Preventative Caregiving: Making Headway in China

While working at Lifeline I have realized my enjoyment of “preventative education.” Similar to premarital counseling in many respects, preventative education often helps stop problems before they ever become significant issues. Having the opportunity to educate adoptive parents pre-adoption has been rewarding, as I knew that it was helping to prevent many issues that commonly surface post-adoption. Yet, despite adequate education, I continued to see well-prepared parents struggle with their children who were traumatized due to the lack of care they receive prior to having a family. Is healing from such a traumatic past possible? Most definitely! But part of me longed to be able to at least try to positively influence those who cared for these precious ones before they came home through adoption. I desired to go back one more step in providing preventative education and encouragement. I will continue treating the symptoms of trauma, neglect, and abuse in these children, but my heart aches as I wonder if there is something more that can be done during the most vulnerable times in their lives. My heart ached even more for the countless children who do not and will not ever have the hope of adoption. I believe the Lord knew this desire in my heart, and He began giving me opportunities to help create training curriculum to be used in international contexts to help equip and educate caregivers. Implementing this material thus far in Peru, the Dominican Republic, and most recently China has been the culmination of everything I feel most passionate about: orphan care, international ministry, counseling, relationship building, and equipping others. On these trips I have been given the incredible opportunity to not only invest in children for a few days, but to invest in those who have the opportunity to teach children how to love, how to trust, how to have a meaningful attachment and relationship with another human being, laying the foundation for the rest of their lives!

While in China recently with (un)adopted, I was able to see children whose lives had been drastically transformed in a few short months through receiving adequate care. I was able to spend time with one child who was expected to die due to malnutrition. She is now running around, healthy, and one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. I saw another child enjoying the love, care, and affection that he always deserved. I was able to get to know caregivers who take their jobs seriously and who are learning the importance of the role they have been given. The caregivers at Lifeline’s Foster Center in China are actively changing the trajectory of the lives of these precious little ones. In the last year the work that they have done has been immeasurable. What an honor it was for me to be able to train and equip them to raise the bar even higher. I am confident in their abilities but even more confident in their hearts. As I celebrated their accomplishments, I grieved for the other children I saw who did not have this same level of care. There were many children I visited in a different facility where the numbers of children vastly outnumbered the caregivers. Throughout the day and night those children had no mattress, no stuffed animal, no blanket, no sheet, just a small hard metal crib. I observed babies and children whose heads had been flattened from lying in those metal cribs for hours. I witnessed children who cringed and flinched as I slowly leaned toward them; children who had stopped crying because they learned it would not garner the attention they needed; children who had never been outside to enjoy God’s creation; children whose bodies were withering away due to malnutrition; children who had yet to experience love and happiness or what it feels like to smile and laugh. I saw children who are the epitome of “the least of these.”

We invited the outnumbered caregivers of these children to the training we were offering for the foster center staff, and much to our surprise, they said they would come to one day of training. After the first day, we were surprised again when they wanted to come back the following day. And after the second day of training, elated when they said they wanted to come back for yet another day. As they sat, we taught them about caring for children holistically, about attachment and trust, and they saw that these children deemed as “orphans” had potential! These very children who showed no signs of improvement had been given an opportunity to learn, to love, and to develop self-worth. Although it may have seemed like a foreign concept to begin with, I believe the Lord was teaching them that these children have value. On the last day of their training, an individual in leadership of this orphanage thanked me for “the positive brainwash” and she invited us to come back to see the difference only two days of training had already made in the care of the children. As I received this message l felt as if my knees were going to buckle underneath me. Although progress may not happen overnight, I firmly believe that He is at work; He is paving the way; and He generously gave me a glimpse of hope for the many children I left behind. He is with them; they are His!

By Whitney White, International Education Counselor