Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Realistic Expectations - Part II

This is "Part II" of my earlier post this morning. One of my questions as I wait for travel approval is what parts of his old life Joseph will be able to bring with him. He has lived in foster care for approximately 7 years and at some point before we get him, he'll be moved back to the orphanage - Beijing Children's Welfare Institute - BCWI for short. Above is a photo of the orphanage. We don't know if he's been moved yet.

Here's the experience of a mom who adopted an older girl from BCWI:

My daughter had the following things with her the day we met her:
*A new outfit, appropriate for the weather that day, and it matched the outfit the other older girl had on, that was with us on adoption day
*Hair clips and hair bands in her hair...beautifully done by her ayi.
*A new Pooh backpack (school type backpack)
*A well used doll that we had previously sent on her birthday
*A camera filled with pictures they took of her in the lobby, shortly before we arrived
*A necklace her best friend's parents brought to her when they adopted her best friend (but she had never seen the necklace before that day)
*Two different booklets about BCWI
*A list of questions we sent in advance, that had been briefly answered
*A tiny, and I mean TINY little toy (less than an inch long) that she was allowed to pick out of a box...and the other older girl with us had one, as well

That was change of clothes and no personal items...nothing else. We had sent other things in advance, and they were not with her. We had sent a notebook for her friends to sign and draw pictures for her, etc. She received it, and her friends did draw pictures and sign it, but she was not allowed to bring it.

The only things she had from BCWI were the new clothes on her back, the backpack, and that tiny toy. Oh...and her badge with 3 red stripes. It was pinned to her shirt sleeve when we met her. The BCWI staff explained very intensely the significance of the badge (it was a leadership award from her school). They were quite excited about it, and said no other orphan from BCWI had earned 3 stripes before at school. They told me (through our guide of course) to make SURE we save that badge forever, and how important it is, etc.

On a side note, I guess that tells you something about the importance of education to the BCWI staff. While we were in China, they had no problem NOT supplying a single picture of my daughter which we asked for many, many times, including foster family pictures, etc. But that goodness....they were SO proud of that badge. They went on and on about it for quite some time, and reminded us again, right before we left, to never lose it. :)

One more thing we received, after asking several times and our guide returning to BCWI to keep asking....her school workbooks! You might want to ask, and keep asking, for your son's books. I can't tell you how helpful they were for us. We were able to see her level of reading (she read to my guide out of the book for 30 minutes and our guide was able to tell us her approximate reading level, etc.) We were able to see her beautiful Chinese writing skills. We were able to determine her level in Math (WAY above grade level here). We were able to see she had learned NO English, although she had an English workbook from school. (She was pitiful in English class in China...every answer was marked wrong. She said her teacher did not know English, and was trying to learn with the class. :) We were able to quickly determine she is very bright, which would have taken us months (or longer) to determine without the books, since she did not speak
English, and we do not speak Chinese. Anyway, those books were very helpful. But another family I know begged for theirs, and received books that had other children's names on them. :( It is still worth a try.

My daughter had nothing from her foster family life...she was with them for 6 years, and like your son, was back at BCWI for about a year, before we met her. She said she left her foster family with the clothes on her back, some fruit her foster sister shoved in her hands during a painful goodbye, and with many tears. :( Her foster family visted her often at BCWI, and brought her food, treats, etc. It all immediately became "community property" as soon as their visit ended each time. I do have to say I understand this concept. It would be too hard for the other children to not get something my daughter had, etc. And in fact, in hindsight, which is 20/20 of course, I would not send anything in a care package that was meant only for my child. I regret doing that. There are too many children "left behind" and it just breaks my heart for them to feel "invisible" when a child receives something and they don't, etc. If I was sending a
care package now, I would send cameras, questions to be answered, and plenty of candy and treats for everyone. I would not send anything personal for my child. (Just my opinion...there are mixed views on this, of course. And I know it is easy for me to say now, when that is not what I actually did then....but I regret that decison a lot.)

And to answer your question about if your son "owns" things at BCWI....
For my daughter, the answer was no. Nothing. She shared everything including clothes, toys, linens, school supplies, even the hairbrushes and toothbrushes!
Again...I guess I understand...can you imagine trying to keep things "separate" with all of those children housed together? And the arguments it would create, etc.?
The only thing she personally had, were her schoolbooks. All the writing in her books, was her writing, and her name was on each book. She said her books were kept in her school backpack, but she did not get to keep that backpack. She was given a brand new one. She treasures her school books, and I am very thankful the staff let her have them. It was definitely worth asking many times, and the extra trip to BCWI to get them.

I know, at first, this all seems a bit tough to hear. But I do want to tell you that my daughter had lots of things available to her at BCWI, including things I did not ever think she would computers, MP3 players, handheld video games, etc. She had everything she needed and wanted (material things) just did not belong directly to her. She had plenty to eat, plenty of showers, a good education, etc. Life is not perfect for any child in an institution. Obviously, China knows that, and therefore allows adoption! But my daughter did have everything she needed at BCWI...except the thing she needed most... a family. The only exception to that is dental care...oh don't get me started on that one. Ugh. TWENTY cavities, some so large that my dentist could not save the teeth (he had to remove 5 teeth, three of which had holes literally all the way through them.) I hope the dental plan at BCWI will get better soon. My guide
told us that is very common in China. She said dental care just is not important to most people there...yet (unless they are in pain)! She said that is slowly changing, which is good news!

Bottom line...BCWI does a good job caring for the older children, in my opinion. And they supply every material thing they need...the children just don't directly own anything.

That is all I can remember right now! If you have more questions, please feel free to email me directly. My daughter still remembers every detail of her transition to the orphanage, and her life there. She remembers much of her foster family life, as well. So if you have questions, please ask.

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