Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fujian Training on Special Needs

Last Wednesday and Thursay, we held the first provincial training on our new special needs manual. Honestly, things could not have gone better. We were told that normally about 50 people attend trainings when they are offered in province, but when the orphanages heard what the topic was going to be (helping kids with medical needs and then learning how to file adoption paperwork on kids), over 100 people signed up. Orphanages from all over Fujian province arrived on Tuesday night, and the training sessions began at 8:30 Wednesday morning.

The first sessions were led by Dr. Bao from Shanghai Children's Medical Center. He covered the topics of neurological issues, bone, muscle and joint issues, and ear and eye issues. All of the aunties and staff listened SO carefully, taking notes and asking questions so they could give the best care possible to the kids in their care with those conditions. Even after his session was finished, he was surrounded by aunties asking more conditions about specific kids in their orphanages because they wanted to make sure they did everything right.

Following his training, the head of SCMC's nursing department, Nurse Meng, gave her talk on feeding and colon issues, failure to thrive, and how to care for babies post surgery. Finally, it was Dr. Qiu's turn. She is a heart surgeon at Zhejiang Children's Medical Center. She had prepared a detailed powerpoint on the care of orphaned children with heart disease, and once again, a crowd of aunties surrounded her after her talk to ask her specific questions on the kids in their care. Even though the day was long and went past the dinner hour, no one minded because they wanted to take away as much new information as possible. Several staff even asked for it to please be longer!

One particular orphanage director really touched all of our hearts. His wife had given birth to a baby daughter the night before the conference, but he still came to the training because he has so many children in his care in need of medical help and he thought he could not miss this opportunity to learn how to help them. He asked question after question of our team, and when I learned that he has more than 8 children with heart disease, 5-6 with cleft lip and palate, 3-4 with spinal tumors....as sad as I was that he felt he had to leave his wife right when they became a family, I could not help but be touched by his dedication to the children in his care. We are ordering echoes and testing on all the children he is so concerned about. (photo of director included) He is so excited by the possibility of his children having the chance to find their forever families.

The second day of training involved the topics of nutrition and special needs adoption. Jan Champoux, our nutrition director, began the day discussing the importance of good nutrition especially pre and post surgery. When she said that there were cleft bottles available to any interested orphanage, there was a mass race to the side wall where the boxes of bottles stood. Soon everyone had bottles to take back to their children with cleft. Then I presented a talk on special needs adoption and how orphanages can better prepare children's files so that parents have the most information possible when they make adoption decisions. We held a question and answer session following the meeting, and the questions from orphanages varied from "what is international adoption?" to "do you really think a child with special needs is adoptable?" Soon orphanages were asking specific questions of us, such as "there is a little boy in our orphanage, age 2, who is clever and cute but who is missing a foot.....is he adoptable?" or "there is a 12 year old girl in our orphanage who is so intelligent and wants a mother but she has epilepsy....is she adoptable?" Over and over we replied, "yes....send their file", "yes, a family would love to adopt a child with missing limbs, "yes, healthy girls age 10 are adoptable." My heart was full of happiness that so many new orphanages were going to be trained in how to file the paperwork on the children in their care.

After the training, so many orphanage staff came up to me to thank us for doing such a "practical" training. They all agreed that it gave them real information that they could take right back and apply to the kids. They also asked us when our next training was because they want to come back for it! :-) In fact....several officials told us this was a training that should be held in every province. I assured them that when I find that proverbial money tree....that should definitely happen! I would love to see every province educated on the reality that almost every child with special needs IS adoptable.

I am just so grateful to everyone who allowed this to happen....from the One World Orphanage Trust in the UK to the officials in Fujian province and our wonderful hosts in JinJiang city. I am so happy thinking about how many new children in Fujian province will now have the chance of adoption. The whole entire trip was worth it just for this training, but there is still so much to report on other days as well. Stay tuned!
Amy Eldridge