• Why Orphans Need Families

    Date: 2014.09.03 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin | Tags:

    I Blog for Show Hope

    When we first considered writing a blog, Dan and I prayed and discussed it in depth.  We knew that we were putting our family out there for all the world to see or at least my immediate family, some close friends, and maybe a few second or third cousins. 🙂  We knew we would be putting our family on display.  We knew we would be opening up our lives to the critical review of many others.  We knew there were those who would think we were sharing to brag or show off.  What we hoped to show was the amazing ways God had worked in our lives.  We wanted to put a face to adoption and let others know what giving a child a home meant.   Dan and I ultimately decided if writing a blog lead to one, or two, or more children being adopted, then it would all be worth it.

    I have been writing for a couple of years now.  I write so that others can see what being an orphan truly means and what adoption does for these children.  Even though it is life changing, harder than I imagined, and more than I ever thought I could handle, it is also a blessing beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.

    So when I got an e-mail from Show Hope looking for bloggers to write about the global orphan crisis, I was on board and signed up immediately.  This was what I originally set out to do, to let others know about the orphan crisis.   There are just so many orphans.  The last estimate was 143 million.  I want to make whatever change I can.  I want to give a voice to these children who don’t have one.  Plus, Show Hope will always have a very special place in our hearts because they helped care for three of our children.

    I got my first assignment at the beginning of August.  The assignment?   Write about why orphans need families.  I have tried to write about why orphans need families for a month now.   I just couldn’t do it.  The words I wrote didn’t have any real feeling behind them.  They were merely facts and quotes about orphans.  I wanted more than that.  I wanted to show how family changes the life of an orphan.

    On September 1st we had Benjamin’s 6th birthday party.  Dan and I started reminiscing about those first few weeks in China with Benjamin.  We started to talk about just how far he had come and I realized that is what I wanted this blog to convey.  I am going to try to adequately explain just how far he has come.  I can quote facts and figures to tell you there is a need, but you already know that.  143 million is a whole lot of orphans.  But what I really want is for you to see what institutional care does to a child.  How it changes their little hearts.  Orphans need families.  Orphanages are buildings, they are not homes.

    Ben orphanage

    When we met Ben in March of 2012, he was a frightened, withdrawn, 3 1/2 year old.

    China trip 2012 086

    Ben never acted afraid of us.  He went straight to Dan and wouldn’t leave his arms.  Ben had the saddest little face.  It wasn’t an “I’m afraid response”, it was something so much more heartbreaking.  It was like a little bit of his light was dimmed.  He was malnourished, weighing 21 pounds at 3 1/2.   The first time we changed his clothing, we cried.  We cried about all the times we knew he went hungry.  We cried because it took us so long to get to him.  We cried because we knew he had gone through more in his little life than anyone should have to go through.

    When we arrived back in the hotel, Ben ate for over 2 hours.  We opened the drawer that was full of snacks and he just sat there staring at all the food.  Right on top of this same dresser were the many toys we had packed for him.  He never even noticed the toys.  He was so intent on eating.  The whole time we were in China, Ben slept with food in his hands.  It was his security blanket.  He didn’t want the blanket we brought him.  He didn’t want the toys.  He just wanted to hold his bowl, his spoon, and a piece of food.

    Ben food

    Heaven forbid you would move his food.  He would have a major breakdown if his bowl of noodles was moved from his sight.  But at the same time, he would share with Maisey.  He made sure she was cared for.  He made sure to open two of everything so she didn’t go without.  We had glimpses of his sweet, little heart from the very beginning.  He accepted and cared for his little sister right from the start even though they had never met before that day in the Registration office.

    Ben had a lanyard that he wore around his neck with our family picture in it.  He wouldn’t take it off.  We were immediately his family and he had never met most of us.  He refused to speak Chinese.   He spoke English from day one even though we were told he was never taught English.  He refused to use his given Chinese name.  He was Benjamin from the very first day we met.  He later asked us to call him Ben Ben because it is a term of endearment to double up your name.   I have often wondered what happened in his three short years to make him not want any reminders of his old life.

    I remember vividly the first time Ben laughed.  It was raspy, almost like his vocal cords were dusty, like he hadn’t laughed in a very long time.

    Ben laughing

    And I remember the first time he hurt himself.  He ran into the corner of the dresser and hit his head pretty hard.  He just kept going.  I thought it was odd, but didn’t really put two and two together until later in the day when he fell down.  I could tell he hurt himself, but he didn’t even shed a tear.  He didn’t come to me with his hurt.  He just sat there.

    It was a couple days later when he realized that we would care that he hurt himself.  He came to show me what had happened and I kissed his booboo.  I wish I could have captured his expression.   It was one of wonder.  He was actually confused by someone caring that he was hurt.  I can still remember to this day the first time he knew it was okay to shed tears over being hurt.  What must a child have gone through to no longer cry tears or believe anyone would care that they are hurt?  This is what institutional care does.

    There were other issues.  Ben was deathly afraid of water.  The first time we tried to bathe him, he grabbed the door frame, kicking and screaming and wouldn’t let go.  We weren’t able to give him a bath for months.

    He shut down the minute we left the hotel room.  He was fine as long as he was in the room alone with us, but the moment we left the room, the worried look was back on his little face.


    We visited the orphanage where Ben spent almost 3 years of his life.  It was estimated that Ben was 9 months old when he was left in a park.  While we went on a tour of the orphanage, Ben hung onto Dan for dear life.  He would not look at any of the nannies.  They tried to talk to him and get him to come to them but he would not leave Dan’s arms.  What an eye opening experience that was for me.  Ben was with the women who had cared for him for most of his life and he wouldn’t leave the arms of the man he had only known for a few days.

    Ben had no clue how to be held.  He didn’t understand what a hug was.  He didn’t know how to snuggle.  We would hold him and try to get him to lay his head on our shoulders but he just didn’t understand.  We did it over and over again while we were in China.  We would give short little hugs.  We would hold him whenever he would allow it.   On one of the last days there, Ben curled up next to Dan and fell asleep.  He couldn’t speak our language, but he understood that Dan loved him and would protect him and he felt safe sleeping in his arms.

    Ben & Dan

    Children need families.  They need parents to care for them.  Parents who will teach them right from wrong, educate them, get them medical care, and kiss their booboos.   Children need to feel safe and secure if they are to blossom and grow.   Children need a home and love and security.  They need unconditional love.  You can not get these things in an institution.

    Ben is now 6 years old.  He has grown in so many ways.  Medical care, food, and the love of a family changed his life.

    Ben Sunday best

    The before and after pictures are amazing.  The first picture is from September 2011 and the second picture was from December 2013.

    Ben then and now

    Ben has come so far.  He has family that adores him.

    family 1

    He has had life saving heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.

    Ben 3

    Ben’s future is no longer uncertain.  Family has given Ben roots for stability and wings to fly.  Family has changed his life and given him a future.  Why do orphans need family?  I think Ben’s pictures say more than my words ever could.