What is the life of an orphan like?
The life of an orphan in Eastern Europe, more often than not, goes something like this…
She is born, beautiful, pink, and tiny. She coos, cries, and likes to be close to her mommy. But she has Down’s Syndrome. The doctor tells mom and dad that the best place for her is in an institution, where doctors and nurses can appropriately care for the immense and expensive needs of this flawed child. The mother wants to keep her baby, but the doctor continues to discourage her, filling her mind with thoughts of her child being bed ridden, and the burden of being in a wheel chair all while needing expensive medications and doctors visits, not to mention the shame she will bring to their family. Her parents relinquish their rights, and she is sent to live in a cold and drafty orphanage.
She is only a week old, yet she lays in her crib alone all day and all night. Her hands are the only comfort she has, so she keeps them close to her face and chews on them when she needs to feel safe. She is changed one or twice a day in the crib. She is so uncomfortable lying in a soiled diaper for so long all the time that her skin burns, but they never put any medicine on her. She gets a sponge bath every once in a while… in her crib. She is fed, while laying flat on her back… in her crib. She chokes and aspirates her cabbage water formula into her lungs, but nobody picks her up to pat her back. She continues to eat from her bottle, but since the nurses have cut the end of the nipple on the bottle off for faster feeding, she continues to choke. She chokes during every feeding. She is lucky that she is able to clear her lungs herself. Nobody ever picks her up. She is never held or rocked or sung to or comforted. Her head hurts, she is too little to roll herself over, and her muscles are too weak, so her head is flattening on the back. Her body aches from always being in one position. She often cries for hours sometimes in hopes that someone will come and help her or hold her. She is desperate to feel the warmth of someones arms holding her close. But no one ever comes. She wonders if her mommy will ever hold her again. What happened to all the promises of medical care the doctor was talking about? The doctor was lying. There is barely any medical care here. Her orphanage is one of the worst ones.
She was finally listed on an adoption site! Maybe, just maybe, she will be chosen. So many have scrolled past her listing, watching her precious round face and big brown eyes go right by. She is left to disappear into the sea of “lost children”. She lays in her crib and watches as a few other children around her are taken “home” with a new mom and dad. Why won’t anyone come for me?
She is now 3 years old.
She spends her days exactly the same way she always has, in her crib, 24 hours a day. Some foreign aid workers came to her orphanage and gave her a toy which hangs on the side of her crib. This toy is all she has, and she loves it! Her hands are raw and sore. She has chewed on them for comfort and entertainment since she was a baby, and now they are close to infection, they are so red and raw. But it doesn’t matter. She continues to chew. This new toy helps take her mind off her boredom and gives her hands some healing time. She cannot sit up on her own because her muscles are too weak. She is barely 11 pounds, a product of the very nutrient-deficient formula. She does not know any other food besides cabbage water formula. She hates it. It’s sour and chunky and gross. But it’s the only food she ever gets, so she eats it anyway. The nurses still feed her while laying flat on her back. The bottle nipple hole is still too big and she still chokes. She no longer cries, ever. She has lost all hope than anyone will ever really hear her. No one has ever come for her. She does not know how to use a toilet. She has never seen one. They give her 1 diaper change every 24 hours. Her skin still burns from her soiled diaper. They still never put any medicine on it to soothe her irritated skin. The nurses say she is to be transferred soon…
She just had her 5th birthday. Alone. She is 9.5 pounds.
She amazingly has survived her first year inside the adult mental institution. But barely. She is one of the less than 10% that make it the first year. Her Down Syndrome diagnosis makes it a miracle that she survived this long. They took her only toy away from her when she was transferred. She has nothing… again. The windows in this prison are too high up for her to be able to see what outside looks like, so all she has to look at is the haunting environment around her which she calls “home” . The bars, the suffering, the darkness. She wishes she could see outside. She remembers seeing it once, when they transferred her to this place. It was like nothing she had ever seen before, it was very bright, but it was new, and she liked it.
Her precious, thin little face has bruises and cuts and scars all over it, and all her hair is shaved off. She wants to feel something besides the numb that consumes her. So she lays on her side and bangs her head against her crib bars. She can’t even feel it anymore. Her hands are raw once again. She chews all day and most of the night. She doesn’t get sponge baths anymore. Her skin itches from the filth. She used to love getting her bath because someone was with her, touching her, looking at her, acknowledging her. But that is gone. She lays awake at night, pitch black dark all around her, afraid by all the sounds she hears. People screaming and moaning. The child in the next crib over is choking for breath. His muscles are atrophied, and he can’t move, so he, in a way, suffocates as he lays there. Her life in this dark, cold, scary place is fading. She is growing weaker by the day, and nobody cares.
She, this little girl with no name, has been sentenced to a life inside a tiny crib where she will never be allowed out for any reason. She will never get to celebrate a birthday. She will not ever be loved, hugged, sung to, cuddled, smiled at, played with, tickled, given toys, or spoken to. She will never know what ice cream tastes like. She won’t ever run and play or explore the world outside. She will barely be fed and will know only pain, suffering and distress. She has since suffered a great deal of neglect and inhumane treatment that comes with living in such an awful place. A mental asylum is a scary place for a little child to be. She is not crazy, and she doesn’t have schizophrenia or some other mental issue that may make her a danger to herself or others. Her only crime was to be born into a society which labels her imperfect (like we all are!). She has medical needs, but don’t we all? Stories like hers are not rare. They are not uncommon but, in fact, happen to thousands of children in over 25 countries all over the world. Can you imagine how her life could have been different if her parents were given the chance, the education, and the encouragement needed to raise her themselves? Or how different her life would be if she were adopted by a loving and good family?
Thousands of orphaned children in Eastern Europe are regularly transferred to mental institutions between age 4 and 6 where more than 80% die in the first year. That number goes up to a staggering 90% or more if the child has Down Syndrome! Kids do not even need to be mentally ill to be sent to such a place. Any disability makes a child an outcast in this part of the world. Like in my story above, many, many of these orphanages and baby houses are poor, receive little aid, and the children are malnourished and underweight. That is just where they start out. It gets even worse at the mental institutions.
Children in institutions (other than in Eastern Europe) all over the world may not experience this exact scenario. However, each and every child growing up in an orphanage will most likely live lives filled with loneliness, abuse, neglect, starvation, and sadness. They will all share the similarity of a life without love. A life without freedom. A life without a chance to be who God created them to be. They may never know what it is to giggle out of pure joy or get hugs and kisses from a mom and dad who loves them. They will never get the chance to just be kids. Many of them will die alone and scared.
This is where God has recently placed my heart: to advocate for these kids, to do my best to bring about awareness, and to strive for change in the systems which choose to treat these children in such an inhumane way. I need the support of all my family and friends to make this successful! So when you see a post about a child in need, step out in faith with me and help get these kids stories out there! And please, don’t underestimate the power of prayer!
(The photos of children pictured are as examples,and the scenario above was written by me, not about a specific child)
Thank you for posting that and writing it so perfectly. The last paragraph you wrote is exactly how I feel.
Thank you for supporting what I am trying to do here. I appreciate your words… I am not trying to just upset people, I am creating awareness. Please check out the rest of my blog, I have so much more to share.
I have such a small worldview. Living in my warm, quiet, peaceful little condo, looking out at the woods….life looks so perfect. And then I see this. I just can’t believe how poorly treated these kids are. What is wrong with the adults over there? Don’t they have any heartache at all? Thanks for opening my eyes. I will be in prayer daily for these kids.
Amy, Thank you for prayer, it is more powerful than we realize! Getting the information out there is key! And yes, I too am guilty of drowning in the daily comforts and forgetting that so many in the world are suffering. Did you notice how everyone in the video is dressed in warm clothing and the kids are all in underwear and tank tops with bare feet?! So upsetting!!! Thank you for reading my blog and please share it if you feel compelled!!!
Amy, It’s really just ignorance. They have never been taught or seen what a child with a disability can do. To put it in perspective though, in the US 90% of babies that are diagnosed with Downs Syndrome prenatally are aborted. We aren’t any better. We just kill our young quicker
Debi, You are sooooo right. Abortion is just so “normal” here, I guess that we just deal with it differently. It is sad and unacceptable. although I do have to say that in the US people with disabilities of every kind are given opportunities to to be accepted in society. We have all kinds of laws to protect them from discrimination, we have accessibility laws so every place is some place truly everyone can go to. But in other places like Easter Europe, disabilities are not seen as okay. People are ill equipped to handle raising children with a handicap. There are no real programs to teach parents how to care for them, there are not handicap accessible type modifications to public places and apartment buildings. Doctors literally convince parents that is is not worth while to keep their babies and that they are better off in a state run facility that can “provide the care they need”. Little do the duped parents know their child will be thrown into a laying room, drugged, starved and abuse for their life until they either die or are transferred to a mental institution to live out their days. So sad… Thank you for your suportt Debi!
The truth hurts. Awareness is key. How can we help???
Heather, Yes it does… I was so angry for months after learning about all this. Knowledge is power and sharing what we know is a start! So where to start? Check out the info on my blog… there is a lot of it! But its so much of what I think people NEED to know. Then share what you know, power in numbers (as someone else commented). I am still trying to figure out where God wants me to go with all of this knowledge, and at this point it is all about getting the info out there. Hence, my blog… I will of course post if I come up with any other way you all can help. If you follow my page youll get a notification each time I post. Thank you for your willingness to help spread the word!
Thank you so much for writing this! I shared it on Facebook.
THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!! Sharing is a start for sure!
Thank you for being a voice for these kids! Do you have any info on the child in the picture??
Thank you, for reading my blog… It is folks like you who I need to help share what Ive learned. As for the picture, I do not have any info and with the condition of this little one, I fear the worst. I will let you know if I can dig up anything.
My granddaughter Lindsay Handrich and her husband Matthias Handrich adopted a child from Ukraine…He has been with us now for about 2 years. He looked exactly like the child pictured in your article. He has down syndrome but now he looks like a typical well cared for and loved child.. He has gained weight, has begun to walk, and so many more accomplishments. It makes a GreatGrandmother so proud of my granddaughter and her husband who have undertaken this not so easy task. There is a special place in heaven for people like the Handrichs’, This article was heartbreaking but needed so that people can see what goes on in thes orphanages…Thank you so much
Wow, that is so great of them to do that! It is a huge and scary undertaking and the fact that now that sweet boy is thriving is just beautiful! I have seen and met some of these kids who are brought home half starved to death, sick, or with severely stunted growth, and after a short time in a loving home with plenty of nutrition, they are thriving! They are chunky, healthy and happy little ones and it is incredible to see the transformation as I am sure you know. God bless you and your grandkids!!!
I would be cautious of posting these types of photos, I did and was called a liar and that I photo-shopped them. You (obviously) and I and MANY others KNOW the truth about invalid facilities in UA, but many people don’t want the truth to be told, who (in their right mind) understands that. For 7 years I watched children die at the hands of a director, and when I brought it to the light of the public and media, I was called a liar. The director was never and probably still is NOT interested in providing ‘quality of life’, but he sure likes his new car, flat in India, etc. All the while children deteriorate and DIE in ‘his’ government run facility. Thank GOD, truly, that most have been FINALLY transferred OUT. But posting photos like this, yours and mine, are fine, but we must provide a honest, and reliable way to ‘help them’. I have no idea who you are, who you work with, and for all I know you work with the group that ‘blasted’ me, I don’t care, what I care about is that these children have a VOICE and a right to life. My past actions prove all that. I live in Ukraine, so if I can help these children you photographed, let me know. Here is a sample of our work. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp7t7SGPQ9M&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL3BD7F8E0A2CF3DFC
Teresa, First off, I am so sorry for the terrible things you have had to witness. Having to see what you have and not be able to change it must be hard to deal with. I cannot imagine… The fact that you tried to expose it all is a huge and wonderful thing and the fact that people called you a liar is incredibly sad. Who called you a liar? That is terrible that anyone could see these photos and claim its made up. Who would make this up and how on earth could you fake it? And how could someone be angry at anyone for trying to help these kids? Ugh, this world is so messed up. Teresa, I wished I knew one hundred percent how to reliably help them, but to be honest I am still waiting for God to show me how else I can help. I started this blog, terrified, uneducated and so unsure of it all. What I knew is that i felt God pressing upon my heart to just do it and have faith that this first step in “helping” was the right one. After a long while I began actually meeting people, talking with them, meeting some of the kids and it all started to fall into place. No doubt in my mind I am doing what I should right now (been a year and a half). But it isnt easy to not have all the answers. I wished I did. The good thing is I have so many folks who support me and some who may know some answers. I can assure you I have no idea who blasted you, I dont work with any group and I am just a mom on a mission. I care about these kids too. In fact, if you read my mission or any other area of my blog, you would see that children is all I care about here and not just orphans. I am pressing for change for abused/neglected children of every kind in every situation. Now with all of that said… I am heartbroken seeing your video. I see the faces of my own children there ya know? The fact that you are asking if you can help and you happen to live in Ukraine just may be God working here. Why? These are my friends http://wideawakeinternational.org/vision/ , Kim and Jed are amazing and just moved to Ukraine. Please check out what they are doing and let me know what you think and maybe we can work together on this. Id love to chat with you more!
Can we do something?? Its made me mad too see this.
Kim, I am working on a post to answer this question… First, read my blog, there is sooooo much info on here and it needs to be seen. Then share it. The more awareness we spread the better, power in numbers! And of course, check out my friends who moved to Ukraine to do just that, help. http://wideawakeinternational.org/vision/ Thank you so much for your willingness!!!
I have worked in with people who experience disabilities in Alaska for about 10 years. It has changed here. Change can happen. Keep making people aware and pray.
Thank you for what you do! It’s amazing and selfless work. I just cannot wait for the day when there is global acceptance for people born with disabilities. You keep praying too!
Marie, AMEN! Change can happen, you are so right!
A little love cost nothing.
I have a disability my self and having a life far better then those sweet poor kids in eastern europe. Andrea I appreciate your work very much. Someone has to stand up to this kind of child abuse. I live in the netherlands but god knows how my life was like when born in east europe. I only have mild autism and scoliosis
Thanks for the support! You are so right, love costs nothing… God bless!
These types of articles are exactly why I am adopting I cannot and will not leave my son over there I will not!
It is heartbreaking and true. This isn’t some made up scenario I came up with, it’s a story of truth I wrote to open eyes to see what really happens to these precious kids. Bless you for going after your baby! Bring him home mama! Thank you for the support!
So sad that these kids have to go thru so much pain i wish i could fed them wash them love them God Bless
Thank you for your comment! You and so many others feel the same. Unfortunately not everyone is able to adopt, but we as able bodied people who care can support the cause and help families who are trying to make a child part of there family through adoption. We can shout!!! Thank you Brenda for your heart!
Thank you for giving a voice to the thousands of voiceless children who suffer daily. My oldest son is adopted from Bulgaria and was abused/neglected in these same ways for the first five years of his life. I’m confident he would not have survived institutionalization after he aged out of his orphanage when he turned seven.
Life is hard with him right now (so hard) but giving him a family was the best thing we could have ever done for him.
Please continue talking about these issues. More people need to know.
I write about our son’s abuse/neglect frequently on my blog as well.
Thank you for your comment! I am so sorry about what your son had to go through… No child should ever have to endure such abuse and neglect. I am glad however when each and every child is adopted into a loving home and gets a new chance at life. It is a struggle to overcome such trauma but rest assured that you and others like you are making an incredible difference. I would love your blog link if you can message it to me! Take care of that sweet boy and squeeze him every chance you get! Thank you!
That is terrible! There are so many people looking to adopt children- too look after them and love them. This is shocking and people who do this to children, should find themselves in similar conditions as punishment.
Thank you for your comment! You are right, it is shocking that the most innocent are the ones hurt here. I hope for change and justice just as you do! 🙂
This is mind boggling what I just read!!! My husband and I have such a heart for this. We adopted a little boy from foster care, who I think would have been dead, if it wasn’t for this intervention. I also went to China and worked in an orphanage there. I saw the same type of feeding of the children while laying on their backs and choking. My heart breaks. How can we help? Stephanie
Hello, I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. Thank you for reading my blog! I have not updated much, life keeps me so busy these days.
You have definitely already helped in some of the biggest ways possible. Adopting and orphanage work! The impact from that is huge. As you said, your son might not have lived, and you gave him a real life and love. 💜
You don’t have to hold fundraisers, blog, support adopting families, etc. You can of course if you want, and have the time. It can be very rewarding.
Yes, I have some wonderful recommendations that you can help through. That would be fantastic!
First, Mayas Hope at http://mayashope.org/ . I have worked with Maya and she’s amazing! There are voluteer opportunities both in person and virtually. For example I used to type up files for kids she helps. You can also financially support them.
Another wonderful organization that I have worked with is, https://reecesrainbow.org/whoweare
. There are options to advocate for children and/or families, donate, etc.
Another fantastic organization to look into are my friends Kim and Jed, founders of Wide Awake International https://wideawakeinternational.org/
. Many opportunities there as well and they do amazing work! I knew them locally before they moved to Ukraine, before they’d known where life would take them. They are a big part of my story.
Helping out can look so many different ways, these are just a few. I encourage you to check them all out! I’m here if you have questions! Take care!