I had spent about 3 weeks in Ghana, visiting my daughter in her orphanage each day. It was a secretive place that didn’t allow me to enter the room that she lived in. Our visits were limited to outside, under the shade of a large tree. Each day, I would enter the office, request a visit and then wait as they got her dressed and brought her to me. This day was different though. It was the weekend and it appeared that only one person was caring for the 30+ children with special needs. It took a long time to get her ready and as the door was propped open, I was motioned to come and get her. It was the first time that I would see where my daughter had spent 2 years of her life.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sights, sounds and odors of that room. To this day, that room haunts me as I think of the children left behind and what their life consists of. A daily meal, maybe two if they have time. A daily diaper change. And then 23 1/2 hours of white walls and eerie silence. Room filled with cribs that were in poor repair, some wooden rails had chipping paint and bite marks. Children should make noise: happy giggles and sad cries. But in this room, neither existed. Children learned that no one comes to meet your needs and after a while they stop communicating. Some children rock, if they are physically able. Others just lay in one position staring at the walls.
Many children give up completely and slowly fade away. Others contract malaria or pneumonia and don’t get the medical care to overcome their illness. Many have found their final resting place to be behind the orphanage buildings. Sometimes there is a funeral, sometimes the moment is not even acknowledged.
People ask me why we adopted internationally. There are children here, in the USA, who need families. Since we were open to a child with special needs, surely we could have found a child closer by. Sometimes these questions feel intrusive and insulting as we carefully considered all types of adoptions and were open minded about it all. Other times they feel genuinely curious about our journey and how we ended up in Ghana, in a secretive government orphanage.
The simple answer I could give is that our daughter was in Ghana so we adopted her from there. She wasn’t in foster care and she wasn’t living here. But it goes deeper than that. We knew the reputation of this orphanage before we said yes. We knew her future (or lack of) if we were yet another family that read her story but decided we didn’t have a place for her in our home and heart. We knew that she was medically fragile and not on any medication for seizures. Maybe no one else would come after us? There was definitely an understanding of her future with a family and without.
The reasons families choose international adoption vary. It could be a connection to a particular country or culture. It could be the family’s age, size or other factors that disqualify them from domestic adoption. It could be the knowledge of the need for families overseas, but the truth remains that ALL children, regardless of geography, should have a loving family to grow up in. The changes in our daughter since she is living in a family again have confirmed that for me a million times. Children in the USA need families and children all over the world need families. When we learned about our daughter, we made the choice to welcome her in. She could have been in Idaho and we would have pursued her with the same nervous excitement. But she was in Ghana, so we crossed the ocean to bring her home.
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
New to linking up? We’d love to have you join us, here’s how.