needs of such a child are very, very different and need to be addressed and dealt with their entire life.
Who is the Waiting Child in China? Currently, the children on the Shared List (the list of waiting children) range in age from infant to just shy of 14 years. There are more boys on the list than girls. I think that a lot of children 12-14 (I use 14 to mean up to 14, for once a child turns 14 they are no longer eligible to be adopted), are healthy, though some do have physical special needs.
Over all, the special needs range from mild to severe, congenital to acquired. A congenital special need is something a child is born with, a birth defect. An acquired special need is one that happened afterward or through the birth mother, such as HepB, or an injury, like a burn that left terrible scarring, or a dislocated shoulder at birth that was misdiagnosed and left untreated or other illnesses that crop up.
With most special needs, there is a spectrum. Many people believe that cleft palate is a mild special need. It can be. Or it can be so severe that a child requires multiple surgeries over many years, with years of speech therapy. A child may have a malformed external ear that is noticable or not, called microtia, and this may be that minor. Or, the internal ear can also be affected and the child deaf in that ear, which is still quite minor if the child has normal hearing in the other ear, or severe if both ears are affected. However, if you know sign language, or are willing to learn, this may not seem very severe to you. There is a huge spectrum of special needs pertaining to the eyes, vision, development, glaucoma, strabismus, etc... One family is about to travel to adopt their new daughter who is perfectly healthy, but she has one underdeveloped eye that is blind. The treatment is a prosthetic eye that will fit over her tiny eye. Honestly, would you consider this a special need if she had been born here?
There are various heart conditions. Honestly, there is a huge number that repair themselves in the child's first year, but these babies were labelled special need, and still wait, now perfectly healthy. On the other hand, there are many children with severe heart defects and these children will have a shortened life depending of when they receive treatment. There are some conditions that enable a child to live a full, mostly normal life if the surgery can be done as infants, but will kill them if left untreated even for one year.
There are limb issues, Cerebral Palsy to various degrees, Trisomy disorders, one of which is Down's Syndrome, urogenital disorders, intestinal disorders, brain disorders and much, much more that I've never heard of. Some conditions that appear minor end of being part of a syndrome that may end up leading to more severe discoveries upon arrival home. Often, it's the other way around, where the condition ends up being less severe.
Adopting a child from the Waiting Child Program is a leap of faith, just like the unknowns of pregnancy and non-special need adoption, but you are starting out knowing that there is something, and you accept that.
In my own experience, there were things about Jie Jie that I knew she'd have and a couple that were a surprise to me. Since we are still in the diagnostic phase, I can't predict her outcome, but I can tell you this... She is so intelligent and well-balanced and happy and secure, that whatever her body ends up like, she will be able to cope to the best degree possible throughout her entire life. I cannot imagine my life without her; I love her so much. She captures the heart of all she meets. Even my social worker forgot herself at our first post placement visit and asked my daughter for a hug (remember, only parents and close family get this priviledge at first while bonding is crucial) and I had to call her on it at the time and she had to settle for a high five, and we still joke about it. As I meet with surgeons and specialists, my mother's heart shakes and quakes and I struggle to find the wisdom I need to make the best decisions possible for my daughter's care, but she is the light of my life, the breath in my body, my most precious and beloved child and I'd do it all again and again and I'm looking forward to adding to my tiny family.