Shop the fall collection ➔

My husband and I have always longed to adopt. In fact, our second date included a trip to our local Wal-Mart where we purchased food and clothing for the children orphaned by the earthquake in Haiti. I was a single mom at the time with a budget so tight circus performers could have walked it as part of one of their nightly acts. So when I carefully pulled three worn twenty-dollar bills from my pocket as we neared the checkout that night, my now husband pleaded with tears in his eyes for me to put them back. He knew what a contribution like that would cost me. “No,” I told him. “Take the money. I want to feel the hurt on their behalf.”

We held hands for the first time that night. We also talked about adopting together for the first time that night. I truly believed we were the kind of Americans who understood the plight of orphans.

Not long ago, my husband and our three children sat around our dinner table. My health issues have prevented us from adopting, but we’ve done all we’ve known to do to support orphans and adoptive families. That night, my oldest mentioned a friend of our family. She was adopted from Ukraine and spends a good deal of time snapchatting with my kids. Somewhere over the course of our conversation, I made a comment about Cassandra’s life in the orphanage before she came to America. My kids sat stunned. More questions followed. Tears flowed and a sobering understanding filled the room. However, our conversation left me with more questions. How could my teenagers, who lived in a home where we discussed things like adoption and the vulnerability of orphans to trafficking, poverty, and social justice not have any clue what it was like to live in an orphanage on the other side of the world? Are Americans blind to the plight of orphans?

With her parents’ permission, I invited Cassandra over. I asked her to tell me about her life in Ukraine. You should know that when I first met Cassandra three years ago she seemed perpetually afraid, small, timid––as though she were attempting to withdraw further and further inside of herself until she was invisible. Her eyes darted about, and although her name was one of the few words she spoke in English, she always looked down as she spoke it. Today, as Cassandra takes her seat on my red couch, she is unmistakably her. Her beauty stops you in your tracks. Confidence in her own skin radiates from her being. She laughs. She smiles. She chides you as needed. She is a joy to encounter and a woman transformed. I notice as she speaks that she no longer looks like a girl who has known unspeakable pain. But she has.

Cassandra’s biological mom took more interest in drinking than in caring for her and her two younger sisters. Since her father was long since gone, she was sent to live with grandparents who often starved her because “Mom should feed her.” When they decided they could “care” for her no longer, they asked her if she would like to go to camp. Delighted, she said yes. Except the camp was an orphanage where she and her sisters would spend the next four years of their lives (barring, of course, the eight months she spent alone in the hospital with TB so severe she could have died).

When I ask Cassandra about how she’s changed since being adopted she cries and says simply, “Jesus.”

I was outraged after Cassandra and her parents left. How could anyone treat children so poorly? I thought about how Cassandra said she felt loved, special, and safe now. I want that for all orphans. It scares me to consider what might have happened to Cassandra had Ralph and Kelly not adopted her. Knowing that sixty percent of the children who age out of orphanages in Ukraine will be trafficked and that Cassandra had compared her first orphanage to a prison intake facility, I couldn’t help but feel like Americans really might be blind to the plight of orphans like Cassandra.

Later, I sat down with Axel, president of Global Commission Partners, a non-profit organization with five orphanages across the globe. It is here, sitting in a black folding chair across from this peaceful man with broken English as he tells me the stories that “aren’t the bad ones,” I realize I have been blind to the plight of the orphan.

Axel starts by telling me what has become familiar to me in my research over the last few years in resources like Half the Sky and Nafarious: Merchant of Souls. He says that often in places like India, where 1.2 billion people reside and words like poverty are an unspeakable understatement, children often start “working” as young as seven or eight. For boys this may mean manual labor or being a messenger, and for girls it almost always means prostitution. Sometimes a family may sell off a few of their children to traffickers to survive.

In some of the villages of Thailand, he says it’s common for traffickers to come in and offer to find work for the children. Once taken into the larger cities, they’ll be trafficked and never seen or heard from again. Other times the traffickers are more forthcoming about their intentions, and the children are sold just the same.

Axel tells me about a friend of his who built an orphanage in India. Within a month the building was bursting at the seams. A thousand children slept on the floor, and there was never enough rice to be found. And yet, for three days and nights four children stood outside the gates begging to come in, wailing and crying because they hadn’t eaten. They knew what their fate would be if they didn’t make it in. The orphanage director said no, they could barely take care of the thousand children they already had, but his wife said she couldn’t bear to watch them die and took them in.

At this same orphanage, a woman arrived one night, beating the gate with her fists, screaming for someone to come and take her infant son. She knew he would surely die otherwise. But the orphanage was overflowing and ill-equipped to care for infants, so no one came. All night she screamed, she begged, knowing the orphanage was her son’s only chance. Finally, in protest, she dug a hole in the sand and buried her baby boy in the ground in front of the orphanage gate.

I need to stop here for a moment and be honest with you all. I just bought my kid a hoodie from American Eagle for forty dollars. Do you know how much it would have cost to sustain that buried infant’s life for a single month within the orphanage gates? Twenty-five dollars.

Axel tells me that a Burmese missionary sometimes rents a two-bedroom hut with his wife and children and takes in seven to eight orphans. The orphans love this because it’s like having their own family. The cost to sustain them per month? Two hundred dollars. Oh, and they’ll run a church congregation of forty to fifty people from that same hut. Do you know I sometimes spend one hundred and twenty-five dollars to have my hair cut and colored?

Are Americans blind to the plight of orphans? I can only answer for this one. And the answer is yes.

 

* The names of some individuals have been changed for their protection and privacy in this article.

Stacey Philpot

Stacey is an author, goofball and avid reader. You can find her blog at http://chronicallywhole.com/ where she endeavors to encourage other warriors like herself along in their journey of battling for health and discovering wholeness. She is mom to Hayden and Avery, stepmom to Julie and wife to Ryan (a smarty pants who works at NASA and logs their whole life on spreadsheets and pie charts, true story!) She has a strange affinity for eating whole meals in bed (don’t tell anyone) and is convinced smelling old books will make her smarter.

3 Things We Learned While Waiting For Our Adopted Child

In: Adoption
3 Things We Learned While Waiting For Our Adopted Child www.herviewfromhome.com

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage. Remember that old nursery rhyme? I can still hear it playing in my head. Growing up, I had always assumed that would be my story. The love and marriage part certainly happened for me in an amazing, storybook ending kind of way. However, the baby in the baby carriage didn’t come as quickly for my husband and me. As a few years passed, we began to feel a little restless and disheartened. However, God opened up His perfect plan for our family by leading us to...

Keep Reading

I Chose Adoption For My Baby, But I Didn’t Let Go

In: Adoption
I Chose Adoption For My Baby, But I didn't Let Go www.herviewfromhome.com

  I am often asked, when people find out I am a birth mother, “Why did you decide on adoption? Didn’t you want her?” In the tidy nutshell version of my response it was the logistical factors of being pregnant at just 16-years-old that was my why. Being a junior in high school when I saw those two pink lines in October of 2004, I still needed to graduate, plus I wanted to attend college. I did not have a job to support us. In fact, I did not have my driver’s license or even the few dollars it took...

Keep Reading

Dear Mama Reading This Right Now, You Are Amazing

In: Adoption, Child Loss, Miscarriage, Motherhood
Dear Mama Reading This Right Now, You Are Amazing www.herviewfromhome.com

To the one with healthy children in your lap, YOU are a great mom. Whether you work full-time or stay at home, you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated every day, but especially today. You sacrificed your body and your own well-being over and over again and I know you don’t regret any of it. You are enough and you are appreciated even when you don’t feel it. To the one holding a child someone else carried inside of her body, YOU are a great mom. Whether you faced infertility, surrogacy, chose to adopt, or have biological and adopted children,...

Keep Reading

4 Things a Birth Mom Wants Adoptive Families To Know

In: Adoption, Journal
4 Things a Birth Mom Wants Adoptive Families To Know www.herviewfromhome.com

The minutes on the hospital clock dwindled as I swaddled my infant daughter one last time before she was permanently placed in the arms of her adoptive family. In those final moments, I thought my heart might shatter into a thousand slivers without any hope of being mended. I was broken. Scarred. Devastated. When I left the hospital without my baby, it felt like someone was pounding on my chest with both fists and I couldn’t catch my breath. The emptiness that followed was inconceivable. A piece of me, my daughter, was gone. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of my...

Keep Reading

No Matter Life’s Season, God Provides What We Need

In: Adoption, Faith
No Matter Life's Season, God Provides What We Need www.herviewfromhome.com

When my husband and I adopted our older daughter Lilly 15 years ago, she was nine-months-old and weighed about 17 pounds. That might not seem like much, but she was a chunk of a little girl—so much so that people we met in elevators and restaurants in China often mistook her for a two-year-old. I had worked on my cardiovascular fitness in the months leading up to our adoption trip, and my regular runs on the treadmill prepared me to traverse the Great Wall with relative ease. My upper body strength, however, was a different story entirely. My arms and...

Keep Reading

Acknowledging the Loss in Adoption

In: Adoption
Acknowledging the Loss in Adoption www.herviewfromhome.com

  “Don’t do it! Adoption is the worst!” His voice echoed through my entire body, his words hitting every unprepared bone, and I clutched the full glass of ice water ready to plunge it in his direction. There were hundreds of people in the darkened bar room, on dates mostly, sitting in the crowd enjoying the comedy show. My insides twisted and lurched, I heard nothing but the reverberations of laughter, and my mind kept envisioning myself walking over to him and punching his face in. When the comedian began working adoption into her show, my body began tingling and...

Keep Reading

Adoption Is Love

In: Adoption, Journal
Adoption Is Love www.herviewfromhome.com

  I pull around in the car line and scan the group of kids for my daughter. Usually, I can find her easily, chatting it up with her friends as she waits for me to pick her up from school. Today, though, I don’t see her. I look again and I finally spot her. She is slumped on the curb, her head in her hands and her eyes downcast. My momma radar instantly goes off as I watch her slowly get up and drag her feet to the car and I can tell that something is wrong. She slides into...

Keep Reading

The Ache While We Wait to Adopt

In: Adoption, Faith
The Ache While We Wait to Adopt www.herviewfromhome.com

  There’s a persistent ache, but sometimes I can ignore it. I can turn up the volume of what’s around me and drown it out for a bit. I play hostess and invite the noise to come in: come fill up my heart, come fill up this empty nursery, come fill up this planner. I’ve got two kids, and they are experts at noise, so my days are full of it, and it works. The noise narcotizes the ache, making it manageable, day by noisy day.  In my former life as a teacher, I used to make my students write...

Keep Reading

How Being Adopted Made My Husband a Better Father

In: Adoption, Journal
How Being Adopted Made My Husband a Better Father www.herviewfromhome.com

My husband’s earliest memories of his adoptive mother are as blurry as the black and white photos he has taped inside a leather-bound family album. He recalls the gentle hands that tucked him into bed each night and the smell of her lavender scented soap, but these memories are intertwined with the last and most painful of all: sitting on the cold hospital steps, muffled whispers in the hallway, and the tight grip of his adoptive father’s hand as they made their way back to the car without his mother. Death was an abstract concept that he was unable to...

Keep Reading

Adoption Has Made Me a Better Mama

In: Adoption, Journal
Adoption Has Made Me a Better Mama www.herviewfromhome.com

I remember etching our family plans into a napkin at our two-year anniversary dinner. We were eating at Rio in Sisters, Oregon and I couldn’t wait to get back to the little cabin we had rented to watch Harry Potter and dream about babies. Weird combo? Probably. First we would conceive and carry a miracle baby in my actual womb. Then after a bit of time had passed, after we got “the easy one” birthed, we would enter into the adoption world. I think back to my barely 20-year-old self and think about how naive she was—I still only have...

Keep Reading