The orphanage in town has been closed to outsiders (including, ironically, our medical team) for the past couple weeks due to H1N1 disease going around.
But before the doors shut at my last visit there, we found a little 18 month old guy with 2 bruises the size of golf balls on his forehead. The caregiver told us, “Oh, he gets those all the time from banging his head on the crib.”
We were able to work with the nurse and order some bloodwork on him, and found out he has a severe bleeding disorder called hemophilia. In fact, tracking down some old records, he had a history of a bleed in his brain earlier this spring and was in the hospital prior to arriving at the orphanage.
So one of our hopes is to arrange for him to get the necessary (expensive) routine infusions of replacement Factor VIII and convince the orphanage director that he would seriously benefit from being in foster care.
There are currently a lot of restrictions due to political and economic and other factors that strongly discourages this orphanage (and many others) from permitting the children to be fostered in private homes. As a pediatrician and child advocate, it is frustrating for me, but I have to learn to accept the system, and work with it instead of wanting to fight it tooth and nail.
Of course, part of that includes achieving language fluency so I can communicate with these people myself without sounding like a harebrained idiot…Patience, patience!
Another orphanage a few hours away has had a water shortage for over 6 months, and so is not allowing any visitors–least of all our medical team–because any recommendation we would make (such as feeding children more) would lead to more water usage in every aspect. Such as mixing more formula, washing more utensils, leading to more urination and more poop being generated by the little people.
This despite the fact that the likelihood of serious illness will probably only go up as fall and sick season is approaching, and children are persistently dehydrated and increasingly malnourished.
There is no easy solution to this situation either–but our dream is that all the children in the orphanages with which we have a relationship would be able to live with foster families in the community.
To that end, we are ramping up our foster parent education and support measures, since there are a couple more of us who have a desire to strengthen that part of our organization’s efforts.
We are putting together a packet for potential foster parents and are preparing to survey those who are current and past foster parents with our program for gaps in what has been done to support them.
We are also looking for a person to fulfill the role of social worker and coordinate follow up visits with the families on a regular basis to provide support and trouble shoot issues as they arise.
There are 3 or 4 children currently who will be available to be fostered in the coming weeks, so these efforts are very timely and necessary. We are hoping that more local (i.e. nonwestern) families will rise to the occassion and consider taking an orphan into their home.
As you read this and go on with your day, please keep this situation in your thoughts! We are grateful for so many in other places who have this heart for these most vulnerable children.