One of the great things about having an orphanage is that the moment a child comes into your care, you know their life is going to change. By the time they get to us, virtually every other option has been exhausted. We try to do what we can to make this the very best environment for kids that we can while they are with us. We feed them well (we like fat babies), we educate them, we develop them, and most importantly, we love them. For this reason, one of the first things we do when we receive a new child is to work on their exit strategy.
As good as an environment we can offer, and as much love as we can give, this does not compare to a forever home. We strive to make our orphanage as family oriented as possible, and I am papa to many as Amy is mama to the same. We are very intentional with our affection, and purposeful with development as any family would be. But even with all this, we are and institution. We could never be a true home for these children. So we quickly bring them in, and diligently work to get them out!
Some are easy. A healthy new baby comes in who has lost their parents, or whose parents do not have the capacity to care for the child. Easy! Papers get signed, the child is in the system, and quickly people line up from all over the world to adopt their new cute little Jimmy or Julie (or more accurately Bassirou or Latifatou.) Then there is the child who lost his or her mother in the birthing process which statistically happens in 10% of all pregnancies here. The father not always able or willing to care for the child, yet does not want to sign away the rights to that child either... this is more difficult. We work diligently with Social Action and speak with, and some times go toe to toe with, the father to do what is right for the child. Not as easy, but it's an exit strategy with some work attached to it. And then we have special needs kids. This is any child that may have a handicap or, as we see more and more, the child may be infected with H.I.V. We have had 3 children this past year with H.I.V. in our orphanage and this is where we see God shining more than ever. All 3 of these kids were quickly adopted! People seem to be lined up for kids like these. We have a young boy now, who is blind, deaf, and possibly has mild Cerebral Palsy. Came to us at 3 days old, in failure to thrive, premature and hours, if not minutes, away from a very short life. But Harouna is now being adopted into a "SUPER WOW FANTASTIC" type of family in the U.S. that are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their newest little gentleman!
But what do we do when things are even more difficult. What if that handicap is so severe, there may be little to no hope for an adoption? We are still finding the answers to this question. We recently received an angel named Sonia. An amazing little girl, with severe handicap. We do not know the extent of her abilities or inabilities. We believe she suffers from severe Cerebral Palsy or something similar, and may or may not be deaf and blind. Amy and I know a few families in the States who had and have angels like Sonia. I was privileged to know and care for a boy named Brandt when I was just 12 that was very much like to Sonia. Our pastor has a beautiful young lady named Amber who shares a similar if not the same handicap. Each family I have known has loved their child with a deeper love than I could even comprehend, but that did not make their job as a parent any easier. Having a child like this changes your life. It is not easy. And looking from the outside in, most would never choose to endure most of these hardships.
Social Action came to us thinking we would never accept a child with this condition. This could be a life long commitment. There may not be an exit strategy for someone like Sonia. We were not even the slightest bit hesitant! This IS why we are here! This IS the least of these! And God IS the king of Exit Strategies! This one goes far beyond our abilities, and we really could never plan and exit strategy for this. This just like every other, from the easiest to the hardest, is a plan for God to design, present and accomplish. So we wait with great expectation!