Interview trips are a whirlwind of activity…even on the weekend, there is always something to be done! We spent the past two days participating in something we’ve never done before – host an Orphanage Partnership Training Conference. This may sound dull to some, but this was our opportunity to share knowledge with the people who care for the children while they wait for their forever families! The Guangdong Civil Affair Director even made a small speech, welcoming us and expressing her gratitude for the event. It was our chance to meet face to face with the doctors, caretakers, and social workers who work on the other side of matching these children. With almost 30 attendees over a two day training period, our theme for the training was, “What We Can Do While They Wait.”
Overseas, I always worry about the culture gap. With the upcoming conference, my stress was even more acute. How would our topics be perceived? Would our concern for the children be understood? With two different cultures coming together at one table, I was nervous for the barriers (language, culture, perspective, and more) we would face.
Our medical expert, Dr. Celese, shared her knowledge and experience with needs, medical files, and what American doctors “see” when they look at a child’s file. My worries were slowly fading away as I looked around and saw everyone taking notes and asking questions. Our Q&A session was the most helpful. Without a doubt, the most common question was, “If a child has a particular need, can they be adopted?” Of course, our response every time was, “Yes, yes, YES! Prepare their files and let us advocate!” Many of the medical needs are not completely understoof in China, and the more “difficult” needs can often be easily managed here in the States.
We also held a great panel on how to talk to the children about adoption, specifically so that orphanage staff can prepare the children for this life-changing experience. Our China Program Manager (and local resident expert on adoptions!), Diedra, discussed this at length, and I was happy to see many ” Aha!” moments around the room, especially for seemingly minor things like getting a child ready for different foods or daily routines. We also talked about how to counsel older children on leaving their orphanage and their friends, and that it’s okay to want to be adopted even if it means leaving some things you knew.
I took lead of the discussion on children’s advocacy and kept it fairly basic – photos. We all know that one of the most helpful and poignant things that can get a child matched is a number of good photos. American culture is very different from Chinese, and so I spent some time explaining that Americans smile easily and love to happy children, rather than a photo of a crying or unhappy child. These basic items can be so helpful in us matching a child with their family.Our round table discussion was probably my favorite portion of the day! So many of the people at our conference work with the children day in and day out while they are waiting for their families, and their on-hand experiences with these kids are very useful to the medical experts who document the children’s growth in the file. We hope to see improvement in file preparation and communication as we move forward in finding families for the children who wait.
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