Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Reality for Older Orphanage Boys

This is a post I contemplated whether to write or not.  Decided that others probably would like to know as well.  Know what?  What it is like when older boys adopted from an orphanage come home.  How is it to leave their "pack."  I call it a pack b/c they tend to be more like wild animals at times.  Now, that may sound harsh or rude but I will explain the why of it all.  This is going to be one of those blatantly honest posts so watch out.  You've been warned.

This all stemmed from the other day at Sam's.  We were in the check out line and the kids notice the video cameras.  Alex was explaining about stealing and how the police would come, etc.  Video cameras are how they catch you.  Logan pipes up and says he's not afraid of the police.  Reni then informs us that in Shumen Logan used to steal all the time.  Steal from stores.  She told us how he did it.  Reni then made sure we knew she did not steal.  We explained to him what would happen to him here if he stole.  See, over there, it is pure survival that kicks in in an older kids' home.

Once the kids are transferred to the older kids homes, different things happen w/ the genders.  We have adopted Yana out of an older home as well as Logan and Reni.  All the rest were at childrens' homes.  When they hit the older kids' homes, the chances of ever being adopted are pretty much nill.  Even less for an older boy.  This causes a sense of lost hope.  Lost hope that someone will care for you.  Lost hope that you are wanted.  Lost hope that you'll have a life outside those orphanage walls.  Just lost hope in general.  Lost dreams.  These kids, yes they are indeed kids at ages 7 & 8yo, are then forced into older thinking of survival mode.  What do I do to survive here.  What do I do to be accepted.  The girls once they leave an older kids orphanage will go into prostitution.  Really, they don't have a choice.  they are kicked out at age 16.  No money, no family to live with, no job skills, what exactly are you supposed to do to survive?  It's the reality of orphanage life.  So, when they come at tender young years, they are witnesses to many things kids should not see.  Things that most of us I'm sure have not seen till college years.  Not saying every single orphanage is this way but trust me, a vast majority of them are.  Talked to enough parents over the years as well as heard the tales from my kids.

Now boys.  Boys can go into the military.  Though most, most will end up on the streets.  I can't remember the stats but I believe most orphanage kids die w/in two years of being released from the orphanage gates.  Sad reality.  Living on the streets doing drugs.  It's the reality for older orphanage boys most of the time.  I think Logan was setting up for this reality.  We trust him a point.  In the beginning, we knew this may be the case.  We knew he may have been exposed but we did not know to what extent.  Now we do.  Our job as parents is to mold him into a respectable young man.  It is a process.  First, they must know they are safe.  Second, they must know they are loved.  No matter what they do.  Yes, sometimes this one can be hard for adoptive parents.  There is no quick fix.  No on/ off button.

I know Logan drank coffee.  He also tried to order alcohol when at a restaurant in Sofia.  I have not asked him if he smoked.  But, an older orphanage boy in EE is likely to.  Though, he did not at all smell like smoke when we picked him up.  They are taught to lie.  Having two RADishes and many with FAS, I can spot a lie a mile away.  I AM a polygraph test.  Police departments should hire me.  Logan is no different.  It's learned behavior over there.  They must un-learn it once home.  That's what we are doing.  Logan's life was not headed in the right direction over there.  Not a bit.  I know that sounds horrible to say about your own son but it is the reality of orphanage life for older boys.  This is why it is critical they be adopted.  Critical they see what real family life is like and real love.  Otherwise, as adults, they will not be able to give it.

I know many talk about what it would be like in institutions when kids are transferred.  Some of my kids were headed to those mental institutions.  Nik was to be transferred to one in the very same month we went on our first trip to see him.  But I feel it is also important to talk about what happens to the older boys and girls of orphanages if they move on to a 'typical' orphanage.  Their life is hard.  They are to fend for themselves most of the time.  For the girls, this is when you have someone in the group step up and take on the roll of 'mother.'  At 15yo.  They enter these homes around age 7yo.  Not nearly ready to experience adult life but that my friends is what they are exposed to.  Imagine, your 7yo, first grader, exposed to smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.  Can  you just imagine it?!  It's something many don't talk about.  I think we should.  It has a dramatic effect on the kids.  Trust me.  It's life long. The boys go into a "pack."  They stick together and typical challenge each other to do not so safe or legal things. There is a sense of safety in numbers.  That's pure speculation on my part.  I think they feel like they belong.  They don't have family so they have to get that attention/ love from somewhere, some how. 

Do you know what Yana's "group mother" (14yo) said to us when we came to pick up Yana?  She was in tears and said " you gave us hope.  Hope that someone will love us.  Someone would want us."  They were all in tears.  Yana was the 8th girl adopted from that 30 years.  This was back in 2004.  They were all standing around crying, directors, kids, caretakers alike.  Us too.  It was deep raw emotion.  Hope.  That's all these kids want.  It's what you can give them.  So many sit and wait for families. Healthy kids, just older.  Need love more than anything else in the world.  Family life. 

Wanted people to know the reality for older orphanage boys.  Not saying it's a cake walk once home but it is a life worth living, that's for sure.  When considering kids, consider the older ones.  Boys wait longer. They may seem super duper tough on that exterior but trust me, once inside, they are truly just little boys wanting to be loved by parents.  On the first trip in Bulgaria, all Logan wanted to do was hold one of our hands the entire time.  Something my other 11yo now would never be caught dead doing. LOL.  But to an older orphanage boy who was never given that experience, it is a deep desire to feel a mom or dad's touch. 

There are many, many older orphanage boys available for adoption.  Many.  Waiting for the opportunity to say good night to mom and dad.  To not have to look over their shoulder at night to see if someone would slap them in the middle of the night.  This happened to Reni and Logan.  She told me in the middle of the night, the older kids would randomly come in and slap them.  They both sleep peacefully here.  As a child should.  They won't have to worry when they are 16 where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep at night.  They will have skills and become productive members of society.  They will have place in a family forever.  They will go to the doctor when needed.  They will have dreams.  They will have hope.  They will have love.  Please, please consider adopting an older child from an orphanage.  Many wait.  He waited for 11 years.  11 years:

11 years he waited.  Surely headed for a life of crime.  Trust me, he did a lot of not so good things over there.  Now look.  A life redeemed.  He is now in a family.  Braiding his sister's hair.  He is not stealing.  He is not doing mean things.  He is playing with his brothers and sisters daily, participating in a soccer team(starts March 3!), changing his attitude and not throwing things any more, and so much more.  There is a lot to be said for the last 3 months for Logan.  Tons of changes.  To do this, we have completely cut off his old life for right now.  He will be re-connected but not till we feel he can do it without regressing into old habits.  He is in a good place now.  He's safe, he's loved.  He is full of hope.  Just as every 11 year old boy should be.  He has a future, full of possibilities.  Please consider giving an older orphanage child a future.  No child should go through life without hope.  I know there are many, many fears about adopting an older child.  I had them too.  However, the good far outweighs the bad.  Every time.  There are thousands to choose from.  I'm sure just one is right for your family. 

1 comment:

  1. Stephanie,

    I have tears in my eyes and now I worry about our son who we are in progress of adopting from Bulgaria. He's deaf and just turned 7 in January. Does this mean he will be transferred to the older boys home? Thank you so much for talking about older boys in the orphanages. It will give me some insight on what we will be facing when we meet our son for the first time.