I just read two utterly different books about children. One a collection of memories, and the other a satirical novel.
Carried in our hearts, by Jane Aronson, a pediatrician specializing in internationally adopted children, is a compilation of accounts by adoptive parents mostly, though some are by siblings or adopted children who are now older. Many parents told of falling in love with their new child at first sight or even from a photo, just as many parents do at a child’s birth.The eyes of a little child draw us with their openness and need. It was only as I got further into the book that I heard more about physical or mental problems, which make clear why Dr Aronson’s specialty is so needed, or about long term family and life situations- so much more for each child than would have been possible otherwise.. When I think of those who remain in institutional care- often understaffed and underfunded, this seems so valuable a contribution to consider. When I worked in residential child care, I became painfully aware that at its best it was not as good as a safe and loving home. I wondered, too vaguely, about adopting, but “inherited” two children when I got married and then at their urging, (among other considerations,) had two babies. I wish my house had always been home to all four, but even with comings and goings, it seemed enough… and I was older by then… and it never happened.
Many of the adoptive parents in the book were in fact older, some single and some in same-sex marriages, so clearly, rules have changed. All seem to have been in a financial position to pay fees, travel to other countries and give assurances of financial stability. If all the other vetting of prospective parents which they had to work through were universal, the birth rate would go way down!
The satirical novel, The Nanny Diaries, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, shows the situation of a child whose parents have lots of money, but no other parental qualification – in spite of which he loves them and is desperate for their attention.
For all the reality of the stories in the factual book, the child I will remember is Grayer, a boy who exists only on the pages of a novel. My heart went out to him as to no one else in his world. We seem to be wired to respond to the particular, the individual. Charities that support children know this: the picture, the story, the individual sponsored and followed by the donor, these really touch people. The statistics and the politics- not so much. (I know this and yet it is still true for me.) My daughter’s Youth Group sponsored the education of a young person in a Mexican orphanage, exchanging news and updates. One of my sisters has sponsored children in Asia and Africa, and unprecedentedly went to visit, on her motor bike, some remote village in South East Asia, which turned out such a communal welcome that she had to covertly channel some more funds to the village as she formed the impression they had used a month’s food for a feast for her!
We can’t help all those who need it, but we can make real differences, enormous or tiny, to some. Dr Jane Aronson knows this. She has two sons, adopted, and works with international adoptions. These adoptions are becoming much more restricted, though, for various reasons, including some very good reasons especially since the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption in 2008, and Dr Aronson is a leader in this changing area too. She has a foundation, Worldwide Orphans Foundation, with medical care, education, and behavioral and enrichment programs in various countries, for the children who have to grow up without parents.
Lumos, an organization founded by J.K.Rowling, which I mentioned in my blog on Feb 23 is another organization trying to help both get children out of institutions and to improve conditions for those children who will have to grow up in them anyway.
It takes a village to raise a child? It takes everyone, doing whatever they can for any child.