Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day Four Together- Orphanage Visit

We woke up and headed down to breakfast and then met Penny, our guide, in the lobby at 8:30 a.m.  We got in the van and headed towards Nanping, the city our daughter is from (or at least the city where she was found abandoned).  It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Nanping from Fuzhou.  We went through a lot of mountainous regions, which meant that we had to go up to a higher elevation and through a lot of tunnels.  Every so often you could see towns off the interstate- very different looking than in America.   We stopped half way for a walk/potty break.  This was our first time using a squatty potty.  We walked into the restroom where there were many doors.  Once you picked a stall, you walked in and found a porcelain square on the ground with a hole in the middle.  You squatted down to go and there was nothing to sit on or hold onto.  You then put your tissue that you had to take in with you into the garbage basket inside the stall.   They flushed automatically.   We were told that Chinese people feel they are more sanitary then having everyone sit on the same toilet seat.  However, they do have toilets like ours in their homes and in hotels.   Back on the road.  Right as we were getting into Nanping, it started raining.

We got off the exit and headed into the city.  Nanping looked to be a pretty large city, though not as large as Fuzhou which has 7 million people- we are pretty sure that we are the only Caucasian people in this city! We certainly stand out.  We took some video footage and it wasn't long before we pulled into a parking spot. Over a retaining wall to our right was the orphanage.  We got out and headed towards the gate.  The gatekeeper and her children were super excited to see Lena and to take pictures of her with us.   The little girl wanted to hold her.  Mrs. Huang was then waiting for us and took us towards the first building, which was where the kids 'went to school.'   The 'teachers' and nurses were waiting for us- many came outside to see Lena and hug her.  She seemed excited to be there, which isn't always the case for kids returning to the orphanage, but we later learned why.   She was so excited that she kind of ran off on her own, going off on her own for the first time since we've had her.  Most of the time she refuses to walk and puts her arms up to be picked up.

We went into the classroom, where there were about 5 toddlers wandering around and 3 or 4 school-aged kids- all of whom were slightly mentally delayed and many who had physical impairments which caused them to not be able to walk.  They scooted around on the floor, likely paralyzed from the waist down.  There was also a boy who is 5 years old who is waiting on the shared list for a family.  He goes by Hui, but I have advocated for him as Hayden.   He appeared to be healthy (more details on him later).  I gave them all a sucker and we blew up some balloons and beach balls for them to play with.  We gave the remaining suckers and bubbles we brought to the teachers.   The kids, especially the boys on the floor, looked like they couldn't get the suckers and balloons in their hands fast enough...they tried to grab anything they could from us as quick as they could.  It broke my heart.  This would be the first of many things here that would break my heart.   I spent quite a bit of my time in there taking pictures and video of the 5 toddlers that were in the room because they all had their paperwork in process to be registered for adoption.  Two of them were Lena' best friends- two girls named Pan Pan and Yi Han.  I can't remember what their special needs are at the moment- I know the one for sure had a surgery and since she is now post-op, she is considered healthy.  The other one was just a doll- a bit scared of us, but adorable!   Next was a little baby girl who had a form of a congenital nevus- skin that grew out from under her chin, on the side of her face, and on top of her head. For my advocate friends reading this, she reminded me of Daniela who we are advocating for.  Despite the nevus, she was absolutely beautiful!  She was a happy baby and Rick got her to laugh by tickling her.  She has the cutest 4-tooth baby smile.  The fourth little girl was a baby with down syndrome.  She is able to stand and she was just a sweetheart!  Her paperwork is just getting started so it may be a bit longer for her before she is ready to be listed for adoption.  The other 3 that I mentioned and the next one I am about to talk about have their paperwork at the CCCWA- China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption in Beijing....the last step.  The last girl with paperwork in process was called a 'fat baby' by the orphanage.  I didn't know what to expect when I was told that by our guide, but she was actually very large for a 2 year old- she had a huge head and was quite overweight.  I am guessing she has a condition with her metabolism.  I have heard about this before, but now of course cannot remember what it is called.   They said she has a very big appetite.    Leaving that room was very hard for me- I gave each child a kiss or gentle stroke on the forehead and couldn't help but tear up, trying my best not to full out cry.   I couldn't help but think about the fact that Lena was the lucky one.  She was getting out of there and had a family, even though she has yet to fully understand the joys of both of those things. And here these kids were, some soon to be waiting for a family to choose them and some never to be registered for adoption because they have a 'mental illness' or a disability that the orphanage feels is too great for them to ever be chosen by a family.  And I forgot to mention that the room was not that clean looking and there were very few toys or objects in sight.  Heartbreaking....but sadly, it just got worse.

We then were taken to meet two more boys who have been waiting on the shared list for a long time for a family.  One is Ming- I advocate for him as Micah.  He will be 8 years old in October and he has choroidal detachment- he is blind and cannot see anything.  We got some pictures and video of him.  It seemed they wanted to put him back into hiding once we were finished- as they rushed him back off to wherever it was that he came from.  He was a happy and sweet boy who just needs a chance- a family and access to resources for children with visual impairments that he will never have in Nanping.  He would thrive in a school for the blind/visually impaired if a family happened to live near one.

The third boy waiting on the shared list is Li- I advocate for him as Levi.  He is almost 8 years old and looks to be a bit cross-eyed (easy fix with a patch or glasses).  His listed special need is post-op congenital right torticollis.  He has had that surgery a long time ago and though one shoulder might have been a bit lower than the other, it did not affect him at all.  He had a lot of energy, didn't seem to care for, and his best friend is Hui who I mentioned earlier as Hayden.  We got good pictures and video of all three boys.  Hui and Li were allowed to come with us to the next room.  They both spoke and got around very well.

We were then taken to a room with the director and the assistant/children's director, Mrs. Huang.  Lena had run off to her room to find her special nanny- boy was she fast we almost lost track of her.  Evan chased after her and Rick went after Evan.  I followed the others to the room we were supposed to go to.  Evan, Rick, Lena, and her special nanny (known here as an ayi) eventually headed over to the building as well.  Lena's ayi- Wen Xuemei, an older woman, carried Lena in- she was obviously thrilled to see her again.   I embraced her with a big hug.  She had cared so much about our daughter and had a special place in her heart for her for sure.  She also brought a baby boy over who I took pictures and videos of.  He was adorable and I believe he was post-op for a sensitive special need...not much of an issue at this point.  It was clear that this nanny had a special place in her heart for this little one as well.

They showed us a video about the orphanage and the facility. I wished I could have had a copy of it, but they said they didn't have any extra.  It was hard to pay attention because there was a lot going on in the room.  They had fruit on plates that they wanted us to try, the two boys were running around, and there was a young man who had aged out on his 14th birthday and lost his chance at finding a family.  He had decided to stay at the orphanage.  Kids who aged out here could leave the orphanage when they turned 18 and be on their own or they could choose to remain at the orphanage and probably help work there. This young man wandered around the room too.

The staff wanted a family picture of us and they also inked Lena's hand in red (interesting how she totally let them do this, but threw a fit about it at the Civil affairs office when they had to do it) and put it on a page that goes in a book with pictures of all the families who have come to the orphanage.  We saw the Barkey family from Canada in the book who had traveled to Nanping in March to show their daughter where she came from.  They had met Lena and got photos of her for us.  The staff had us write our names and Lena's new full name on the page as well.  They will attach our family photo and add our page to the book at some point.  Lena had a few meltdowns in this room- I think from being passed around to various staff members.  She liked many of them, but it was clear her special nanny was her favorite person. She wanted nothing to do with us while at the orphanage.

Back to Evan running off to chase Lena.  He found Lena in her room with her nanny and told me about a room he saw where there were three 'BIG kids' (in his words).  According to Evan, two were about 5 years old and in a crib together.  There was also a 'much bigger kid' in another crib.  These boys must be 'mentally ill.'  This is the term they use in China.  This is going to be a memory that stays with Evan forever- he was definitely surprised by what he saw.

After the video and everything else, we gave a special gift to Lena's head nanny and some smaller gifts to the staff to give to the other nannies who may have had contact with our daughter. We also gave the director a gift as well.  We spent a little more time with Li and Hui before they were taken back to their rooms.  They were giving Rick and Evan high-fives and Hui had Rick pick him up.   This was so hard to watch because it was clear how much these boys want a family and that they would make great sons and brothers to someone.  We then had to wait to go over to Lena's room because the rain was very heavy.  They brought umbrellas for everyone and we headed down some stairs and over to Lena's room.  Her room was on the first floor.  We were told that there are approximately 55 children in care at the orphanage, about 7 or 8 for each room and for each nanny- all of which had special needs.   Her room was much tinier than I had envisioned.  The smell upon entering was very strong and a smell like none you have ever smelled before- very unpleasant.  In that room was a child who had to be at least 4 or 5 in something that looked like a high chair from McDonald's.   His legs were so thin it was scary.  He was likely mentally challenged.  There was a very small crib, probably the smallest crib I have seen, with the little baby boy who the nanny had brought over when she brought Lena to us.  Then in a crib behind that was one baby in a crib and another crib with two babies in it.  They laid on their backs on pieces of plywood.  Each of those three babies in the back cribs had a strap- like a bracelet and an anklet which were tethered to the crib.  It allowed space for them to move a bit, but not enough to stand up and fall out.  I have read that in the winter these types of devices are used to help hold the blanket down over the baby to keep the baby warm and to prevent the baby from suffocating via the blanket.  Penny said that Chinese people believe that a baby needs to be covered past the stomach to prevent them from catching colds.  After seeing this, it was clear to me why Lena and her friend Hannah (who was adopted this past spring) have such flat heads.  They had obviously spent much time on their backs on a piece of plywood- much like these three babies.   It was not clear to me whether these three babies were mentally challenged or not, but they were not ones who had paperwork started or completed.  :(  Penny said that they usually do the paperwork for those who they think may find a family first and that they can only do one child's papers at a time.  Because it takes so much time, they do as many as they can.  She thinks they may do paperwork for some of the children with mental delays, but not until the others are done.  Who knows if they will ever do it. :(

We then asked which crib Lena slept in.  This is when we learned a lot about her and her personality.  Since she was one of the nanny's favorites, her crib was in the room right next to the room with the kids I just metioned.  This room was an even tinier room that was the nanny's private room.  It had the nanny's bed and Lena's crib.  I think she spent most of her time in that crib, but she may have even slept with the nanny at times- I am not sure.   We were told that now that Lena has a family, that the baby boy who she had brought up with Lena (who was now in the tiny crib), would be the next child she gave extra special attention to and kept in her room with her.  Taking all this in...we are certainly glad to some extent that she was a favorite- she may have got more attention and love, which helped her to create a bond and attachment to this nanny.  This will ultimately help her to bond and attach to us.  However, it was also clear from what we learned at the visit and from a prior video that she was a little bit like the orphanage bully- she hit other kids and wasn't nice to other kids and often got away with it.  She did swat at Rick once and was scolded a little by her nanny.   She also was able to run all over and kind of rule the roost, it seemed.  I think this is why she is so stubborn (more than one person told us she is stubborn), whines a lot, and part of the reason why she thinks she can get what she wants whenever she wants it and just how she wants it.   Hopefully the positive will outweigh these other things in the long run.  Things are not going to be quite like this at home, so I think she is in for some big surprises.  Time- that is the key.

We really weren't in that room for long- it was seriously a blur.  It was like they wanted us in and out of there as quick as possible.  I don't think they wanted us to see some of the things we saw and they definitely didn't want us to get it in pictures or video, but I do think I got some on video.  It will be a good thing to have for the future- for that I am sure.

We were then taken out.  Lena was a mess at this point.  Mrs. Huang grabbed her and they jumped in the director's car.  We were taken out the gate and got back into our van.   This was definitely not ideal circumstances.  I do not think it was good that Lena went in a car with them- but I didn't really have a say or choice in that matter...sigh.  We headed to a restaurant in the city for lunch with the director and Mrs. Huang.

Thankfully, Lena came back to me well once we got to the restaurant and she sat in my lap great the whole time.  We saw a very neat tea table, hand-crafted with wood, and then were taken into a private room with a very large round-table.  We all sat down and were first given some peanuts and sunflower seeds.  Lena loved the sunflower seeds (probably the salt) and seemed to sort of know how to put them in her mouth and get the seed out.  They passed around a bottle of Coke- about 1liter in size.  We poured it into very tiny glasses.  I think it is obvious why Asian people in general are smaller- their containers and portion sizes are much smaller.  McDonald's cups and fry containers are even smaller than ours.  Then came the food and it kept coming and coming and coming.  None of it looked like anything Evan or I would eat.  Rick is the try-everything kind of person so he was fine.  The first dish was some oysters or mussels, that looked like shells that you had to crack open.  The staff seemed to love them!   Then was a whole cooked chicken, cut into pieces- head, feet, and all.  The director took half of the head- the side with the comb on it.  He ended up choking on a piece of bone and had to excuse himself to get it out.  That was interesting.  Then came some pork slices with little cooked bread.  I enjoyed the bread! :)   Next came some duck soup.  Then were some ribs that were more like very-well seasoned bones with not much meat on them.  Lena LOVED them!  She had two or three.  There were some rice- cake like things on the plate with those.  I had one of them.  There were some steamed green vegetables.  There was a plate of some beef tips that had a bird made of out a carrot- that was actually pretty cool looking.  There was a river fish on a plate- lots of small bones in it.  There were very fine noodles as well.  Some of the dishes had some beautiful flowers on them.  There might have been more dishes, but I can't remember all of them.   All of the dishes were put on the center of the table, which was glass and spun around like a lazy Susan cabinet.  You could also manually move it to get something you wanted.  Evan basically ate peanuts, sunflower seeds, and drank Coke.  I had a couple rolls and some peanuts, along with some Coke.  Mrs. Huang seemed worried that I didn't get enough to eat.  She also complimented me and told me that I was a very good mom.  That was very nice to hear.  Rick had eaten a little bit of everything.  They ended up packing up all the extras to take back to the orphanage -probably for the staff.  On the way out, we saw an area that had some animals in it, including a beautiful duck in a cage....can you guess where that duck was going to end up?  : (

We then got in the van and headed towards the spot where Lena was found abandoned.
She was found at the bus station of Shiyan Kindergarten on Binjiang Road on March 22nd, 2010 by a police officer.  They took her to the Nanping orphanage and estimated her birth date to be December 12th, 2010- making her 3 months old if they were correct.  There was no birth note or any objects found with her.  She was dressed in a baby suit and wrapped by a small yellow sweater.  We were given those two things on gotcha day- treasures.  We got out and took a picture of the kindergarten and then of the place that used to be the bus stop, where she was found.  It had since been moved up the street a little, but the area was easy to see still.  It's hard to imagine being in the spot where a mother took her child, knowing this would be the last time she would see her and not knowing what would happen to her.  I cannot imagine what was going through her mind, the feelings she has harbored deep inside her heart that will likely remain with her the rest of her life.  I am sure there is not a day that goes by that she does not think about her daughter and the choice she was likely forced to make either due to the one child policy, to wanting a baby boy, and/or because of her special need and not having the money or resources to be able to care for a child who is deaf (most likely).  Penny had told us a lot about the medical care in China and how expensive it is, as well as the fact that China does not have the resources necessary for children with special needs.  The social welfare system is so much better in America compared to China.  Being at Lena's finding spot was a bit surreal, like the rest of the day, but I was able to say a little prayer for her birth mother and take a moment of silence.

It was then time to say goodbye to the director and to Mrs. Huang- we exchanged hugs and handshakes and promised to stay in touch.  We then got in our van and were off- time for another 2.5 hour ride back to Fuzhou.  Lena took a nap on my lap and we took a pit stop about half way to Fuzhou again.  We arrived back around 5:00 p.m. to our hotel where we just hung out for awhile until bedtime.   What a day!  A lot of emotions and a lot to process- but overall very glad we did it.

My new goal is to find a family for as many of those 8 kids who are paper-ready or almost paper-ready as I can.  I want them to know what it is to have a forever family and to get them out of that place that provides far from optimal care and living conditions.  I left forever changed.  I told Rick in the van on the way back- this is why we are doing what we are doing.  This is why we answered God's call.  Every child deserves to know the love and care of a family...a FOREVER family!

The drive to Nanping.

The orphanage entrance -view from the street in front of the retaining wall.
The page to the right is Lena's hand print with her new name and our names.  The page to the left is the family who visited in March and got to meet Lena and get pictures of her for us.
Lena with her special nanny or ayi.  Her nanny got her to eat a hard boiled least we found one food she likes! 
Evan outside the Kindergarten school- near the bus stop where Lena was found abandoned in March, 2010.

Some of the kids waiting for a family from Nanping.  I will be adding a few more later!
This handsome baby boy, I will call Kai.  His DOB is April, 2011.  His paperwork is also currently at the CCCWA and he should be put on the shared list very soon.  He is post-op for anal-atresia.  I have video of him, as well as his Chinese name and full DOB.   He will be given special care now that Lena is gone- he is the new favorite of this nanny.  He will sleep in the room with her and be doted on by her- she is very loving. 
This child I will call Pandie.  She is one of Lena's best friends.  Her paperwork is currently at the CCCWA and she should be hitting the shared list very soon as well.   She was born in July 2010.  She has had some surgery I believe, but is deemed healthy now.  I am not sure if she will end up in the SN program or not.  If so, she will likely be listed as LID first for sure since she is now healthy.  I have video of her, her Chinese name, and her full DOB.
This sweet girl is also one of Lena's best friends.  She was born in Aug. 2010.  I will call her Haleigh.  Her paperwork is currently with the CCCWA and she should be hitting the shared list soon.  Her special need is post-op renal deformity.  She is a doll!  I have video of her and also have her Chinese name and full dob. 
This sweet boy has been waiting on the shared list for too long already.  He is wonderful!  I call him Hayden.  He is 5 years old and would make a great son and brother!   He is very smart, good talker, fine developmentally, and very sweet.  He would love to be loved on!   He has a great smile and loved giving high fives and being picked up by my husband.  He knew his way around the place and was excited to show us around too.  His best friend is Li or Levi who is also waiting for a family.  He was born Jan. 2007 and is post-op congenital proctatresia.  I am so happy to have gotten lots of pictures and video of him because his last update was when he was just a little baby!  I have his full dob and Chinese name.  I pray to find him a family!

I will be adding pictures of Li aka Levi and Ming aka Micah soon!  I have video of both of these boys, as well as their Chinese name and full DOB.

Levi was born Sept. 2004 and is post-op torticollis (he may also need his eye patched or glasses- seems to have cross eyes a bit or something like it).  His file is from when he was 2 years thankful to have gotten updated photos and videos while there!   He was a sweet boy full of energy- very excited to see us and show us around.  Loved my husband and son- would make a great brother and son too- his best friend is Hui or Hayden above!

Micah was born Oct. 2004 and his special need is choroidal detachment.  He is blind and cannot see at all.  His file was last updated at 3 years of age.  I was so glad to get pictures and video of him.  He was shy and quiet with us, but very sweet and he had a great smile!  He needs a family to unlock his potential and give him a chance.  He would do great at a school for the blind/visually impaired...or even at a school that accommodates well for a child with VI.   He lives with a foster family, but was brought to the orphanage just to meet with us! :) 

This is Megan.  She was born July 2009 and her paperwork is currently at the CCCWA.  She should be hitting the shared list soon.  She is listed as having obesity and is said to have a big appetite.  I am guessing that she has a metabolism issue or condition, maybe thyroid issue??   I have heard of a metabolism condition before- just cannot think of what it is called- rare condition.   Having a doctor or specialist review her file may help determine this.   I have her Chinese name, full DOB, and video of her as well.   



  1. So wonderful that you have this insight into your daughter's early life. It will be so helpful as you adjust at home. What a change this is for her. So thankful that she had someone to dote on her, praying for the other little ones.

  2. brooke your writing is's as if i was with you guys at the orphanage. this will be very important for lena to read one day. my heart aches for all those children who won't be given a chance to be adopted because the orphanage deems them not adoptable...this is something i am aware of but breaks my heart.

    sounds like your the perfect mama for lena.

    thank you so much for taking time to take pictures & videos of some of the other children.

    your going to be working with me one day i just know it.


  3. It is awesome to follow your journey and I can't wait to see the pictures and videos of the kiddos. God bless you for all you do :)

  4. Oh what a blessing to understand her past and where she came from. I originally wondered if Megan had Prader Willi syndrome - the biggest key will be whether you thought she was mentally delayed.

  5. Such a blessing to have gone there and see where your sweet girl has been living.

    You are so right regarding "that's why we do what we are doing". It breaks my heart to leave any of the children behind. They all need homes! God Bless them...