Thursday, August 25, 2011

AAI Thailand Program -- Recent staff visit

AAI Thailand/China Coordinator Ky Bower recently visited Thailand to visit orphanages and attend events for adoptees from that country.  You can read more about our Thai adoption program at this link.   Here is a report from Ky's trip to this beautiful country.   
Ky and Mrs. Anchalee at Pakkred Baby Home
I am back from my trip to Thailand and had a wonderful experience as part of the Nativeland visit program.  AAI was the only agency from the US that was represented and I was very grateful for the opportunity.  I highly encourage Thai adoptive families to participate in this program in the future.  It is a wonderful experience for the children to return to the children’s homes, see their caregivers again, and really get to experience the culture and traditions of their birth country.  The tour really focuses on the children and the love that their birth country has for them.  No matter where their new lives and families have taken them, the tour organizers believe it all started in Thailand and they try very hard to help the children realize how loved they are by their country.  The Nativeland visit takes place about every 2-3 years and we will send out information about the next one when it is made available.
The Child Adoption Center

I was able to meet with our Social Worker Ms. Anchalee for a meeting prior to one of the activities. She informed me there are special needs files ready for our agency and that we should expect to receive those within the next few weeks.  It is my understanding that these are completed files of special needs children- medical, child history, photos, and possibly video as well.  AAI will review these files and match them with families who have completed dossiers. Depending on the number of files we receive, we will then advocate for the rest of the waiting children who in need of families.  I will update the list of waiting children and notify families in the program once the information has received and processed. 
Welcome music and dancing at one of the children's homes

We will also be notified later this year if the Thai healthy child program will re-open. We hope to know this fall if AAI will be able to submit applications for healthy children for the 2012 year. 
One of the children's homes that Ky visited
I was able to visit the Child Adoption Center as well as the US Embassy and to get familiar with the offices and the processes there.  It was very clear how busy the Child Adoption Center is with the workload each social worker has because they work with many adopting countries and many different children’s homes.  After meeting with several different social workers I can tell you their hearts  are in the right place and they too want to see these children home with their adoptive families.  The biggest news to report about my meeting with the US Embassy is how valuable Ms. Oh is in that process. She has a wonderful working relationship with the staff members there and will see to it that families complete the process as quickly as possible. The lines at the embassy of people applying for visas can be very long can be long of people and adoptive families take priority.  Families are told to go to the front of the line and notify the officer that they are there for adoption.   I was happy about that because they day I was there the lines were very LONG. 
l-r, Mrs. Oh, Janelle and Ky

The highlight of my trip is my visit to one of the children’s homes.  The director of the home was very welcoming and a lot of preparation took place for our arrival. Seeing how excited the caregivers were to see “their” children again brought tears to my eyes and gives me goose bumps as I write this. It is very clear that these kids are loved and well cared for.  The love the children returning to the home have for their nannies was obvious and they couldn’t wait to be in their arms again. It was a special reunion that I am honored to have witnessed. This home in particular had several sections to it; a room for the babies under a year old, a room for the toddlers and then a room for the older children up to age 6. Playrooms and reading rooms were also included in each section.  The home was beautifully maintained and the feeling that I had while touring it was a positive one.  

Often when we think of children being in orphanages we think negatively of the conditions but I can tell you that this particular home was gorgeous and very child-friendly---with beautiful bright colors, lovely landscaping and an abundance of toys and play equipment.  From what Janelle,  AAI’s former Thai coordinator and my traveling companion on this trip, tells me, this is the general condition of most of the homes she has visited in the past within Thailand .
Ky and social workers

Overall, it was a very successful trip and I feel optimistic about future Thai adoptions. During the visit the social workers at the Child Adoption Center hosted a dinner for the representatives of the agencies that attended.  This was another highlight of my trip as it was comforting to speak to other agencies about their experiences with Thai adoptions.  It was a wonderful time to connect personally with the Child Adoption Center workers as well as to make new friends with agencies from around the world.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another AAI family story

Recently we received the following story and pictures from an AAI family, the Bossleys of Ohio,  that adopted two special needs children years ago from our Taiwan program.  It is so inspiring to read success stories like this and we thought we just had to share it more widely.

Peter and Ben

When our oldest son went away to college, it left an empty spot in our lives - both physically and emotionally.  I had always wanted another child or more.  We had 3 biological children and one adopted daughter with some severe emotional issues.  We were stressed almost beyond our limits with her.   I think emotional issues are tough ones and dealing with them takes a lot of real time, wisdom, and love.

I wanted another child as we had been married young and still had child rearing time but my wife had gone through a tubal ligation at the time of our third child.  To compound the issue, we were not wealthy - not at all.  When we decided to adopt, I went through 12 agencies that turned us down until I finally got a photo and information about a 2 year old boy from Taiwan who had been blind from birth but was as cute as a button and seemed to be a normal bright boy.  I had friends who were blind so I did not have a problem getting past the lack of vision.   I had a vision for that child and so did Sister Rosa from the orphanage.
The greatest problem I had was getting my wife's signature on the papers.  She was not sure about adding another child because of what we were going through.  I never believed it possible but six months later we were at the airport waiting for our newest son.  Peter was soon enrolled in a preschool for blind children.  Three days a week I also took Peter to the Cleveland Sight Center and waited with other parents - all mothers of blind children.  As I watched Peter at normal tasks and at play, it was clear to me after a year that he would have a much easier time if he had a sighted sibling.

I wrote to Adoption Advocates again - just to drop a hint that we would be interested in adopting again.  I did not think that anyone would allow a second adoption but again Sister Rosa  surprised us and responded that she had  "just the right child for us."  This was a child whose photo would bring a shocked look to anyone I shared it with because the little 17 month old boy had a huge " hemangioma" on his entire lower left jaw.  These blood tumors are red because they are filled with blood and this one was fully the size of the rest of the toddler's face.   This child had been hospitalized (mostly kept on his back) for his entire young life.  
Ben before surgery

I wanted to be certain that the rest of my children could deal with the comments and interactions of others when seeing  him for the first time, so I had the children each take the photo to school to show it to their friends and to deal with the comments.  The family members each handled the comments and questions and I tried to learn about the remainder of his medical conditions.  We had heard that one family had turned him down.  We decided to accept him but my hesitation was that there was no real indication of his mental ability.  I could handle most handicaps but I was uncertain about how I could do with a child with limited mental growth.   

 Benjamin, as we named him, would take only formula through a bottle and was only 12 pounds at 17 months old .  His legs were especially shocking as they were still as he had been as a newborn.  Both Peter, and Benjamin came into this world weighing less than 2 pounds each.  The percentage of babies who survive at this low birth weight at the time was 10%  The Early Childhood Intervention program in our area was just beginning to get underway and I was one of two parent representatives for our county's program.

I began Benjamin in the program for children under 3 years for  2 days a week and then the other 3 days a week, I took both of the boys fifty miles into Cleveland for Peter to go to the class at the school for the blind.  For some of the time, while Peter was in class at the children for the blind, I took Ben over a few blocks to a speech specialist as he was almost 4 years old and still did not speak.

Over the next two years, surgeons worked in nearly 30 surgeries to remove the tumor on his face.  He had 4 other surgeries to correct other problems.  Both boys went to the local elementary school. I remember in 1994 when I took Peter to enroll him in kindergarten
the principal of the school looked at me and said "There is a place for kids like him"  (referring to the schools for the blind).  I said "I know - this is one right here" ---affirming my decision to have Peter mainstreamed.  This law was 20 years old and yet I still had to battle fervently to have things done in a practical way for him to learn.    "Braille and Speak" notepads were coming out and Peter got his first one in the fourth grade.  He really took off academically then and even learned to fix it himself so we didn’t have to send it away when it need servicing  because that took many weeks.  During their school years Peter and Benjamin were involved in wrestling for at least one year and Peter also participated in Model UN.

Peter was able to take university classes in his last year of high school and began studying on the Ohio State University campus to be an Information technologist for the Office of Research.  Benjamin graduated with honors from high school and followed a couple of years behind Peter also at Ohio State University.  Ben received a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Hearing and then went on to graduate school at Kent State University.  He is now licensed as  a teacher in Early Childhood Intervention and specialized in three to five year old children.

Having Benjamin go from a class of children in an early intervention program to directing a class of the same made me  think of the days I was waiting for him to finish the class and reading the books on degrees of mental retardation - and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  Both boys live independently in their own condo and put themselves through school.  My motto is now “Teach a child to fish and you will be envious of his trophy catch."