Saturday, December 30, 2006

AHOPE


I have recently been reading lots of blogs and gathering as much information I can about adoption of HIV-positive children. Before everyone gets upset about this, let me tell you that Z and I have NOT made ANY decision about this in any way. We are wanting to learn as much as we can for several reasons, though. First, if we adopt children from Ethiopia it is very likely that their lives will have been affected by HIV/AIDS. It is likely that they are orphans and available for us to adopt them because their parents died of AIDS. I want to know more about HIV/AIDS so that I know what to tell my children when they ask about their birth parents. We are also learning about it because we know there are several sibling groups in Ethiopia waiting for parents in which one of the children is HIV-positive. And because we know that there are lots of children at AHOPE in Ethiopia who are HIV-positive and waiting for homes.


I have so many questions running through my mind about this...Could Z and I handle being parents to one or more children who are HIV-positive? What would this mean? Would our families and friends be supportive of this?

Why is it that HIV carries so much fear with it? Z and I have made a mental list of things that we know we could deal with. We've talked about what kind of handicaps and what kind of special needs we think we could handle. When we first started talking about adoption, we basically assumed we would request healthy children. But, the more we thought about it and talked about it, we determined that we could handle a little more if we felt that is what we were supposed to do. I also didn't know that it was even possible to adopt children who were HIV-positive. I had never heard of it being done, and most agencies will not facilitate these adoptions, so I assumed it wasn't even allowed. Then I started reading more and learning that it was allowed. And suddenly I felt as though this was something that I needed to make an active decision about. If it wasn't allowed, I didn't have to decide....the decision was made for me. But now that I know it is possible I have to actively make the decision of whether or not we are capable of handling this special need.


What is it about this face that incites so much fear in those who look at her? What is it about this little girl that makes people wonder whether or not she is as deserving of a family as any other little girl? What is it about this girl that makes people sad when they look at her. This little girl (along with all the other kids in the photo above) are HIV-positive. Scary, aren't they?

These kids look healthy...they run and jump and play just like any other kids. They are smart and curious and hopeful, just like any other kids. But, they have the HIV virus in their veins. They have been orphaned, shunned by their own communities, and somehow managed to find their way to one of Ethiopia's few orphanages that provides care to HIV-positive children.

These kids are the lucky ones. They are at AHOPE. Their health is monitored carefully, they get nutritious meals, and they receive the anti-retroviral drugs that keep them healthy. But, they are still HIV-positive. Do they deserve to have families? Because they were born with a disease (through no fault of their own) do they not deserve to have a mom and dad? Do they not deserve to have their own belongings, their own homes? Do they deserve to not have an education? Should they have to spend their childhoods in an orphanage? What then? If they stay in Ethiopia they will be shunned by the public. They will likely not be able to afford to continue on medications. They will die an unnecessarily early death. Is that ok?

Is it irresponsible for parents to consider bringing HIV-positive children into their homes? Does it put their own lives, the lives of their other children, the lives of other people's children at risk? Is it selfish to want to be parents to one or more of these children, but put others at risk? And how much risk is there anyway?


And what if we decided the risks were worth it and that we could handle it...then what? What happens when the kids go to school and people find out they are HIV-positive? Would we be capable of handling the social aspects of parenting a child with HIV?

Could we handle losing friends and family members because they are afraid of our children? Could we handle not being able to allow our kids to play with other kids because we know their parents are afraid their kids will catch this disease?

What about doctor visits, medications, sicknesses? Could we afford it? Could we afford the "cocktail" of medications that are needed to keep the children healthy? What if we change jobs sometime in the future and our health insurance would no longer cover the child? What then?

Ugh...the questions. Maybe its best to pretend that you "can't" adopt these kids. Maybe I should forget that I learned it is possible. Maybe I should forget all of the things I've learned so far about HIV that make it seem manageable. Maybe I should check the "healthy" box on the adoption application and pretend that these kids aren't available. But, I can't. I need to learn more. And I need to remember that even if these kids are not meant to be my kids that they are most definitely deserving of being someone's kids.

NOTE: I found out from another blogger (http://transracial.adoptionblogs.com/) that the girls I have pictured in the blog above are two girls that she has met. Here is what Erin says about them:
"...Rediet is SOLID. She is such a big girl but it a total lover. and Gellilia is just an angel...she is one of Belane's favorite kids at AHOPE. She is very girly and very much wants a family."


6 comments:

Anita and Family said...

Good for you Chanda! Good for you for asking yourself these questions and making an active decision. Eric and I just recently went through the "could we adopt an HIV positive child" scenario. For us it did come down to the medical expenses involved (since we already have so much medical expense every month with Eric's health issues)--so we can't go forward (we don't think--but will be open to the Lord's call should a specific child be placed on our hearts).

One question you asked really stood out to me. You if it was irresponsible for parents to bring HIV+ children into a home where it puts the parents, children and other people's lives at risk. My answer to that is that HIV (in America) no longer puts a person's life at risk (if they have the appropriate medication). As Eric and I discussed this a few weeks ago to us it seems as though people with HIV actually have a better possible outcome at this point than people with Type I Diabetes! The medications are more effective and their life span is considered more "normal" than people with Type I Diabetes!

So what makes it so much worse? It's because people can't "catch" Diabetes. That's it! And if people use common sense (universal precautions) around every single person they know (because we never know who may be HIV+ there is no risk of "catching" HIV either!

I know you and Z will make the right decision my friend.

Anita

7,812 Miles said...

Thank you, Anita! I've been reading your blog for so long and now you get to read mine! I'm so glad you've been keeping up. I'm giving you lots to read!

These questions are SO hard to answer. Z and I so far don't really feel like the risks are that tremendous in adopting an HIV+ child. But we are still researching...and we know it will be difficult for our families to understand this decision (should we decide this route). I have read a lot of the same information that you mention and to me it seems almost crazy to leave these kids in Africa where they will undoubtedly die an unnecessarily early death simply because of geography. We still don't know if it is right for us right now. Maybe not for our first adoption, but maybe later? I know you'll read more about it here!

The question you mentioned in your comment was one that was implied to me in a phone conversation earlier today with a family member. Its a hard one. I answered the best I could (using some of the same reasoning you mention), but it really comes down to what people believe is true. Some of the fear about HIV is so deep that it is hard to dispell the myths. I don't want my kids to feel unwanted for even a minute. It would break my heart if people kept my kids away from theirs out of fear. But at the same time, should my fear of this possibility keep me from bringing a child into our family? And if in 5 years they find a cure, how foolish would I feel for allowing a child to live in an orphanage because of my fears.

These are HARD questions. Who knew I'd be wrestling with this at this point in our journey...

richlisad said...

HIV is now considered to be a chronic but manageable disease, so there is no concern with normal living conditions and transmission to your kids or others.

Bless you guys for what you are considering, and for the blessings that are sure to head your way in these children. They are sooooo wonderful!!!

Anita and Family said...

Chanda,

You're words are so smart. Our family would NOT be understanding if Eric and I decided to adopt an HIV+ child--that is for sure (they aren't even supportive of us adopting a special needs child because of Eric's health). And you are so right about some of this being about what the *perceived* risk is. If you chose this it would be (possibly) a life of advocating and educating...constantly. Is a child worth that? Absolutely! But I know we both believe that the Lord needs to call us to our children. I have every faith that you and Z will make the best decision possible for your family and your future child(ren).
Hugs,
A

The Barr Family said...

Great post and great questions! I look forward to talking with you about all of it. I also love the most recent post on you and your husband- that was heartwarming. :)

The Barr Family said...

Also there is at least one agency who (ignorantly-in my opinion) said they would not facilitate the adoption of an HIV+ child because of the long term affects it might have on America- they also said they were worried about what other families would say and do and that it could come back to the agency legally- this is not only ignorant- but its wrong- HIV + people are protected by the law here in the US against discrimination. Unfortunately that is not the case in Ethiopia. They feel that perhaps it is somehow bad or wrong to bring a child with HIV int a home with uninfected people. Once you know one person with HIV- know them as a freind or classmate or neighbor- you will see how ridiculous this is. Its all about education and removing stigma. And you blogging about it is a tiny step in the right direction- so thank you.