Twenty Three

Recently, I was reflecting on an email I’d received in March that continues to stay in my mind. The email profiled the 23 children from one of the countries where we work, who were matched with permanent families through WACAP that month. I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am to see the descriptors of these children. Ranging in age from 2 to 12, almost half of these children are over 5 years old. I read words including “paralysis,” “congenital disease,” “delayed development,” “Down syndrome,” or “limb differences.” As I considered adoptions historically in a number of countries, I thought about how these children who would soon be joining families were not the “healthy infants” many families had adopted in the past. 

I use quotes around the word “healthy” because it’s an interesting idea for those who work in adoption, or who have adopted. What, exactly, constitutes a “healthy” child? Certainly in adoption, like biology, there are never any guarantees about what lies in store for any child or family’s future. What does a descriptor such as “healthy” really mean? For the purpose of today’s post, let’s agree that “healthy” refers to children without a current medical, developmental, or psychological diagnosis.

A graph that shows a rise in the adoption of children with special needs, and a decline in adoption of healthy children over a ten year span

This graph shows the types of children whose lives were forever changed through adoption under WACAP’s umbrella of services. Note the decline in “healthy” children referred for placement.

We recently took a look back at the children adopted through WACAP efforts, and the data points to our changing understanding of the realities of adoption. As you may be aware, the numbers of children adopted internationally by American families has declined by almost 70% over the past decade. Children who are characterized as having “special needs” have always been waiting for families to choose them, and they are waiting still. Yes, there has been a decline in international adoption over the past decade, but the reality for many children has not changed.

For a myriad of reasons, many children who wait for adoption are not the newborns we often think of, left on the doorstep of a hospital with a loving wish for a better future. The children for whom we advocate come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some families have been ripped apart by abuse, or neglect. These children live overseas and in our own neighborhoods. Their histories are marked by generational substance abuse, or the cultural stigma of disabilities. Oftentimes, poverty has wrecked their chance at life within the context of biological family. Their trauma history will occasionally show itself readily on their bodies; or will, in growing frequency, hide within the recesses of their fragile emotional states.

Their need for a nurturing, permanent family, however, remains the same as that of the infants swaddled with notes for a hopeful future (who also carry traumas of their own).

When talking about the children who wait for adoption, I’m not sure I would describe them as innocents. They’ve seen too much, experienced the worst of our humanity. Thank God their stories don’t end there. At WACAP, we believe that every child deserves a family. We believe that there is a family for every child. We excel in finding families for children described like those above. I believe that these children await a future where they will also experience the very best of our humanity, when strangers become family. They deserve our very best, right? Doesn’t every child deserved to belong? To be claimed by someone who sees not the diagnosis but the potential for life and joy and healing? We say yes! And from the statistics of those children above, there were at least twenty-three families who agreed. Cheers to them! May their futures be bright.

Do you agree as well? Visit HERE to meet more children like these, many of whom have been assigned grants to reduce barriers to their adoption.


WACAP CEO at orphanage in Africa, children gather smilingAbout WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.

About WACAP

WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) is one of the largest and most experienced international nonprofit adoption and child assistance agencies in the United States. Since 1976, we’ve placed over 10,000 children with loving adoptive parents and provided food, medical care and education to more than 200,000 children around the world.
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