Yesterday I did something that was absolutely heartbreaking but encouraging at the same time.
I visited an orphanage about an hours drive outside of Wroclaw. As a mother, my heart was breaking in to a million little pieces. How can someone just abandon their baby? And even worse, an older child! A child who on some level understands, asks questions and wants to know why? It took me the whole day to try to get back to “normal”. The women who work in the orphanage must all have super powers, many are mothers themselves, and their hearts must be breaking on a daily basis. They all deserve a medal. On a positive note, I was really surprised at how clean it was, the abundance of toys and happy colours, I had expected the place to be like something out of those pictures you saw from Russia in the 80’s or the pictures coming out of Romania after its fall. Far far from it. The children are well looked after, 51 children, 50 staff. They are in nice clean surroundings that look like a modern nursery or pre school. There are many many kitchens and children are split in to smaller groups for meals and activities with an “auntie”.
I also felt encouraged, because I really think we can help them. By we, I mean my children’s school, the expat community and people around us.
I felt compelled to offer this home my help many months ago, some of the children were at a school event concert and I couldn’t take my eyes of them. Gorgeous beautiful lovely kids, and someone gave them up! I cant adopt them all, but I sure as hell can try to contribute to making their lives easier in any way I can.
I am not rich, I cant do this on my own, but I have a voice and Im able to ask others for help!
There are hundreds of orphanages in Poland, with an estimate of 80 000 children being in care today. Some orphanages are large, like the one I visited, others are smaller family homes. The children in these orphanages are not necessarily orphans per se, some have been given up, some have been taken from their homes by police or social services, others are in state care while parents are in prison. Some parents just cant cope and their children go to stay in an orphanage for a short while before going back home.
Many of the children suffer emotionally, not just from abuse of course, but the older children from knowing that they were given up.
In this particular orphanage children stay on average 6 months to a year. Some however stay only weeks, and one of the longest staying residents stayed 3 years. The orphanage has children from birth up to 12 years old. Once children turn 12, they must go to a youth home. Siblings are kept together as much as possible. Sometimes they get 4 kids from the same family! In other cases they will get a new baby every few years from the same family….. heart breaking, and social services just cant keep up.
Adoption is under strict regulation in Poland. Law states that children put up for adoption must go to Polish families first. If a child is unsuccessful in being adopted in the first year, then the adoption goes global with people from other countries being eligible to adopt. Catholic families have priority, and then Christians (many of the kids adopted internationally are older and already familiar with religion and Polish tradition, so I guess this makes sense for them to do it like this). Children with health problems or developmental delays often end up being adopted to foreign families, as most Polish families simply aren’t interested or cant support a child with special needs.
There are also age restrictions. If you are below 40 you can adopt a baby, but each year after 40 is the age that the child can be, so if you are 42, a child must be minimum 2, if you are 44, minimum 4 etc. You can be 47 and apply to adopt a 5 year old, and they will look at your case, but generally the rules are not broken.
In the orphanage right now, there is a 10 year old boy with his 7 year old sister. They have been there for two years and have been up for adoption this entire time. They must be wondering what is wrong with them that their real mum and dad left them and now no new mummy and daddy want them either. There is also a very small baby with a cleft palate, (given up because of this??) and a newborn baby girl. HEART. BREAKING. 51 children. Fiftyone.
Generally the children WANT to be adopted, a child who is “not ready” to be adopted would never be adopted against his or her will. The match is made in Warsaw in the central adoption place, then the child and new parent meet a few times before everything goes through. Single women can adopt in Poland, but not men.
The orphanage gets a government grant every month, this money must pay wages (fees for speech therapists and special therapies, psychologists etc) as well as bills, water , electricity and so on. They also must buy anything they need with this money. Food, clothes, school equipment and so on. I asked if it was enough, if they ever worried about being able to meet the children’s needs, and the answer was yes. All the time.
Anyway, less of the heart breaking stuff and more of how we can help these kids!
Many church groups and organisations get in touch with orphanages and help them. They receive many many toys and books, sometimes people just show up and drop stuff, other times its sent in the mail. Clothes are needed at times, but at the moment they have what they need. Christmas was recent and apparently people are very generous at that time of year. I also dropped off a ton of clothes and shoes at my visit, thanks to those who helped me collect those.
There are many things that are always needed and rarely get given. I will give you a list in a minute.
I am getting the PTA in my school involved, and Im hoping we will be able to deliver them a monthly food delivery. Non perishables obviously. This should take some pressure off. If you are in Wroclaw and want to help, get in touch using the message function on my facebook page.
Things they need on an ongoing basis are:
- Underwear (new)
- Socks (new)
- Bedding / blankets / towels
- Baby wipes
- Baby toiletries, such as cream for sore bottoms, talcum powder etc
- Pacifiers (dummies)
- Washing powder
- Cleaning products
- shampoos and soaps for children
- tooth brushes and toothpaste
then they are slightly short of and would need the following:
- Dictionaries english / Polish
- Books for learning in Polish, text books, not blank ones
- paper for drawing A4
- Colouring books
They do not currently need any paints, crayons etc, as they are overflowing, they also have more toys then they can store.
For foods they would like:
- Beans / lentils / pulses
- Tinned foods
- Baby food in jars
- Baby formula
- Long life milk
- Other things that don’t expire to fast can also be added.
If you can help, let me know, I will be going at least once a month, possibly more.
If you want to help the orphanage directly you can, they have a website.
there is also a Facebook page
Do let me know if you can help! Thank You!!
(And yes, I asked if they had any Celiac kids, if the answer had been yes I wouldnt have left without them!)
Edit to add: If you are interested in adoption in Poland there will be many steps to go through, adoption is free but there will be some fees involved in the paperwork process. A family is checked thoroughly before being matched with a child. Orphanages have no say in which family adopts a child as they do not deal with the actual adoption process.
1. Wojewódzki Ośrodek Adopcyjny w Warszawie ul. Nowy Zjazd 1 02-018 Warszawa tel. 22 621 10 70 22 622 03 71 22 622 03 72 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Krajowy Ośrodek Adopcyjny TPD Krakowskie Przedmieście 6 00 – 325 Warszawa tel. (0-22) 425 46 77, 425 46 88 faks: (0-22) 827 78 13 e-mail: email@example.com
3. Katolicki Ośrodek Adopcyjny ul. Grochowska 194/196 04-357 Warszawa tel.: (22) 618 92 45 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org