As most of you know, my husband and I are adopting from Peru. Since it seems like its going to take forever and a day, we decided to take our vacation there this year to soak up some of the culture, and get an idea of what our stay will be like when we return for the adoption. We just returned home last week.
Before we left, we made an appointment to meet with our in-country lawyer and visit an orphanage. We spent the day with him, and loved him. He's so forthcoming and honest, straightforward and plainspoken. My husband was worried he'd be a minimally educated country-bumpkin; I feared he'd be an old, go-along-to-get-along veteran. Both of us were happily mistaken. He's extremely knowledgeable, worldly, and candid, and helped us to understand the process (complete with all its strengths and flaws) better. To top it off, he was a wonderful host!
***Warning! The rest of this post describes the orphanage, in its stark reality. If you are concerned about reading such a description, you may want to stop reading here.***
After lunch, he warned us about the orphanage we were going to: it was run by police in an old jail! It's where children lived right after coming into the system, while they were waiting to be judicially declared "legally abandoned/available for adoption." The whole process was envisioned to take 72 hours--but in reality, takes an average of one year. We envisioned the worst on the ride there.
But truth be told, it wasn't that bad. I mean, it was an orphanage, so it obviously wasn't an ideal setting for a child to grow up in, but it really wasn't that bad. It was a general dormitory setting. It was clean and orderly, and well staffed. Sure it was an old building, but it was generally in good repair. The people working there seemed to be uplifting and committed. They were all very willing to share information with us.
The day we visited, there were 42 kids there. About 10 were 0-2 year old boys and girls; after that age, boys and girls are separated into different homes. Most of the remaining girls were between the ages of 12 and 14. That was the hardest part--knowing that most of these children wouldn't be adopted, but would age-out of the system--and sensing that they knew it too. We showed up during nap-time for the youngest, and free play for the older children. I'd say the general mood was "stillness" (and curiosity about us, of course).
But the children were safe, clean, and well cared for. They were provided with structure and support. While there wasn't much opportunity for education while they were "in limbo" in the system, there was a classroom and time scheduled for instruction. The kitchen and bathrooms were clean. The dorm rooms were perfectly ordered.
What struck my husband was that, although many of the babies weren't sleeping, none of them were crying or fussing. I chock that up to not always getting an immediate response when they do cry. A large proportion of the home workers were in the nursery during nap-time, but I don't think they were all assigned to the young ones. I figured they just spent their time in that room while they older children had their free time.
What struck me was how little personal space and how few personal possessions these children had. They didn't even each have a chest or little closet space. They didn't need it. They had nothing. Anything they did have--maybe a personal change of clothes (I think most was communal) or a stuffed animal--was kept on their beds, which were all made. I also noticed how little space there was in the dorm room for the older girls (there was just enough room between the beds to get by), but I think that's just because they had so many in the same age group at once. The dorm for the 6-9 year-olds had a lot more space.
All in all, it was an orphanage. But if it truly is one of the worst--intended to just be a transitional phase--than I am truly hearted by the conditions. Like I said, it was clean and the children were well cared for by people who seemed to want the best for them. In my opinion, that's far better than living on the streets, trying to scrape by on their own--which is where most of these children were before. I know that there are many things in this description that may be difficult to accept when thinking of your child's living conditions, but both my husband and I came away feeling comforted.
To be honest, the vacation really did me a world of good. It gave me some distance from our adoption process, and helped me refocus on living our lives for ourselves while we wait. Sure, I still think about it. Sure, there are still things we'll need to do. Sure, this feeling of complacency is temporary, but I'll take it for now! We will be matched with our child eventually, but for now, agonizing will not do any good. I'm on someone else's timeline, and I'll just have to wait until I hear otherwise. In the meantime, there are some things I can prepare, but there's no sense making myself crazy.
My birthday was yesterday and the holidays are coming. I'm sure we're going to go through another whole cycle of birthdays and holidays before we're placed. There's a chance it will happen sooner, but I'm resigned to the fact that it may not. I'm not going to lose the next year of our lives because I'm waiting. We will live, and if we are blessed with a child sooner than later, I have no doubt we will readjust our plans in the blink of an eye!
To everyone else who's in for the long haul, let's remind each other not to forget to live while we're waiting. It would be a shame to lose so much of our lives. When I need a reminder, I'll come here. I hope you wonderful women will be able to give me the stern kick I'll need.