These children are orphans. Many are turned out of the orphanage at the age of 16. Some stay on until the age of 18, but few leave the orphanage prepared for life outside.
Even in the United States, where about 20,000 children are emancipated from the foster care system each year, less than 20% are self-sufficient. Only about half have completed high school. 25% experience homelessness. 60% of the girls have had babies of their own already.
And believe it or not, things look peachy in the U.S. compared to the rest of the great, big world for orphans turned adults.
In Russia, many children leaving the orphanage have never even taken a trip to the store before. 40% become homeless. 30% commit crimes. 10% commit suicide. It’s a grim world for these children.
In many countries, those who survive are faced with a social stigma for the rest of their lives. In Russia they get a stamp on their passport declaring their place of origin the orphanage. Even in adult life they cannot escape the label of orphan. It’s their scarlet letter.
In Russian, children with disabilities are never emancipated into general society. They are considered incurable invalids and sent to a sanatorium for life. An incurable invalid might be a midget or a child missing a hand or a foot. It might be a child born without sexual organs. Those labeled as invalids are often children who have perfect mental and physical capabilities. Differences are intolerable in these societies. Life on the outside would be impossible under the social stigma of a disability.
These children could life perfectly normal lives in the United States but are confined for life to the walls of an institution in Eastern Europe. Adoption is a life-saver for these children.
Many parents choose international adoption just for this reason. They can offer a better-- a much better-- life to a child from an underprivileged country. They can see an angel where others have only seen an invalid.
Hundreds of thousands of children are waiting for families to rescue them from coming of age in an orphanage. For most the wait is futile.
Sadder yet are the potential matches between orphans and families that go unpaired. There are thousands of families with the financial and emotional resources it takes to raise another child. They are willing and eager to care for and love a child as their own but unable to come up with the large adoption fees required upfront. The $20,000 price tag is a hard hurdle to overcome.
Many adopting families beg and borrow enough to cover these initial fees from families and friends. Those who are able to cash in their IRAs or take out a second mortgage are fortunate. Some run up credit card debt to cover adoption fees. Many give up and never consider adopting again.
The road to adoption is steep, but the rewards are tremendous. Imagine giving a child a warm bubble bath before bed. Now imagine that this is a brand new experience for your child. Warm bath water is a luxury many of these children never know.
Even if you are unable to adopt a child yourself you can still make a difference by donating to a children’s charity which offers adoption grants to families adopting older or special needs children.
Tanya Sturman is the volunteer director for A Child’s Desire, Inc., a 501 c(3) children’s charity. A Child’s Desire offers adoption grants to children waiting over a year in an orphanage for a family to choose them. More information can be found at www.aChildsDesire.org
(c) Tanya Sturman. All rights reserved. Printed with permission.