Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Teach the children well

Allow me my rantings . . .

This week I read here about an eight-year-old boy in Maryland who pointed his fingers like a gun at a class mate who pretended to shoot him with a bow and arrow as the class studied Native American culture. The "gun"-toting boy was suspended for "threatening to harm self or others." Although his "gun" was found to be unloaded, his crime was on par with bringing an actual weapon to school.

A five-year-old Pennsylvania girl was suspended for ten days for making a "terrorist threat" with her hot pink Hello Kitty bubble gun she and her friend were playing with as they pretended to be kitties.

A ten-year-old boy was taken into police custody in Virginia for showing his friends on the bus his toy gun  with an orange tip purchased from a dollar store. Hardly a look-a-like gun.  He had forgotten to take it out of his backpack from the weekend of play. He was charged with "brandishing a weapon" and fingerprinted.  He now has a juvenile record and a probation officer.

We throw the book at these youthful "offenders," punishing them to the fullest extent of the law, and then some.

On the opposite end of the power spectrum, wealthy businessmen, powerful politicians, superstar entertainers and athletes are given passes for their proven behaviors of lying, cheating, stealing, drug use, prostitution involvement, extra-marital affairs that often result in children out of wedlock, dalliances with young women in their employ, and the list goes on. These indiscretions are called "personal." Not only are their moral lapses forgiven but they are often elevated to a position of super stardom as political experts, high-paid speakers, narcissists who are immune to rules and punishment and consequences for bad behavior.  These are role models for our children. So now we circle back to the children.

Common sense is called for instead of this Keystone Kop lunacy. This from a country where directions on irons say, "Do not iron clothes on body," and on a portable stroller, "Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage," and my favorite (?): on a motorcycle helmet-mounted rear-view mirror, "Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you."

Really? What must other countries think of us?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

If the Russians love their children too

In 1985, the English musician and songwriter, Sting, released a song entitled Russians (song and lyrics found here). I remember where I was when I first heard the chilling lyrics that ended, "What might save us, me and you is if the Russians love their children too."  Sting was writing about the threat of nuclear war, but the plague of being orphaned has devastated the children of Russian far more than war. The song's mournful chords and poignant words brought quick tears to my eyes. It also apparently planted a seed deep in my heart. It would take 17 years for the seed to germinate and deliver, at the age of seven, my youngest son, Roma from Russia.

In 1992, at their annual Spring concert, my eldest daughter's fifth grade chorus sang Song for a Russian Child, (found here) commemorating the fall of Communism. I stifled sobs, thankful for the dim lights. No one around me seemed so "touched." (Admittedly, I am a crier!) I think God was foreshadowing what was to come, softening my heart for the children of Russian. The particular Russia child He would send to me wouldn't be born for another two and a half years, but He watered the seed.

When Godless Communism inevitably failed, generations of Russians were optimistic, but untrained in love and altruism. (During the height of Communism, only 6-10 % of the population could be labeled as "believers in God.") Almost 800,000 Russian orphans are the consequence. Ninety-five percent are "social" orphans, meaning they have at least one parent who has either voluntarily turned them over to the state-run orphan system, or who has had their parental rights terminated by the courts. Less than 3%  are considered for adoption by Russian families.

Orphan Care Resources (OCR) is equipping believers to care for orphans, and thus, correcting the broken system. In light of Putin's pending ban on American adoptions, the success of OCR is just in the nick of time, as if God has heard the cry of his people and devised an alternate plan for His cast-off children. With the help of OCR, Russian and Ukrainian Christians are stepping up and being trained to answer God's call to take care of their country's forsaken children.

Recently compiled 2012 data (from the Russian OCR website) reveals hopeful news:
  • 60 new training events advertised
  • 67,862 potential adoptive parents who attended motivational events

  • 24,000 prints resources distributed
  • 3,049,434 hits on website, compared to 671,000 in 2011
  • 1,150 people receiving regular resource and event updates, up from 400 in 2011
  • 1,554 prospective parents attended pre-adoption training.
  • 561 children placed with families
  • 948 parents received post-adoption counseling

I pray the 3% of Russian adoptions by Russian parents mushrooms at such a rate that we cannot miss God's hand in the transformation.  As these new parents embrace God's call to take care of the "least of these," they will discover what Godless Communism could never teach them: the joy that comes from love, sacrifice, and obedience to God's call, when the Russians love their children too.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pure and faultless religion

On our best days, we Christians strive to line our hearts up with the heart of God. Tall order, no doubt. In our search to find the Divine Will, we cannot avoid that unambiguous verse, James 1:27, that defines pure and faultless religion as taking care of orphans in their distress. Since we don't  often encounter orphans, their uncomfortable reality is easy to avoid.

I am not an expert on adoption, but I had a crash course during our adventure described in  But the Greatest of These is Love. After that enlightenment, I cannot go back into the darkness of ignorance.

The statistics are heartbreaking. My knowledge is limited to Russian orphans, but, tragically, there is no short supply of orphans anywhere in the world.

The Russian Children Welfare Society reports,
  • 740,000 orphans live in Russia, a troubling number that grows by 113,000 per year, according to UNICEF.
  • Less than 3% of those children are being considered for adoption by Russian families.
  • Approximately 95% are "social" orphans, meaning they have at least one living parent who has relinquished them to the negligent care of the broken state system.  
  • The number of orphanages in Russia in 2012 was 2,176, up 100% in the last decade. The facilities often lack basic necessities such as heat, running water, and functional kitchens. 
According to the Russian Ministry of Education
  • 1500 children leave the orphanages each year, usually at the age of 16 or 17, as they "age out" of the system, poorly equipped to function in society.
  • 50% fall into a high risk category after graduation.
  • 40% became involved in criminal activity.
  • 10% commit suicide.
  • 33% remain unemployed.
  • 20% become homeless.
  • Only 4% are admitted to universities.
According to the Ministries of Internal Affairs
  • 2.5 million children born in Russia are homeless.
  • 50% of Russian children are born into poverty.
  • In the last decade, the number of children in Russia has decreased by 4 million. Over four times more abortions are recorded than live births. 
  • 617,000 Russian children are disabled. Twenty babies a day are born to HIV mothers, two of which will be abandoned at birth. 
  • 70% of medical equipment in hospitals are outdated or broken. 
  • 60% of Russia's youth are in poor physical or psychological health.
  • Only 15-20% of newborn Russian babies are considered healthy. 
These statistics paint a dismal picture of innocent children at risk—the "least of these."

Yet, God has promised that he will not leave us orphans. What is our responsibility, now that we know the facts? This knowledge becomes more important, now, with the ban on American adoptions pending in Russia. This political move will devastate the children languishing in orphanages, especially the handicapped ones, who are warehoused in asylums, left to die, starved of human contact, even those with minor physical handicaps.

I invite you to watch this heartbreaking, yet hopeful Dateline report The Boy From Baby House 10, a true, and perhaps typical account of the life of a boy in an orphanage, except Vanya is one of the few who make it out of the system, due only to a few people who took an interest in him.

If your heart is tugged to help, and it will be if you have a pulse, please consider getting involved on some level with an orphan care organization, such as Orphan Care Resources. One hundred percent of the profits of my book will be donated to some type of orphan care, including OCR and direct gifts to hosting and adopting families.

What can you do to help?