Today our adoption agency liaison boards a plane for Thailand, and by mid-week she’ll be sitting in a room at the orphanage with our future daughter.
Twice a year our agency goes over to Thailand to check up on the children they are advocating for and gather new information about their health and development. Because they did not visit her orphanage last year, this will be the first new information gathered about our daughter in two years. This will also likely be the first indication she has that there’s a family in the works for her, and that soon her world will change forever.
I’ve been trying to put myself in our daughter’s shoes over the last few days. She’s thirteen, she has cerebral palsy, she’s spent nearly her whole life in an orphanage and the situation she’s in is not fair. The circumstances of how she ended up in the orphanage are not mine to tell, but suffice it to say that I wish she could have remained with her birthparents. If that wasn’t possible, someone should have come forward in Thailand to adopt her when she was an infant. Our agency began advocating for her when she was four years old, and someone should have adopted her then. Instead she’s had to wait thirteen years for a family: deprived of a basic right every child should be able to take for granted.
It makes me angry to think about how long she’s had to wait; because of her cerebral palsy she’s been passed over for far too many years. It's hard enough to make people understand that we enjoy parenting the child with special needs we already have; let alone trying to convince them of our reasons for adopting a second disabled child. There’s a pervasive idea in society that persists despite the strides made for people with disabilities over the years: that children with special needs are somehow defective or less desirable than so-called “healthy” infants, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of adoption.
Our daughter never should have been placed in this situation in the first place. I would like to think that under different circumstances-- with better education of her parents and more access to support services-- that our daughter would have been able to stay with her birth family wouldn't be in a position where she'd need to be adopted. Thailand is worlds ahead of many other countries in regards to their services and treatment of the disabled and they are moving in the right direction, but—just like the United States-- they still have a long way to go. As a result many families end up feeling overwhelmed and place their children in government institutions like the one our daughter and hundreds of her peers currently reside in.
I remember how terrifying it was for me when I found out that Connor was going to be profoundly different from the "normal" child I had been picturing in my head. I try to imagine feeling that and then dealing with extreme poverty and bleak prospects on top of that, and it's a little easier to understand why our daughter's first parents might have made the decision they did.
But regardless of whether or not she should have been in this position in the first place, what's done is done. At some point in the (hopefully near) future our daughter will be starting a new life with us.
I worry about how she’ll cope with the transition over the next few years, but I’m hopeful that she’ll be resilient enough to make the change. The last thing I’m going to do is underestimate her abilities.
She deserves better than that.
You can find Jess daily at her blog, Connor's Song.