Editor's Note: Kelly Raudenbush, an adoption advocate, travels to China to visit orphanages and get to know kids who may ultimately find homes in the United States. This touching story relates one instance of her tradition of giving a photo album to each orphanage director at the end of a trip. In the album are recent photos of kids from the orphanage with their new families, printed next to photos of the same children during their time in the orphanage. Grab the tissues!
It’s become a bit of a trademark for our orphanage trips. For months, we research and post on Facebook and email agencies trying to find as many families as we can who have adopted from that orphanage. We contact all the ones we can find and ask them to be a part of our efforts by sending me their child’s Chinese name and current name, where they live as they want shared with the orphanage, a picture of their child from his or her time at the orphanage, a handful of pictures of him or her now, and a few words. I collect it all and sort it all and then spend a few late nights with Shutterfly. A week or two later, a hardcover book arrives that is so much more than a photo album. Each page testifies to why we do what we do and why they do what they do.
At the orphanage where we have served for years, they have come to expect the gift and sit on the edge of their seat in anticipation of it at the end of the week. But, at this orphanage, there was sweetly no expectation at all for anything more than what we had already given all weeklong. So, when I presented the gift to the director during our last meal together, she was barely able to speak as she turned each page and then went back and turned each page again and a third time.
She pointed out a picture of a family on the day they received their child. She was in the picture because she had brought their child to them. She told us that was the first year the children’s section in the social welfare institute had been open and her first year working.
She pointed out a little girl who had some physical challenges and marveled at how the child had received what she needed and looked so happy now. That little girl was the first child ever to be in a foster home. The director had fought to start up that program, and she was the first child to be a part of it.
She pointed out a boy whom they had sent to a public school; other children complained about him because of his physical differences. In fact, children’s parents called the school and asked that he would no longer be allowed to attend. She told me how she had fought for him as a mother would so that he’d be able to stay in school and keep learning until he was adopted.
I thought every page would tell her a story. But with every page, she told me a story. The book no longer was a monument to changed lives; it was a monument to children who had been fought for, who had people working for their cause when they lived on one side of the world and now live on the other.
Kelly Raudenbush is a mother to four children and cofounder of The Sparrow Fund, a nonprofit committed to encouraging and equipping adoptive families. Learn more about her family's adoption story, how she's been changed by it and what life for as a parent to four children with all sorts of unique needs and gifts at My Overthinking.