Advocates and Affirmations

You is kind, you is smart, you is important.

My husband and I watched The Help about a few months late, and the other evening, nearly every time these words came out of Aibileen’s mouth I got a little choked up.

You see, foster parents in China aren’t unlike black maids in Mississippi in that they care for children who are not their own, and they are often scrutinized by others as inferior parents because of their lack of education and their poor economic status.

Foster parents in China aren’t perfect: oftentimes they don’t necessarily (initially) see the value in these children who have been cast off by their parents or who present with a number of handicaps.  Chinese foster parents are often quick to point out children’s faults rather than their strengths.  They don’t necessarily use words the way we might expect to encourage these children.

An old man and a young boy at Nanhu Lake.

But if there are a couple things I have learned through visiting with these parents and studying the care they give to children, they are that love transcends economic status, education or age, and that foster parents who love their foster children become advocates who change these children’s lives.  

Much like Aibilene, these parents begin to focus not on a child’s disabilities, but on his or her abilities, and when I walk into their homes, they proudly state how children with cerebral palsy who could not walk in the orphanage can now run, jump, and play.  Parents of children with disabilities begin to go to the orphanage and try to move surgery along, or lobby for a therapist to come and teach them how to give their child therapy.  And it is these actions, along with their bold hopes for their children, that express a wisdom and a faith far deeper than anyone in society might expect of them.

Sometimes the future for abandoned and disabled children in China is quite bleak.  These foster parents may not use words like the so touching and sincere ones above to encourage their children and to let them know they are loved, but their advocacy is an affirmation (of their children) that certainly speaks volumes.

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