As our fledgling foster program grows, one of our goals is to provide a community for children and their foster parents, where folks can have fun together and connect with those who understand their situation better than most.
This includes outings in the parks during warmer weather (which we are all longing for now…), with volunteers coming along to toss a ball, sit in a bumper car, or chat with the adults.
These outings always have an element of surprise, like most things do in China.
This particular time, I was hanging out with some people when a lady came across the lawn with her baby and her mother.
I recognized the child as someone I had seen in the clinic a few weeks earlier, to assess some developmental delays and provide some input.
I wondered aloud how on earth they ended up in our gathering, and a foster mother standing next to me said she met the family on the street one day and struck up a conversation since they both had a child with special needs, and had invited her to the park outing to meet some other nice people and share about the source of her joy and faith.
I was thrilled to see this young mother, who had moved from another province here with her child and mother to work, engage in conversation with her new friends.
Unfortunately parents who have a child with a disability here are often greeted with blame and feel intense shame because of their child’s condition.
The stigma is very tangible.
One person told me that a family lives in their apartment building on the first floor, and they have a son about 20 years old who has a developmental disability.
She said the parents only take their son outside after dark so they don’t have to face the looks and comments from their neighbors.
For 20 years.
Maybe our efforts are very small, very grassroots, but we believe that in the apartment complexes and neighborhoods and parks where these brave men and women live who have taken in an orphan, even one with a “problem,” can be the stirrings of change.
Already we see the fruits of people encouraging each other, and connecting with others who are struggling.
Last month some parents who have children with cerebral palsy (not orphans) attended a support group meeting hosted by another group in town doing outreach to these families.
I attended, as did two of our foster families who are both caring for boys with cerebral palsy.
The most poignant moment of the day was when a mother of a girl who had been born prematurely, turned to a foster mother and said, “You’re so great, choosing on your own to care for such a child.”
The foster mother responded fervently, “You’re the one who’s great, since you chose not to abandon your child to begin with but decided to keep her.”