Living in an orphanage
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"I'd rather live in an orphanage than have gone through what I did in isolation. At least I would have had others going through the same experience."
Hey sister! That’s exactly what I wrote in my memoir (in French) few months ago. Going through the life as a transracial adoptee (and I'm not talking about the abuses) in isolation and loneliness was more difficult than going through the same experience with others in an awful orphanage.
I'm not idealizing an hypothetical life in my birth country. As I wrote once, I know what living in poverty means. I also know how life can be awful in an orphanage. I was first placed in a Children’s Shelter, an overcrowded orphanage, where we were beaten every day by the “balang”. In the language of that orphanage, the word “balang” was used for the children who were chosen among older children to take care of other children and to discipline them. If one child was talking to another, everyone was punished (corporal punishiment). It's easy for me to understand how humans can be so cruel because of this experience. Children were either abandoned, neglected, lost in streets and some of them were runaways.
If you had asked me to choose between staying at that orphanage or to be adopted by foreigners, I would have chosen the latter. Now, I already hear adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents speaking of the “best interest of a child in that situation” and wanting to save them from such orphanage;I can imagine them saying that the best interest of the child would be to be adopted by them.
Actually, I never had to make such decision: they promised me to find my house to bring me back to my father or to my eldest sister but they never searched them (As I said in my previous posts, I knew my address, a complete address). Was it by mistake, by negligence or was it to meet the demands of adopters? I will never know the truth but I know one thing with certainty: that orphanage was a place where adoption agencies (such Holt) and other orphanages (such my 2nd orphanage) chose adoptable children to send them to foreign couples.
I don’t believe the prospective adoptive parents saying that they are thinking of the best interest of the children. Don’t fool me, why don’t you say the truth; that you are thinking of YOUR best interests? (I didn’t say that adoptive parents are bad parents; I'm not discussing about parentings). You think of the best interest of the child after you adopted it, after it became yours, not beforer adopting.
If everyone was really thinking of the best interest of a child, there would be no international adoption since long time: by sending $35 per month to sponsor a child instead of spending $300000 to buy a child or by helping to build orphanages of high quality.
Yes, I also said by building orphanages. Living in a good orphanage can also be another alternative. What you believe to be not in the interest of a child can be the best interest for the child and for its family. If you believed that living in a tiny house means necessarily “unhappiness”, then you don’t really know what happiness really means. I was happy when I was living with my family in a house of one bedroom. I was also happy at my 2nd orphanage.
The photos below were taken (by an American lady/adoptive parent) at Saint-Paul’s orphanage, my 2nd orphanage. Many of my friends are not on the picture, some of them were already bought by Americans and sent to them, and some others were playing inside.
I’m the one waving my hand. We were all happy and I was saying aloud “I’m here! I’m here!”
On the 2nd picture, I’m in front at the left, wearing a striped t-shirt. We were more serious than on the previous picture except the girl in the middle making grimace. She was almost never serious.
The first time my aunt saw these photos, she shook her head and repeated: "The poor little kids!" Then she praised my mother for adopting me. Her comment offended me and hurt me but I didn’t say anything. Do I look sad on the photos? ….
I had a wonderful life at
I don't pretend that it was an idealistic situation for every kid. The younger children in the two other groups certainly needed parents more than friends. One girl of my group was often swinging her body whenever she was angry or sad; I’m sure that she needed the affection of a mother, just like the rest of us. Although I liked living at Saint-Paul, I missed my father and my siblings.
I'm sure that many kids were all dreaming of being adopted by rich Americans. (I also know that some kids didn't want to be adopted abroad. The oldest of the girls who left the orphanage to live with their mom felt pity for the children who had to go to USA). That doesn’t mean children will be better off being adopted abroad. The better places would have been with our families with the same comfort offered by the orphanage because ....we were not all orphans.
Some of us were abandoned or lost in the streets. One day, a nun brought a little girl, a year younger than me, who had lost her grand mother in the street; she was put up for adoption. If they did the same thing than with me, they never sought her family before putting her up for adoption.
Some of us were there because their mothers had been coerced. The girl in the first photo, in front of me at my right, came to the orphanage with her little sister. Few weeks later, we saw a lady talking to the girl near the front yard. It was her mother who had been searching for them. The lady asked her daughter to fetch her little sister; and as soon as they were reunited, we saw them running away. When we told this to the adults, two nuns and the driver (or director) of the orphanage tracked them down. They brought them back to the orphanage about an hour later. They took the mother alone to the office. During that time, we were wondering what the adults were talking about and why it was taking so much time. At the end of the day, the mother left without her children; she came back later with her 3rd daughter to leave her at the orphanage. I saw such thing at my first orphanage too.
Some of us were placed at the orphanage temporarily. It was the case for two siblings. After their mother had taken them back, I heard a nun saying to our housemother that she tried to convince her to leave the girls at the orphanage. "... I told her she would be better off living alone without her children... She wouldn't listen to me, she is stubborn, she is an idiot..." said the nun. According to the schoolchildren, the girls were happy to be reunited with their mother.
I didn't talk to everyone but I believe that real orphanas (children without parent) were very rare. My best friend (not in the picture) was 4 years older than me; I always thought that she was the luckiest girl among us because her older sister often came to visit us. Moreover, she could see her mother who was working at the building next to the orphanage. As they promised me to find my father, I was hoping to meet him soon but at the same time, the life of poverty with him had been so difficult that I found a solution. I was thinking to ask him to leave me at the orphanage and to visit me often. I never asked him because they sent me to foreign couples without even searching him.
Older children at the orphanage often said that thanks to Americans, we were living in one of the richest orphanages of the country. I often thought about the generous Americans sending their money to the nuns to help us. Now, knowing that they gave their money to buy the children, for their own best interest, it just makes me want to throw up at their faked generosity. You don't need to adopt to save a child from the orphanages, there are other ways to save them.
I was too young to understand why the nun tried to convince a mother to leave her children at the orphanage. I couldn't understand why the other mother who came to take back her two children left without them and moreover brought her youngest child. An adult should easily understand that the demand of adopters was already fueling the industry of international adoption. That explains why the people never went to see my family before selling me to my adopters.