Last night, as my husband and I were driving to a friend's house to hang out by the pool, we were discussing Jack and how lucky he is that he is such a popular fellow. So many people have been taken in by his beautiful smile and the heart-rending description of him on his Reece's Rainbow page. Seriously, who can read that and not fall in love?
But Jack was not the only boy on the HIV+ 10+ Reece's Rainbow page. There are six other boys. Five of them have less that $68 in their adoption grants. One has an astonishing $4369.00 but is still waiting.
Jack's mom wrote something on her blog that I know to be true but which has haunted me since I read it. She wrote, "As I was searching the internet for babies, I came across “Jack”. Well that’s not fair….while I and tens of thousands of other women are searching the internet for baby girls, who is searching for 11 year old boys? Answer: no one."
Ok, I know that is not literally, indisputably true. I know because, when I was introduced to Reece's Rainbow through a friend's virtual baby shower (where she asked for donations to a waiting child rather than baby items for the child she was pregnant with), the first thing I did was go to the HIV+ 10+ page. I know there are other families out there who are interested in adopting older kids. But ... those families are a minority of adoptive families. Most families want babies and young children. Few families want HIV+ boys 10+.
Last night, as we were driving to my friend's house, talking about Jack and his one-in-a-million luck of being wanted by not one, not two, not even three, but many, many families (some of whom did not meet the region's extremely strict eligibility requirements, some of whom, like us, simply are not in a position to adopt/adopt again), I was struck by two particular boys on the Reece's Rainbow HIV+ 10+ page.
These are boys who didn't grab my attention right away like Jack did. They don't have the most attention-grabbing pictures. There are no heart-melting descriptions of how awesome they are and how much they long for a family. In fact, there is literally no personalized information about either of these boys. (And this is not Reece's Rainbow's fault; they can't post information if they don't get any.) There is nothing about these two boys to make them stick out, to attract the attention of their families. They have to rely on what my husband described as "the right family looking at them and getting the right feeling."
It didn't happen when I looked at them. Not the first time, or the second time, or the dozenth time. It didn't happen until last night in the car when I was talking about Jack and his extraordinary luck.
And then it hit me.
These two little boys, all dressed up and no family to go to.
Gerard will turn 15 in August. This is obviously an old picture of him. He looks stiff and formal and scared. Brian will turn 11 in October (the same month Jack turns 12). He doesn't look thrilled to be having his picture taken.
Gerard. About to age out of the system. He has such a sweet look in his eyes. His ears stick out so far. His lips are so strikingly pink. Someone brushed his hair and stood him carefully in front of a blank background so he would stand out.
Brian. Saucy-looking Brian with his wisp of hair that needs to be trimmed. He has red-eye and his mouth looks funny. Someone posed him in front of a pretty garden scene so he would stand out.
I cried on the way to my friend's house. I cried for these boys because someone cared enough about them to dress them in suits for their "find your parents" photos. Someone believed that putting them in a suit would get them a family.
These boys have been listed for almost a year, and no one has inquired about them. No one.
Gerard has 13 months before his chances of a family are gone forever. Brian has more time but ages ever closer to being turned out of the orphanage, an HIV+ child alone in the world.
We arrived at my friend's house and my nose was still running and I was still sniffling for these boys. I was crying, as my husband explained to my baffled friends, because "the world is unfair to orphans."
And it is. It's not fair that kids are in orphanages. It's not fair that their shot at a family often depends on a striking photo and an attention-grabbing, well-crafted description. It's not fair that bureaucratic red tape stands in the way of them coming home to their families. It's not fair that tens of thousands of dollars preclude loving families from pursuing them. It's not fair that getting older means not many people want you. It's not fair that "everyone" wants babies and "no one" wants older kids. It's not fair what will happen to these boys if they age out of the system.
I adopted an older child. I adopted a child who was Jack's age on arrival into our family. I'll be honest: it was hard. That child suffered. We suffered. (More on that in an upcoming post.) I couldn't possibly describe everything our family went through after the arrival of this older child. Suffice to say, it was not easy.
Here I am, six years later, writing a blog that advocates for adopting not just older children but older children with medical issues.
So you know where I stand on the issue.
Older children need families. Older boys need families. Older, HIV+ boys need families. No one outgrows the need for a family, ever.
Someone cared enough about Gerard and Brian to put them in suits so their forever families would see how special they are.
Can you see?