Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Newly Listed

Many, many newly listed children on Reece's Rainbow this week.  I don't know if records in Eastern Europe are being updated right now in preparation for the new academic year.  Apparently, this is a busy season for children getting transferred from relatively comfortable "Baby Houses" to more impersonal orphanages and institutions.

This little girl is in Lithuania, where travel is pretty straightforward.  Two trips, the first one is about one week for both parents, and for the second trip (about 2 weeks) only one parent must travel.  She has been getting medical treatment, including surgery, for her heart condition, and she appears to be developing really well for an institutionalized child with Down syndrome.  She just turned 5 years old.  Isn't she adorable?  I hope someone scoops her up soon!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


My ex-MIL put me in touch with a woman she knows who adopted 2 boys from Russia almost 20 years ago.  I had a good long conversation with her, about what her experiences were.  These boys were supposedly "typical" -- no special needs in their files.  They were 2 and 3 years old at the time of the adoption, and they both showed extreme developmental delays, both in growth and in milestones reached.  She had no biological children, so this was not only her introduction to adoption, but her first experience with parenting.

I think that the home-study agencies do a much better job today of preparing parents for the kind of delays that adopted children have.  Her agency apparently led her to believe that the kids will pretty much just "adjust" and catch up with minimal intervention.  Not!  She expected the adjustment to be 1-2 years, but says that it took far longer.

There are some who would say that with 5 kids (4 at home) that I have my hands full, and should not take on any more children, especially a child with special needs and institutional delays.  On the other hand, I think that my experience with parenting makes me far better prepared for this task than a first-time parent would be.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Amidah - conclusion

Traditionally, the Amidah is concluded with the following meditation:

My G‑d, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully. Let my soul be silent to those who curse me; let my soul be as dust to all. Open my heart to Your Torah, and let my soul eagerly pursue Your commandments. As for all those who plot evil against me, hasten to annul their counsel and frustrate their design. Let them be as chaff before the wind; let the angel of the L-rd thrust them away. That Your beloved ones may be delivered, help with Your right hand and answer me. Do it for the sake of Your Name; do it for the sake of Your right hand; do it for the sake of Your Torah; do it for the sake of Your holiness. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, L-rd, my Strength and my Redeemer.

He who makes peace in His heavens, may He make peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

Having just beseeched G*d to take care of us, and thanked and praised G*d for everything we are and everything we have, we might be on a bit of a "spiritual high".  That's good, but we don't want that to go to our heads.  We want to temper that high with humility.  Let us be humble, and let G*d take care of the things we might be tempted to be self-righteous about.  Let G*d frustrate the designs of those who plot against us.  We must stay focused on doing right, and peace will follow.

Older children - Special Needs edition

Yesterday I wrote about the risk of adopting an older child, not in term of the difficulties of adjusting once they come home, but even before that, when they resist leaving their familiar surroundings and take a chance on the better life being offered to them. 

Today I will write about adopting a child who is about to age out, but is not mentally competent to voice an opinion on the matter of his/her adoption.  These children would be committed to a mental institution to live out their days if they are not adopted by their 16th birthday.

Jenny and Steven Brown are in the final stages of adopting 16-year-old Sophia, who has Down syndrome and is extremely delayed.  She is the size of a pre-schooler, and does not walk independently.

Adeye and Anthony Salem are adopting 15-year-old "Faith", whom they will call Hasya.  Adeye is visiting Hasya at Pleven right now. Hasya, who has Down syndrome as well, has been restricted to a crib her whole life, is grossly malnourished, the size of an infant or small toddler.  In the last few months, additional care and donated nutrition have improved her condition.  There is still so much more to go, though.

And Susanna and Joe Musser are taking a leap of faith for the second time, to adopt 15-year-old "Tommy".  Like Hasya, he has lived in a crib his whole life.  He does not have Down syndrome, but has other disabilities, and is the size of a small 3-year-old.  They did not think they would qualify financially for another adoption at this time, but apparently they can, and their home-study social worker is expediting their process!  Susanna was desperately seeking a family for "Tommy", and is so excited to be able to be that family.

If born in the USA, these three could have been in High School together.  I could see Sophia as a bubbly cheerleader, Hasya as an artsy type, and Tommy as a video-game-playing drummer in the school band.  Instead, they are likely to never graduate kindergarten.  After adoption, they will need intensive medical and nutritional care, and long-term physical and speech therapy just to become minimally functional. And then what?

Three children.  Totally uncharted territory.  How far can a severely disabled, pint-sized adolescent catch up in a loving home?  We really don't know!   Those of us considering or in process of a special-needs adoption can only look on and marvel at the incredible stand that these families are taking for these children.  All three families are deeply religious.  Is it possible to take something like this on without faith in a higher power?  All three families profess utter inadequacy to deal with the challenges that they are taking on, and their complete reliance on G*d to see them through.

Where would an Atheist get that strength from?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Amidah - part 18 - Peace

We end with a prayer for peace:

Bestow peace, goodness and blessing, life, graciousness, kindness and mercy, upon us and upon all Your people Israel. Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your countenance. For by the light of Your countenance You gave us, L-rd our G‑d, the Torah of life and loving-kindness, righteousness, blessing, mercy, life and peace. May it be favorable in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel, at all times and at every moment, with Your peace.

Blessed are You L-rd, who blesses His people Israel with peace.

To my shock I was not able to find a YouTube video featuring the melody I know to this.  There are so many traditional and modernized melodies!  Here is one:

More about older children

There are many children out there whose main "special need" is that they are "older".  No longer "cute and cuddly", but rather laden with baggage, pain and mistrust from years of loss.  I want to look at 3 different 16 year old boys who had families come for them recently.

In February, Renee raised the alarm about Sam and Duncan, due to age out of the orphanage from which she adopted her daughter at the beginning of the year.  Both boys had expressed an interest in being adopted by American families, apparently.  Sam has only a minor disability -- a deformation of one hand.  Duncan has Cerebral Palsy, and his mobility is impaired, although he is not restricted to a wheelchair.  Two families stepped forward for these boys (actually there was another family, but they ran into delays getting their paperwork together).  Both boys got cold feet after meeting the families, and decided to take their chances on life in Ukraine rather than take the opportunity to come to the United States, go to college, and have a piece of the American Dream.   Both families went home empty-hearted and confused.

Another story started similarly. Last December, Adeye raised the alarm about Jonathan, who was aging out of a different orphanage in the same country.  No special need was noted, just an older kid about to find himself out on the street.  To this day I don't know why he was singled out to be advocated for.  Like "Sam" and "Duncan", he hesitated about going home with the family that came for him.  Like the others, he was urged by his peers and caretakers to beware of the horrors of American adoptive parents, who were likely to cut him up and sell his organs....  At the last moment, he said yes.  Two months later, he (now known as Andrew) is happily integrated into his new family.

Why???  What makes the difference?  How does one approach the adoption of an adolescent so as to avoid chasing a dead end?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Secular Humanism - Landmark?

My husband just completed the Advanced Course at Landmark Education this weekend.  Really empowering stuff!   Landmark has a reputation for being "cultish".  It is not a cult, but it certainly has some features that make it look like one from the outside.  Participants are urged to bring all their friends and families to "guest events" which occur as part of every course, and to invite everyone they know to take the "Landmark Forum" -- the foundation class of their curriculum.  The courses are also filled with a unique jargon, which adds to the feeling that graduates of the curriculum are "weird".

But in fact, what makes it more like a religion than any of these outward trappings is the fact that what actually happens in the courses is that participants are pushed to become their best selves, and to go past their comfort zones to accomplish incredible things in their relationships with others and in their communities.  I remember before I took the first course that I marveled how both my committed atheist friend and my religious Catholic friend felt that the concepts presented in Landmark complemented their respective worldviews perfectly.  This is because while no particular religion is referenced, the concepts map very well onto those in religious texts.

Quite simply, the ideas are:

1. Personal integrity is the basis of everything -- keeping your word in all things great and small.
2. Things happen through relationships -- if it's just inside your head, it has no reality -- you have to share it with others
3. With (1) and (2) in place, there is very little that you can't accomplish.  Reach for the sky!  Make a real impact on the world!
4. The point of all this is to Live a Life you Love.

These ideas invariably push participants to look outwards from their own lives to accomplish greatness in their relationships and their communities.  If they happen to be religious, they quickly find these ideas echoed in their liturgy and scriptures.  But if they are not, these ideas still work!

Can this notion be used in this context, as well?  That pushing past your comfort zone for the sake of a child's life has the potential of such huge reward that it is worth it?  Even without any religious background?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Secular Humanism - A friend's view

I'm tryingReally.

A dear friend of mine is a committed, principled, moral Atheist.  I asked him for his views on special needs adoption, and how it could fit into a non-religious worldview.  We had a really good conversation, but I think it ended up raising more questions than he answered.

For example, he immediately asked, "what does religion (faith in G*d) have to do with it?"  I explained that there are scriptural and liturgical references to the way we should act in society.  I said that I am explicitly looking for non-theistic sources which could substitute.

He thought about organizations such as Unitarian Universalism, as well as "Atheist churches", which seek to provide the non-theistic functions of organized religion without the idea of faith in a supernatural being.  They hold regular communal meanings, organize around charitable causes, and create rituals around life cycle events.  I think that organizing within such movements is certainly as viable as organizing within synagogues or churches.

At the same time, the question remains of where the "moral imperative" comes from in such a framework.  I remember when I had my first child, and I wanted to recreate my childhood memories of celebrating the Jewish Sabbath.  These memories were of gathering with family at my grandparents' house, so I approached my in-laws, who lived nearby, about starting this.   They thought it was a great idea to have a regular family dinner like that, but objected that Friday evenings were quite busy for them already.  "How about Tuesday afternoons instead?" they asked.    No, what makes Shabbat special is that we make room in our lives for it, work our lives around the commandment, rather than fit in religion around our everyday lives.

My friend contributes significantly to charity.  He donates money to organizations that give it to poor families so that they can start businesses in their communities.  He explained that it seemed to him the way to have the biggest impact for the money donated.  He clearly cares about making the world a better place.  He has his own criteria for choosing how to do this.  But, like Shabbat on Tuesdays, it does not demand of him to get out of his comfort zone.

What, then, does it take to "get us out of our comfort zone"?   Without religion, where do we find a "moral imperative" to stretch ourselves to make a difference in the world?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Amidah - part 17 - Thanksgiving

What do we give thanks for each day?

We thankfully acknowledge that You are the L-rd our G‑d and G‑d of our fathers forever. You are the strength of our life, the shield of our salvation in every generation. We will give thanks to You and recount Your praise, evening, morning and noon, for our lives which are committed into Your hand, for our souls which are entrusted to You, for Your miracles which are with us daily, and for Your continual wonders and beneficences. You are the Beneficent One, for Your mercies never cease; the Merciful One, for Your kindnesses never end; for we always place our hope in You.

1. We are grateful for having a G*d that is steadfast - forever!
2. Strength of our life
3. Our lives
4. Our souls
5. Everyday miracles
6. Mercy and kindness

Pretty open-ended, eh?  Gratitude is not to be limited to a finite list.  (1) and (2) come into play when we need perseverance in the face of adversity.  (3) is a reminder of the preciousness of life itself.  I see (4) as referring to our children, who come through us but not from us. (5) reminds us to pay attention to the miracles of every day, from the timeless beauty of nature, to the timely wonders of modern technology.  Finally, (6) reminds us to notice mercy and kindness, not only G*d's, but in our fellow man.

And for all these, may Your Name, our King, be continually blessed, exalted and extolled forever and all time. And all living things shall forever thank You, and praise Your great Name eternally, for You are good. G‑d, You are our everlasting salvation and help, O benevolent G‑d. Blessed are You L-rd, Beneficent is Your Name, and to You it is fitting to offer thanks. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

OT: Potty-training Mater

Guess what I did this past weekend?

I potty-trained my youngest child.  I have done the same basic method with my other 4 kids, and it worked like a charm with all of them except the one who had some medical issues that got in the way.  So I was pretty confident.  Part of the method involves potty-training a "drink and wet" doll so the child knows what to expect.  Off we went to Target to get supplies.   He was very excited about the new Cars(tm) underwear, and was clutching it in the stroller.  He was delighted with the Cars(tm) potty, too (never mind that we already have 2 potties at home....).  But he absolutely wanted nothing to do with any of the dolls I offered him.  "I want just cars!" he insisted.

Suddenly I remembered the scene in Cars 2 where the tow-truck Mater (thinks he) has an accident and runs off to the bathroom, muttering "I never leak!  I never leak!".  Eureka!  We will potty-train Mater!  So instead of a drink-and-wet doll, I get a little toy tow-truck.  Turns out that this is specifically a Cars 2 model, where Mater is doing a James Bond schtick and has these wings that pop out.  That was great for hand washing time.

My youngest child (and his toy tow-truck!) is a big boy now!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Secular Humanism, Take 2

Let me try again.  Perhaps I am approaching this the wrong way.   After all, I don't want to convince Secular Humanists and Atheists that there is no reason for them to pursue special needs adoption.  I want to convince them that it is a good idea, even without religion.

I suppose I would probably start by showing this video.  Or perhaps this one.  Accompanied by the statistics, explaining how children born with special needs are generally neglected and malnourished, and their life expectancy is usually in the teens.

I could then link to various stories of transformation when these children, often in dismal condition, are adopted and loved unconditionally by families who are committed to seeing them as beautiful, capable, and full of potential.  Yes, most of those families would say "created in G*d's image", but it means the same thing, no..?

Would that be motivating enough?  Would that inspire someone to take on the paperwork, the expense, the unknown difficulties of adjusting to life with an adopted child with special needs?  Would a family be able to continue seeing this child as "beautiful, capable and full of potential" if the transformation is slow in coming?  If the child's health deteriorates, or she dies, would they be able to still continue and rescue other children?

Now, I know that even many "religious" families of all persuasions are held back by considerations such as these.  But it seems as though faith can be a pathway to overcoming them.  If you are not religious, what would it take to inspire you?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Secular Humanism

I was talking with my dad the other day about my project, and he asked, Why focus on the Jewish perspective in particular?  Isn't this issue of a broad human concern, that should cut across all sectarian lines?

Well, I googled "secular humanism adoption", "secular humanism orphan", and so on.  Well, surprise, surprise, not a whole lot.  I did find a charity that built a children's village in Tanzania for HIV+ orphans.   Some on-line discussions about how difficult it is to find a non-religious adoption agency, and a bunch of people venting about Pat Robertson's recent idiotic remarks about special-needs adoptions.

Well, then.

If I were to try to do a Secular Humanist version of this blog, where would I look for sources?  Most Secular Humanist thinkers focus on how we should be able to live our lives in freedom without having religious fanatics run our lives for us.  Which is true.  There are also Secular Humanist organizations which create a social context that fills in the space left by religious services.  Fair enough.  Communal services do serve a function in both the individual psyche and the social fabric.  So they get together, talk about shared values, perhaps support a food bank for the feel-good aspect of it.  I don't see Secular Humanists really putting their life on the line for anything.  They will work for causes they believe in, yes, but only up to a point. If our life on Earth is all there is, if there is no Higher Power for us to look up to, then doesn't it just boil down to "feelin' good was good enough", a la Janis Joplin?  Without the framework of religion, why would one take on the challenge of a special needs orphan?  Would one have what it takes to work a miracle, without the belief in miracles in the first place?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Amidah - part 16 - Service

How is the concept of religious service related to the concept of prayer?

 Look with favor, L-rd our G‑d, on Your people Israel and pay heed to their prayer; restore the service to Your Sanctuary and accept with love and favor Israel's fire-offerings and prayer; and may the service of Your people Israel always find favor. 

May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy. Blessed are You L-rd, who restores His Divine Presence to Zion. 

Certainly this section begins in the same spirit as the previous: Asking for favorable response to our prayers.  Then, however, it turns more specifically to the restoration of the ancient temple-services in Jerusalem (Zion).  This is a reminder that the entire Amidah prayer was specifically instituted as a substitute for the temple services when the temple was destroyed, first in 586 BCE by Babylon, and then in 70 CE by Rome.  Both events took place, as prophesied, on the 9th day of the month of Av, which was observed about 3 weeks ago.  The loss of the temple and its impact on the Jewish people is hard to comprehend by modern observers.  However, we were able to re-live it when Israel undertook to rescue the beleaguered Jews of Ethiopia in 1991 This community had been exiled from Israel before the destruction of  the first Temple.  When they arrived in Israel, their first and foremost wish was to be taken to the Temple that they may offer their Thanksgiving.  Upon hearing that there was no Temple, that it had lain in ruins for many centuries, they mourned with utter abandon.

It is with this frame of mind that we must read this section.  We pray that our prayers be accepted in lieu of the ancient fire-offerings.  In fact, we must pray as though we are making an actual sacrifice.  A sacrifice is an expression of love.  It is a statement of our priorities.  A sacrifice, properly made, is a declaration that the object of our love - G*d - is a higher priority to us than the material value being sacrificed. We are asking here for our priorities to be set straight, in order to restore the meaning of the Temple service.

It is said that the Temple was destroyed due to the internal strife among Jewish factions.  Again, a loss of priorities, as well as a loss of love.

So how is this section related to the previous one?  In the previous section, we asked G*d to listen favorably to our prayers.  Here we ask for help in ordering our priorities, help in prayer and service such that we will be deserving of such favor.  When we have our priorities in order, when we treat each other with love and willingly sacrifice material comforts for the sake of relationships which are more valuable - both with G*d and with each other - then the divine Presence is restored among us.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pleven Update *MORE ADDED*

Children already rescued from Pleven:

Katie Musser
Lina Carpenter
Amelia, Sophia and Jeremy Brown
Keith Unroe
Samantha Knuth
Victory Groenendyk
Ana Kenyon

Families are coming for:
"Ian" Menges
"Kolina" Duncan
"Carissa" Matthews
"Faith" Salem
"Gabby" and "Marsha" Rosencrants
"Makayla" Booth
"Mickey" and "Shawn" Beck
"Gemma" Brown
"Alyssa" and "Beacan" Robbins
"Sarah" Roodhuyzen
"Teddy", "Val", and "Stewart" Archer
"Sam" Heaston
"Mario" Harris
Lana McCarty
Bianca Moss

Still waiting:
"Penny" and "Peyton"

Public Service Announcement - Please Read!!!

When you take your child(ren) out with a stroller, please, please, PLEASE, keep your hand/attention on it at all times!  If you must take your hand/attention off it for a moment, PUT ON THE BRAKE.  If your stroller has a wrist strap, USE IT.

It may save your children from rolling into traffic,
or down a hill,
or into the Erie Canal,


resulting in tragedy for this family :

The father jumped in after the stroller, and was able to keep one child's head above the water.  That child is fine.  The other one (7-year-old Selah), however, is not likely to survive.

I pray for a miraculous recovery for the little girl.

My heart goes out to the parents.  I pray that their marriage survives the guilt and blame that are likely to emerge from this incident.  They will need help in this! 

My heart goes out to the siblings, who still need their parents to be fully present for them as well, even as they try to understand what happened to their sister and why.

I also pray that this incident doesn't get blown out of proportion to affect other prospective adopters from Ukraine and elsewhere.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hope for Sasha!

I just saw that Sasha is this month's Child of the Month on Reece's Rainbow, and it has been doing wonders for his adoption grant already!  Hopefully this will encourage a family to step forward and claim him, maybe even soon!!!  Get him out of the Lost Boys institution!

Amidah - part 15 - Hear our Prayers

Here we pray for our prayers to be heard:

Hear our voice, L-rd our G‑d; merciful Father, have compassion upon us and accept our prayers in mercy and favor, for You are G‑d who hears prayers and supplications; do not turn us away empty-handed from You, our King, for You hear the prayer of everyone. Blessed are You L-rd, who hears prayer.

But if He  "hears the prayer of everyone",  why do we need to ask Him to "hear our voice"?

Well, we are asking for a good deal more than a "hearing":

* Compassion
* Acceptance
* Mercy
* Favor
* Do not turn us away empty-handed

2 ways to look at this: 

First, we acknowledge that any response by G*d is, in fact a response.  We have been heard.  Our requests may of may not find "favor" and "acceptance", but instead be met with "compassion" and "mercy".  Either way, we will not be "turned away empty-handed".

Second, we once again look at these blessings as instruction on how to live a G*dly life.  To listen to others as G*d listens to us.  We need not say "yes" to all requests that others make of us, but we should respond with some combination of these attitudes, so that the others are not "turned away empty-handed".  Our "No"'s should be tempered with compassion and mercy, and our "Yes"'es graced with acceptance and favor.


An aside: "Hear our voice" can be taken to remind us to pray out loud.  Prayers said in full voice have more impact than those merely thought inside our head.  Not because G*d will hear them better, but because we will.  When we say something out loud, we make a commitment to it and are more likely to act towards its fulfillment.  If we speak it out loud in a community, then the whole community holds each other accountable.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Three girls

I have 3 daughters, but this is not about them.  It is about 3 girls who have been living at an orphanage in Ukraine.  It is one of the better orphanages:  The staff genuinely cares about the children living there.  Still, the children with mental/developmental disabilities are kept in a separate groupa than the children with merely physical handicaps.  This orphanage was "discovered" by Renee when she went there to adopt her daughter "Moxie" last year, but she could not at that time visit this hidden groupa.  She fervently advocated for all the children she met.  All of the children with physical disabilities who were eligible for international adoption have either been adopted or have families coming for them!

And there is a family there right now, meeting their new children with Down syndrome, 15-year-old "Bernadette", whom they will name Jessica, and 9-year-old "Mason", whom they will call Caleb.  They report that the staff cares warmly for these children, as well, although still blinded by their society's prejudice about the potential of people with Down syndrome.

She says, "Unfortunately, it seems that due to a lack of knowledge, training, or because of social norms, there is no expectation that these children can develop any further.  However they show up is believed to be the status they will have for the rest of their lives.  If they make gains on their own, this new level of ability is accepted as their new “normal”, but no effort is made to help them achieve.  There isn’t anything intentionally sinister or malicious going on, it is just the way their culture has taught them to view these children.  I think once we can begin to send pictures and reports of how well these children are doing and the advances that they are making once they are given expectations to meet, that we may see a change in attitude among many of the caregivers.  There is a need for developmental toys here.  It would make a huge difference if we could get at least a crib toy for each crib."

Which brings us to the 3 girls who are still there, waiting.

There is Greta, who at nearly 14 years old is barely the size of a 5-year-old, and developmentally at a pre-school level.

Renee, who is also there now writes: "she's adorable and precious and full of energy and walking and climbing and laughing".  This picture really doesn't do her justice.....

Then there is Clarice, who just turned 13 last month, who is the size of a 4-year-old.  In addition to Down syndrome, she also has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

She is described as, "She has the personality of an impetuous toddler- very high energy and eager to try everything life has to offer."  On the other hand, Renee reports that she is now "using a walker to walk around downstairs, with a nanny.  She was quiet and working hard, but had a huge smile on her face!!!"

Finally, Mabel is only 7 years old, and the size of a 3-year-old.  It is believed that she is not yet walking, and exhibits many institutional self-soothing behaviors.   At this age, though, there is still so much potential to catch up with lots of love, medical attention, and therapy.


Three girls.  How different they seem than my daughters!  They face such challenges that my girls have never faced, and likely never will.  But what they need is the same -- the love and commitment of parents who will take care of them no matter what.

Matir Asurim Community Project

I am getting more confident about talking to people about my project.  I am encouraged by people who react positively, and blown away by people who respond with their own personal stories about special needs, adoption, etc.  There are those people (relatively few!) who are not really moved by the idea of creating a community around saving children with special needs, but they are generally polite about it, and the conversation simply moves on to other topics.  No harm, no foul.  And then there are the worriers, who see all the potential difficulties in doing what needs to be done.  They are the best!  Because it is exactly because of these legitimate worries that we need a community to do that which is overwhelming to individuals.

There are those who talk about "It takes a village...."  There are actions which ultimately must be undertaken by individuals.  The role of the village is to provide a fertile environment for these individual actions, to support and encourage them.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Heavy on my heart

Even though we have begun the homestudy process, I still feel so helpless when I see these children.  I can't adopt them all, and most of them don't fit the criteria that we have agreed on.  So please, somebody, help them!

Little Sasha, eight years old and still the size of a baby, just transferred to an adult mental institution where he probably never goes out of his crib, is inadequately fed and changed, and where, statistically speaking, he is likely to die within a year:

I first saw 8-year-old Donovan listed under "Additional Children".  Now he has his own listing.  Look how tiny and frail he is!  Can you see his ribs through the t-shirt? I imagine he was "cheerful, sociable" as an infant, but now I doubt he has the energy for that.

Dylan is an adorable 9-year-old, sitting here on a toddler ride-on toy.  I just want to scoop him up!

Back in May I blogged about Nathan, whose eyes still haunt me.

Look what a sweet baby he was.  This is what years in an institution will do to a human being.

The same transformation is evident in Sonny, who went from a cute smiley redhead:

To a frightened child, beaten by the older children (or even the staff) at an institution:

Oh my. I can't take this any more.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic standard?

So I was talking with my husband tonight, and he was sharing a conversation he had earlier with a friend.  He realized that part of his trepidation is that in all the stories I have been sharing with him about adoptive families, these people seem like "saints".   He said, "It's like you ask me to run a 4-minute mile and you tell me that all these Olympic athletes do it, so I can too, and it feels like an unrealistic standard."

So we talked, about what it was like to have 5 kids.  After all, most people who know us think that is way over the top.  And we agreed that while each kid adds some amount of stress, we had time to adjust to a new normal at each step.

"But isn't an adopted child with special needs a whole level beyond that?"

Depends what your expectation is.  I think that if you expect it to be analogous to a newborn, then those expectations will be met or exceeded.  A newborn arrives with unknown medical needs. A newborn requires frequent check-ups.  A newborn does not sleep through the night, eat solid foods, or interact in an intelligible fashion.  A newborn will not be mobile for 6-8 months, will not walk or talk for 12-18 months, and will not be potty trained for 2-3 years.  Your average adopted child with special needs will beat at least some of those milestones.  With this situation, as with an ordinary newborn, a new normal will be found.

Amidah - part 14 - Jerusalem

Here we pray for the glory of Jerusalem, for the kingship of David's descendants, and for resulting salvation.

Return in mercy to Jerusalem Your city and dwell therein as You have promised; speedily establish therein the throne of David Your servant, and rebuild it, soon in our days, as an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You L-rd, who rebuilds Jerusalem. Speedily cause the scion of David Your servant to flourish, and increase his power by Your salvation, for we hope for Your salvation all day. Blessed are You L-rd, who causes the power of salvation to flourish.

This has been part of daily Jewish prayers since before the time of Jesus.  Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people even when we were scattered among the nations (although there was always a Jewish presence in Israel, as well).  When will the United States government show true leadership in recognizing this fact?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Older children

Adeye over at No Greater Joy Mom put together a great post about older children who have been hosted by American families, who are available for adoption.  Because they have already lived with a family here, there is alot of information available about their needs and personalities, so if you are considering an adoption, this can help alleviate some of the "fear of the unknown" around older children.  Some of them have special needs, but most of them are just waiting due to their age.

Open your heart.  Check it out.

Girl Scouts!

My friend invited me to talk to her Girl Scout troop today.  They were awesome!  It was great to share with them how different it is for children with special needs in the U.S. today compared to 50 years ago, or compared to developing countries.  I told them about different ways that they can get involved in making a difference.  They are 12-14 years old, so really able to understand issues and start to take action.  And my friend had just talked to them about looking forward to their High School years with the Girl Scouts, and how they can get medals for projects that they take on, so they were primed!

I love how this is spreading to more communities.

A Jewish Olympic Star

Many people follow the Olympics to see feats of physical greatness.  It is not often you get to see acts of moral greatness, as well.  On rare occasions, you see them both at once.

Aly Raisman is an 18-year-old gymnast who happens to live in a neighboring town to me.  I don't know her, but now I will make a point of it. 

She won the gold in the floor exercises event.  Cool, right?  She is a Jewish-American girl, and she chose the popular Jewish tune "Hava Nagila" for her routine.  And she won!  Then she took the podium and, as she accepted her medal, did what the organizers of the Olympics would not.  She remembered the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics

She happens to have a younger sister the same age as one of my girls, who, like her, will be celebrating her Bat Mitzvah this year.  I can't wait to meet them!

Another baby step!

Our letter of intent has just been received and approved by the appropriate Ministry in............  So now they have a file open for us. Yay!  Now we just have to get that home study done, and get all those documents assembled, translated, apostilled etc...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Amidah - part 13 - The Righteous

This section is also a bit complicated:

May Your mercies be aroused, L-rd our G‑d, upon the righteous, upon the pious, upon the elders of Your people, the House of Israel, upon the remnant of their sages, upon the righteous proselytes and upon us. Grant ample reward to all who truly trust in Your Name, and place our lot among them; may we never be disgraced, for we have put our trust in You. Blessed are You L-rd, the support and security of the righteous.

Who are these "Righteous"?

The prayer identifies six categories of deserving individuals: (1) Tzaddikim – the righteous, those motivated by justice, who are meticulous in mitzvos; (2) Chasidim – the pious, those motivated by love, who go beyond the letter of the law; (3) Ziknei Amcha – the elders of the nation, the spiritual leaders of the people; (4) Pleitas Sofreihem – the remnant of the nation’s teachers, those select few who dedicate their lives to teaching Torah; (5) Geirei HaTzedek – sincere converts, who left their old lives behind to cling to the Jewish people; and (6) Aleinu – us, the simple but well-meaning Jews, even if we’re nothing special. We pray that all of these, including ourselves, enjoy God’s mercy.

In praying this, I usually focus on the last 2 lines.  Trust, support, security that G*d will protect us in our struggles for righteousness.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

BBQ and Barchu - Success!

Many people expressed interest in forming a community around the cause of special needs children in foreign orphanages, taking flyers, sharing their own stories, and signing up to be involved!  I am so excited that this is actually happening!!!  Thank you to everyone who showed support.


Next, I am planning an event at my friend's home in Cape Cod, scheduled for August 23. And I am trying to reach out to other congregations in my area as well.

Friday, August 3, 2012

BBQ and Barchu!

I've gone nearly a week without posting, partly because we were away on vacation, and partly because I've been working on my presentation for this evening.  Our congregation will be having evening services at a local park, preceded by a potluck barbecue.  I hope to get people to sign up to be involved in raising awareness and working actively on behalf of children with special needs around the world.   We have a very welcoming congregation already, with several families with special-needs children, as well as adults. 

Wish me luck!

Amidah - part 12 - "Minnim"

The next blessing is a bit complicated.  It is believed to have been introduced after the inception of Christianity, and partly in response to it:

Let there be no hope for informers, and may all wickedness instantly perish; may all the enemies of Your people be speedily extirpated; and may You swiftly uproot, break, crush and subdue the reign of wickedness speedily in our days. Blessed are You L-rd, who crushes enemies and subdues the wicked.

Since Christianity splits the identity of G*d into the Trinity, it represented a form of heresy to mainstream Judaism. There have been many others since then.

Instead of sectarian conflict, I choose to see this blessing as a channeling of our negative emotions towards our enemies, real or perceived.  Note that it is the wickedness which should perish -- not the enemies themselves!  We do not wish death upon our enemies: We wish for them to be cut off, subdued, and turned to righteousness.

How timely in this season of political and religious conflict!
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