Sunday, August 31, 2008


I recently emailed some friends asking them to watch a video clip. However, I sent the wrong link and it was not clear what I was wanting them to watch. Last Friday night, Dateline aired a segment about the condition of mental institutions in Serbia. I missed the program, but was able to watch in online. It was simply heartbreaking. But I highly recommend that you watch it, too. Here is the proper link.

Next month I'll be starting a fundraiser for a little boy, Oleg, in Eastern Europe. The money raised will go into an account for the family that commits to adopting him. He is 3 1/2 years old. In this part of the world children like Oleg, with Down Syndrome, are generally institutionalized around the age of 4 or 5 years. He will then be unavailable for adoption. He needs to find a home quickly!

I wanted to share this with you, but first I wanted to see what Shelley had to say. You see, she has been there (Eastern Europe), and done that (adopted a child with Down Syndrome there). She has an interesting take on the Dateline story. I couldn't say this any better:

Take a moment and look at my son. Coincidentally, today he was wearing this shirt that we bought in Serbia. After you read this post, I'm going to ask you to go here. It's a Dateline special on mental institutions in Serbia that aired on TV this past week.Before you watch it, or even if you already have, I'd like to share a piece of my heart with you. It is quite humbling to watch this interview and to see scenes from a city that I have visited. To be able to say "I've seen that", "I've been in that building".....and more importantly to say, that is the birthplace of MY SON. My heart aches for the adults and children that were shown in the dateline interview. And my heart aches for the many parents who carry the burden of knowing they gave up their child without the peace that they did the right thing. And, if you haven't seen it, I want you to watch it. I want you to understand why my passion is for the work being done through Reece's Rainbow. And while what Dateline shows is VERY REAL, I want to share a different side of Serbia with you too. I want to share what I saw, what I felt, what I know about the change that is happening in Serbia. First, let me just clarify that Grifyn was NOT in an institution in Serbia. He was in a children's house in Belgrade. He was well taken care of. He went to a special needs preschool. He lived with a group of children and was surrounded by toys and activities and a very stimulating environment. He was learning and growing. He was loved. I saw that clearly. I also want to share with you that there are many good people in Serbia who are working to improve the quality of life for children with disabilities. There are people working to ensure that they receive therapy, medical care and a chance to learn as they are able. They DO have a system in place to work with give families a chance to keep their children. They DO try to reunite these children with their parents if at all possible. And when it's not possible, there are people working to get the paper work done to give these children a chance to be adopted. They are not making these children eligible for adoption to get rid of them. They are doing it because they want the children to have the best chance to grow and succeed. So, as you watch that interview, I want you to remember something. Yes, the need is great. Yes, the conditions that are shown in these institutions is horrible and heartbreaking. Yes, it needs to be changed....and awareness is the first step. But I want you to also remember that there are a lot of good people in Serbia who really are working for the greater good of the children. I want you to know that things are changing in Serbia. I want you to know that there is HOPE in Serbia.....HOPE that parents will one day keep their children when they are diagnosed with a disability, HOPE that these children will go to a children's home where they can learn and grow and HOPE that if they do end up as orphans, that they will have the chance to find a family. I also want to mention that our doctors, in the US, are not any better than the doctors in Serbia telling these parents to give their children to an institution. Doctors in the US tell parents to not even give the children a chance to be born....and that is a fact supported by abortion rates of children with prenatally diagnosed disabilities. One of the most profound moments I had while in Serbia came on the day that Grifyn's adoption was final. We were talking with some of the officials about the opportunities that Grifyn would have in the US. Then, I was asked "Why, if your country offers so much for children with disabilities, do so many people have abortions?" A brutal reminder that we're not so far removed from what you see on this video .
Posted by Shelley at 21:18


Patrick said...

I am sick to my stomach and havent been able to sleep after watching the Dateline episode- I can not stop thinking about the boy with down syndrome and how I can help him. I am a special education teacher who grew up living with an uncle with down syndrome and also have a little brother that my parents adopted from Russia- these two people have changed every person they meet- they are angels on earth. How can we help that boy???

Stephanie said...

Patrick, go to and look at the beautiful children available for adoption! Then go to and nominate Reece's Rainbow to receive $2.5 million to provide full grants for 100 waiting children. You can make a huge difference.