I’m not going to try to hide it. This post isn’t like my others- a casual update on how a specific child is doing. This post has a purpose and that purpose is to find Lily a family. If you are not in a position to adopt Lily, you can help by sharing this post, or sending it directly to someone you know who might be able to adopt her. Please join me in praying that her adoptive family will see this and will jump with excitement at the opportunity for her to become their daughter.
Lily is 13 years old and is listed with Reece’s Rainbow and WACAP adoption agency.
Why is it that Lily has been overlooked by adoptive families for so many years? I can only imagine that her list of diagnoses scares them. Not many children with cerebral palsy have been adopted from India. Out of other countries- yes. But India still seems to attract the crowds wanting baby girls as young and as healthy as possible. Lily is not that.
Lily is not able to walk independently, but she runs with her gait trainer! She is not able to talk clearly, but I understand almost all of what she says as I have known her for so long. And the things that she has to say need to be heard!
“Lily, daddy. Coming?”
This is a phrase that she asks me often. In fact, just this morning we were sitting in the sun and out of the blue she asked me again. How do you answer that?! “I’m praying for a Daddy to come for you,” I say. It doesn’t seem like enough. I don’t know what else to tell her. She longs for a father. She wants a Mom too, of course, but something inside her should be a Daddy’s girl and was never given the opportunity. She frequently prays for the Dads of Sahithi, Vignesh, and CK, who were adopted from our home. It is always followed by contemplative silence. I can only imagine what is going on in her head as she thinks of being tucked into bed by strong arms, or being chased on the playground by a Daddy pushing her wheelchair.
She has the heart of a family girl. She has grown up alongside her “siblings” in her group home, and she cares deeply for them. She sobbed with each adoption, as she had to say goodbye, and while the other kids mostly no longer bring up the kids who have been adopted, she does. Every day. She asks to see pictures and prays faithfully for them and their families. She doesn’t ask “what about me?” even though I know she must be wondering it. She is happy for them and delights in looking at pictures. She loves others so selflessly.
Lily is a caretaker. She prays every night for a baby to come to our family, after our most recent “baby” (then 3 years old) was adopted. She is drawn to help those who struggle. Her best friend is Molly, who also has cerebral palsy that is much more involved than Lily’s. Lily never leaves her out of any game. She is the master of inclusion and even though Molly can’t talk, Lily has a way of reading her facial expressions to understand exactly what Molly wants to say. She rocks her baby dolls with care and leans down to kiss their foreheads. Whenever I feel sick, she stays loyally by my bedside praying. Sometimes I will be sitting in the living room and will feel hands on my back, as she comes over out of the blue to give me a back rub.
Lily doesn’t see herself the way the world sees her. When the world looks at her, they see a teenager who has no shot at being chosen for adoption. They see a girl who can’t walk, who can’t speak clearly, and who probably isn’t capable of thinking intelligent thoughts. They are so wrong. Lily is smart. She is a deep thinker and is emotional and sensitive. When her caregivers watch Telugu movies, she likes to watch with them and is known to tear up during the sad scenes. Lily sees herself as a beautiful princess, and I do too. Recently we were watching the movie Frozen and her eyes lit up as Anna was twirling in a fancy dress and singing. She turned to me with joy bubbling up inside and shrieked “Me!!! Lily!!” pointing to the character on the screen. That day was Dinah’s birthday, one of the girls whom Lily grew up with. Later in the movie, as Elsa belted out “Let It Go”, Lily turned to Dinah and pointed to the screen. “Dinah!” Lily loves to dance and she shines on stage. She makes other people so happy when they watch her excitement as she tries out new dance moves with a loud giggle.
I first met Lily 8 years ago and became a house mother in her group home 5 years ago. In a few months, I will be moving back to Canada. I will be back every year to visit, but I know it will never be the same. Hands down the hardest goodbye I will have to say is to Lily. My chest feels heavy and tight when I think about joining the long line of people who have left her. She doesn’t deserve it. It’s not fair. She NEEDS a Mommy and Daddy.
People are scared of parenting her. Scared of having a child in a wheelchair, scared of having a child who will likely need life-long care. But I can tell you from my experience, the challenges are nothing compared to the joy. She is the most special person I’ve ever met in my life. I don’t say that flippantly. Really, she is. She is a world changer, the kind of person who impacts everyone who meets her. Lily’s life would be changed by being adopted by a loving family, but that family would be just as changed having the privilege to know her and love her.
Since I joined SCH in 2013 I have been a part of our Social Work team, which consists of our 3 SCH social workers and myself. We split the tasks and I do a lot of the Carings work; preparing the MERs and CSRs (adoption documents with information about the kids’ health, personality, and milestones) for all SCH children available for adoption, updating photos of the kids, and answering questions from prospective families about specific kids. It’s something I really enjoy!
Following the World Without Orphans conference that 3 of us attended in Thailand 2 years ago, we knew we wanted to take steps towards reuniting some of our children with their biological families, if possible (for many kids we have no information as they were abandoned) and when safe and in the child’s best interest.
We’ve been working together, going through the kids’ files meticulously looking for any clues as to who the biological families are. For some of the kids, we will never know. For others, we have the exact names an addresses, and still for some more, we have a few clues to go off but it will take a little more effort to find them. I’ve been compiling the information and including an updated photo of the child, and then one of our staff members, Sudhakar, is going out into the field to find the families. We have successfully found several families, including families for 2 of the children in my home (not including Mae, whose family we were already in touch with). However, we were not having success with seeing the families actually want to come and visit their child, due to various factors. We recognize that even if the family is not willing or able to take the child back in a full reunification situation (the child living with the family), there may be other options, such as kinship care (the child living with an aunt or grandparent) or even just having a relationship with their family which will help them emotionally. Picture description: Sudhakar with the grandparents of an SCH child. Their faces are covered to protect their privacy. They are holding a picture of their grandchild.
Last week we had our friend Ian Anand Forber-Pratt, of CERI, Children’s Emergency Relief International, come to SCH for a 4-day visit and training. He spent the first day with SCH management, 1 day with our entire team, and 2 days with our social work team. Ian is a social worker who is also an Indian adoptee. He was adopted to the US from India as a baby, and now lives back in India working hard towards deinstitutionalization (moving children out of orphanages and into families). He gave us so many new strategies and ideas and we finished the week feeling excitement about all that is to come! If you are interested in learning more about Ian’s work, check out this video or read THIS article or watch THIS video!
I shared in an earlier post entitled Mae’s Family about how Mae’s father and big sister are involved in her life. Mae has been in our care for 1.5 years now, and we have seen progress in that her father picks her up regularly for 1 night/1.5day visits at his home, and occasionally also picks her up for longer holidays. We haven’t seen much movement past this though. Mae loves her family a lot and we don’t want her to have to stay at SCH her whole life. Although we try our best to care for her as well as we can, we know that children belong in families, and we want that for her.
When Ian was here, we called Mae’s father in and we had an amazing 2-hour meeting with him. Ian speaks Hindi, and although our city is typically Telugu speaking, Mae’s father also speaks Hindi so they were able to converse directly without a translator which made a huge difference. Ian coached us along as we talked to the father and made a plan towards supporting him in the areas that he needs support in to be able to take Mae back into his home. He also taught us about how the majority of the work needs to come from Mae’s Dad. We can’t just provide him with everything he needs. He needs to put in even more effort than us and we slowly need to decrease our amount of support. He gave us lots of tips about how to do this in a way that will be most successful. I won’t go into details about all the things we discussed, but I will say that it went extremely well. Mae’s father felt the support and I could see in the way his tone of voice changed- from being discouraged and hopeless to talking excitedly about a future with BOTH his girls in it. Picture description: Mae’s father, our 3 social workers, and Ian sitting around a table drafting our first agreement between SCH and Mae’s father.
Mae is an incredible kid and we love her a lot. I am going to be honest- reunification excites me in a lot of ways, and it also scares me. I am scared that her father will be out working and she will be left home alone, and something will happen to her. I am scared that no one will advocate for her education with resources for blind children being slim here. I am scared that he will remarry and that Mae’s stepmother won’t accept her. These are real concerns and things that Ian helped us to talk through and work out potential solutions for. I am really excited about what is to come for Mae. Please pray for Mae’s father as he sets out on taking some really big steps in his life to be able to be prepared to bring his daughter home, and pray that he will continue to be filled with excitement and motivation for it, and the understanding that this is what is best for Mae. Picture description: Mae is wearing an adorable romper and pigtails and is smiling at the camera. She is inside a colourful play place.