We have a friend, Carol Oakes, who is in Kunming this week to pick up her son, Samuel. On her tour of the orphanage, she took a photo of Emma (and two other waiting children) to inquire about them.
Here is a recap of the visit:
- Carol said that almost all of the babies there were < 6 mos of age.
- She said that there are 150 children in the SWI.
- She said that there are 550 children in the foster villages (program attached to the SWI).
- She said that ~150 children get adopted each year out of both foster village and the SWI. Note - this is about 20% of all of the available kids. The remainder of the kids may be eligible the next year or may, eventually, "age out" of the system at 14 when they are deemed un-adoptable. So sad.
The bad news --
Unfortunately, Carol was not able to get ANY information for any of the waiting children she was looking into. She was not able to get an update at all about Emma, not even to confirm / deny if she was physically at the SWI.
The good news -
When Carol walked around the SWI, she said her guide made sure she could visibly look at as many of the babies as possible in the hopes of recognition. She did not see any of the waiting children she was looking for. Also, the above picture was taken by Carol. So she was able to tour the orphanage and confirm the set up that we had seen in previous pictures. It is super clean!
In fact, Carol, like so many others, said that the orphanage was strangely sterile, quiet, and efficient. Here is a snippet from a friend who has been to the SWI. Again, I am so thankful to the Kunming SWI for caring for Emma. But I also want to share with others what we know about the SWI so they understand WHY we have no information about Emma while we finalize this process and what Emma has been through when she comes home.
"Kunming SWI (Social Welfare Institute) is one of the great mysterious orphanages in the Chinese system (of well over 1000 orphanages). It is known to be spotlessly clean and efficiently run. A foreign organization, the Sunrise Education Foundation runs the baby room there and most children by one year of age are placed outside the orphanage into foster care. Older children that have severe medical needs remain in the orphanage past the first year of their lives. I've heard mixed reports from families that have been there. Some say that there is a sadness to the orphanage, perhaps because of those who are left behind and perhaps because efficiency seems to dominate over nuturing care for the older children. Others feel the children are warmly cared for. Just one of the many conflicting reports about this highly thought of, inaccessible orphanage. The Director is absolutely famous in the adoption world for her unwillingness to communicate with waiting families. Her reply to any request for updates or pictures seems to be a strong no, with rare exception.
In contrast Kunming's active fostercare program which located in Anning county, about 1 hour directly to the west of the city is highly thought of in nearly every way, a model program. There are several villages that house children from the orphanage with foster families. There are 550 children living in Anning who are part of the orphanage system. The thought is that foster care helps the children experience family life and makes the transition to their forever families easier. They live in families with 2-3 other children from the SWI and are returned to the orphanage a week prior to adoption day."
I will be honest -- it is super frustrating to see other adoptive parents get updates on their children. They send care packages, birthday cakes, get pictures, etc. We realize now we will most likely never get a picture of Emma until the day we pick her up. Carol said she had a picture of Samuel when he was 4 mos old. No other pictures were ever provided. Samuel was 18 mos at pickup time. She said she wasn't sure if she would recognize him. :-(
All of this
(whining) said, I need to put this silliness aside and focus on Emma. She is the one who has been through more than anything I can ever imagine.
She was the one who was left when she was one day old. One. Day. Old. It breaks my heart to think of a mother having to make that decision.
She was the one who was left at 4 pounds on a doorstep somewhere, in the hopes that the government could care for her better than her biological parents.
She is the one that is a survivor. She has been through more in her first year of life than I will ever go through in my adult life. If I don't get a picture, or an update, or a measurement until the day we meet, that is fine with me. God has given be this opportunity to parent Emma and for that I am grateful.
PS - THANK YOU ALL for the prayers for Elisyn. She has had a HUGE first week of being home. Her mother, Jamie, is regularly updating their blog, feel free to follow along. http://www.hopeforelisyn.com/
PPS - no.... I have no update on our LOA. We are at day 30 now (with the wait normally being 30-90 days). Recently, some individuals have been waiting as long as 4 months for their LOA. So we are just going to have to suck it up and hope that we get it in < 90 days. For those of you following my blog that are waiting > 90 days, here is a shout out (note - this is not my picture but is a fellow bloggers' daughter and the paper was photoshoped in!!)!!