Monday, April 30, 2007

11 Filipino Orphans Looking For Homes

( - Their résumés are short, just a few lines, and they are grim.

Abandoned at 2. Lived on the street until age 7. Taught by his mother to steal for a living. In foster care until father got out of prison and abused him until he was 4.

There are bright spots. Studying violin. Skillful in drawing. Appeared in a detergent commercial.

And all are from the Philippines and counting on someone to adopt them, warts and all.

International adoptions are common in the United States. One organization, Hand in Hand, which has an office in Albion, has long helped facilitate these adoptions by bringing children to the United States on what was called a vacation. Once here, orphans would be paired with host families interested in adopting. Over a couple of weeks, the potential parents and child could get to know one other.

The vacation strategy helped potential parents deal with what was a grab-bag approach to adoption. In Ukraine, for example, people wanting to adopt had to go to the orphanage and choose a child out of a book. They were then introduced to the child and expected to quickly decide whether to adopt. There was never a chance to get to know the child, and the orphanages provided little information about the children.

By presenting the trip to the U.S. as a vacation, the hope was that children wouldn't have their hopes built up and then dashed if they weren't adopted.

In just the past couple of years, for example, 14 children were brought to Fort Wayne from Ukraine, and 12 were adopted.

Then, just days ago, Russia, one of the major sources for American families wishing to adopt, called an abrupt halt to foreign adoptions.

Orphans aren't unique to Russia and Ukraine, though. They're all over the world. Hand in Hand is also trying to find homes for Filipino children living in orphanages, and 11 will be coming to Fort Wayne this summer. In the next couple of weeks, the organization hopes to arrange for a host family interested in adopting each of the children.

There is one major difference between children coming from, say, a Russian orphanage and those from the Philippines. The Russian and Ukraine orphanages offered little information on the children, other than their ages.

The children from the Philippines, though, come with full backgrounds. The backgrounds are often sad and often include tales of being abandoned, living on the street, abuse and mistrust born of being abandoned, abused and rejected.

The descriptions aren't completely grim. One 13-year-old boy has won awards for his art and appeared in a commercial for Tide. Another is studying the violin and performs dance. One has undergone counseling to deal with his behavior but is regarded as having good leadership qualities. Then there are the two sisters, both abuse victims, described as sweet and playful. The older one, 11, watches after her sister, 6. They want a mom and dad.

No one is trying to kid the children. Most are in the 11- to 13-year range, and unlike children who have come from Russia in the past, they know this isn't a vacation. They are old enough to know this isn't really just a trip to a day camp in America and have been told that the trip to the U.S. could result in their being adopted.

Many of the people who adopt these older orphans are people who have had children who are grown, says Vickie Truelove, administrative director for Hand in Hand in Indiana.

Truelove isn't trying to kid the parents, either. Families that are interested will be given a 35-hour class in which they are made aware of all the problems that can arise, particularly when dealing with children who have lived a life of abandonment. Families also undergo a home study process.

That is why the organization is hoping to arrange host families by early May.

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