True confession time. I never thought we would adopt internationally. I always said, "There are so many children suffering in America, why would we go to another country to adopt?" Not that I disagreed with international adoption at all, but my personal experiences just led me to feel strongly about domestic adoption. You see, I've been a social worker for almost 10 years. I've seen more than enough abused and neglected children right here in the U.S. So it was hard for me to understand going around the world to adopt a child. But then we started researching waiting children with Down Syndrome. When we learned that there are over 200 families on the waiting list to adopt a child with Down Syndrome in the U.S., our focus turned to international adoption. The statistics on orphans with Down Syndrome in other countries were absolutely staggering. Here are a few that I gathered on various humanitarian organizations' websites.
- There are 700,000 orphans in the country from which we are adopting, including "typical" children and those with special needs.
- Statistically, 1 in 733 live births results in a child with Down Syndrome, therefore there are approximately 955 children in the country from which we are adopting with DS who are orphans.
- There is no place in society for these children who are seen as "defective." They are put into orphanages by their families out of shame and fear. 90-95% of these orphans have at least one living parent and sometimes an entire family. Doctors typically advise the families to give the children up because of the widespread belief that these children will not be able to be contributing members of society.
- Children with special needs are allowed to stay in "baby houses" until they are 4 years old. Then they are transferred to state mental institutions or special orphanages for children with disabilities. Once they are transferred, they are no longer eligible to be adopted.
- 85% of these children die within the first year of being transferred due to the lack of proper medical care, nutrition or LOVE.
Below is a video expose' that I found on orphans in mental institutions in Serbia. Although we are not adopting from Serbia, the conditions shown are very similar in many Eastern European countries. If you choose to watch this video, please be prepared for some heartbreaking graphic images of less than humane conditions.
We have been told to expect a negative response to us when we walk the streets with our child when we go to pick him up. We have been told that complete strangers may come up and chastise us for having our child in public. I just can't imagine living in a society where humans with disabilities are seen as disgraceful, disposable and social outcasts. This is one of the most compelling reasons we had for choosing international adoption.