Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Даунсайд Ап (Downside Up)!

Before you do anything else, watch this video:

It's a vicious, disgusting cycle: Lock up children with disabilities, deprive them of nutrition and human interaction, watch them become unresponsive due to your actions, conclude that all disabled children will become the same way based on your observations. Repeat. It's horrifying. Of course kids turn into what you call "vegetables" when you don't treat them like humans. Of course they regress when they stay in a crib for eighteen years. Did you stop to think that their problems don't come from their disabilities but from the fact that you locked them up, starved them, and abused them? No?

Imagine that you are a new parent. The doctor tells you that the child you've just given birth to will be a drain to your family, that she will never be able to learn anything, she will never be a successful adult. You will never be able to take proper care of her, the doctor says. The state institutions, on the other hand, can take care of her. They have the equipment and the skills that these problem children need. Plus, society won't ever accept your child, so it's best that she's hidden away.

Of course, none of the above is true, but how exactly were you supposed to know that? You've never talked to somebody with Down Syndrome, and besides, the doctor is the expert. He should know best. And he won't stop pressuring you. So finally, reluctantly, you sign the forms. You leave the hospital, and the baby stays behind. The doctor has assured you that you can try again.


Today in Russia, 85% of babies with Down Syndrome are given up to state "care". This has to stop. It has to end now. And the people of Downside Up are working hard to make that happen. Downside Up is a nonprofit organization in Russia. It provides support and education to parents of children with Down Syndrome. It has an Early Intervention Center in Moscow that provides resources, school, and therapy. Most importantly, it changes society's incorrect views of people with Down Syndrome and decreases the number of children abandoned in orphanages. Check out that link above or like them on facebook to show your support and see other ways that you can help. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014


If you're a fan of Harry Potter, you recognized the title of this post immediately. In Harry Potter's world, lumos is a spell. But in the muggle world, lumos is much more powerful.

As I advocate for specific children to be adopted, I also want to devote time to organizations that keep kids from being institutionalized in the first place. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels, founded one such organization. This organization is called Lumos. 

The problem with keeping children out of orphanages, as I've pointed out before, is that it's not a matter of addressing one issue. It's a multifaceted problem. The death of a parent isn't the only thing that will turn a child into an "orphan". Sometimes poverty will put a child in an institution. Often, when a child is born with special needs, the doctors will encourage (read: pressure, almost force) the child's parents to give up the new baby. The parents are told that the child won't amount to anything in society and is better off hidden away. Discrimination against the Roma has led to a high amount of Roma children in orphanages. Where does one even begin to solve this problem?

Lumos is a really good place to start. It's focus is Eastern Europe, and it works to undo the oppressive systems that lock children up. From education about disabilities to fighting neglect and abuse, Lumos fights for a world in which these harmful institutions don't exist. Click here to visit the website and see some of the work that this organization does to protect children.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

For All the Starfish

Do you know the starfish story? Chances are that some relative forwarded it to you in an email sometime around 2005. That's why I know about the starfish story. It's also why, on principle, I shook my head and ignored it. I never forwarded anything, and I don't repost on facebook. Jesus still loves me. I still love Jesus. It's all good.

The story, on the rare chance that you haven't heard it, tells us about starfish that have washed up on the beach. These starfish are going to die if somebody doesn't put them back into the water, so a child starts walking along the shore, tossing the starfish into the waves. "What are you doing?" Asks a cynical man. "Throwing starfish in the water," responds the child. The cynic reminds the child that s/he can't possibly make a difference because there are thousands of starfish washed up along miles and miles of beach. The child picks up another starfish, tosses it into the waves, looks back at the man, and says "It made a difference to that one." Again, I ignored this story until I started working with my own starfish. 

I've been feeling really overwhelmed over the past couple of days. Every time a child gets a family, I am over the moon excited about it. But for every child who learns that they really are loved, there are millions more who never will. Children in the US and in countries all over the world will age out without ever being adopted. Right now, young boys are turning to crime because it is literally their only option for survival. Teenaged girls are being sold for sex, either because they were kidnapped or they were lied to and promised real jobs. Children are committing suicide. And usually, when I get overwhelmed over the statistics, one of the only things that helps me keep going is to think about specific children who used to be orphans and remember that it made a difference to that one. 

But right now, as I'm walking along this shore line and tossing individual starfish into the water, I wonder if there is a way to keep them from washing up onto the sand in the first place. Of course, somebody has to fight for the starfish that are already on the shore. But if there is a way to prevent that kind of pain in the future, I want to know about it.

Which is why I started asking around and doing my research. As it turns out, there are many, many ways to help keep children out of orphanages. We need a multi-faceted approach, focusing on alleviating poverty, providing education about special needs, ending discrimination, and several other things. A fair amount of organizations exist to address these issues. So I'm going to keep posting about my individual starfish, but I'm also going to start highlighting ways that we can help prevent children from becoming orphans.

Keep an eye out for these posts in the near future, share them so that others know how to help, and ask me if you want more information about helping the starfish.