That's how we met most of them. Alexis is not shy. Tyler is like the total opposite of shy lol. Erin was outgoing. So many others who aren't available for adoption were equally as friendly.
But one boy watched us from afar. He rarely approached, but we knew he was talking about us with his friends because he wasn't subtle about it. But he watched us from a distance, communicating only with our facilitator if she spoke first.
He was normally in a group of other kids, hanging towards the back. He reminded me so much of a stray dog sometimes. You know what I mean- the dog you see lurking around the edge of your yard, clearly starving for affection, his thin ragged body frozen in fear if you made direct eye contact. You can picture that bit of dangling rope still affixed around his neck from where he had been tied up, the end frayed from where he had chewed loose. He was the dog you wanted so much to love- to rub between his ears, to scratch down his spine so his leg would thump. But he never would let you get close enough. Someone had mistreated him- made him fear human touch and contact. You had to settle for putting food out on the porch, hoping it was him eating it at night and not the raccoons.
That was Marcus. I knew a bit of his story- our facilitator was the one who photographed him the year before. The director and psychologist really wanted him to have a family. Some kids do alright in an orphanage/institution setting. Some seem to enjoy the camaraderie and communal approach to living but others clearly need more. Marcus needs more. Marcus wants more.
To refresh your memory, or if you're a new reader, to fill you in, Marcus is 9 years old. He'll be ten at the end of the year. He has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. He's quite smart, and attends school in the orphanage and from what I understand, does quite well. He's quiet a lot of the time, but can definitely be "all boy" when he's with his buddies, as we saw when we were there.
He doesn't smile much. Honestly, I don't think he has much to smile about. I don't know all of his history, and to be quite honest, I'm not going to share the private details I do know about because I believe that's something that only his family will need to know, not the internet as a whole. I just know he needs a family that is willing to help love him through his hurts and losses, and that he has a lot of potential, and that his future in EE is not encouraging, since he is stuck in a wheelchair in a country that has little or no accommodations for such.
When we became therapeutic foster parents, we did a lot of training. When I say a lot, I mean a LOT. Think two months of classes, twice a week at least, for 3+ hours a night, plus Saturday classes. Some of the training was specific- like CPR, bloodborne pathogens, non-violent restraint holds and verbal de-escalation techniques. But much of the training dealt with the big picture- how to love and rehabilitate a child who had suffered extreme loss, maltreatment, rejection, exposure to substance use, and neglect in their birth families, along with how to therapeutically parent children who had been through multiple placements due to placement disruption, rejection, and behavioral issues.
Children are meant to be loved and nurtured. They are meant to be held and comforted. They are meant to know that a parent's love is unconditional.
Sadly, for hundreds of thousands of children around the world, that doesn't work out. Sometimes, loving parents die- as we have seen in the AIDS crisis in Africa and Eastern Europe. Sometimes, parents just don't care enough about the right things, and so Child Protective Services gets involved and removes the child for their own safety. Sometimes, parents make the choices not to parent because of issues in their own lives.
And sometimes, an entire country holds to a culture of hostility and misinformation about illegitimacy or disability that results in large amounts of children being placed into orphanages. Sometimes a country has such a high level of poverty that parents feel they have no choice but to place their children into government run orphanages so they have access to food, medical care, shelter and school.
But regardless of the reason for the separation, it still creates a loss for the child.