Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Just in time!

 Over the years that we have been helping children in China, we have developed close working relationships with a vast network of doctors, nurses, and specialists in many pediatric fields.  We have seen their kindness and dedication again and again when they come together to provide life saving medical treatment for our little ones.  We were humbled once again to see them spring into action when we needed a miracle for little TX.

 Newborn TX arrived at a local orphanage in North China in critical condition.  It was clear that he had some kind of gastrointestinal emergency, so he was admitted to the small, local hospital right away.  They were unsure of his diagnosis and how to proceed.  

At the same time, the orphanage leaders called us and asked if we might be able to help.  Within a few hours we were able to coordinate an ambulance transfer from his province to Beijing, where he was admitted to the NICU for further diagnostic testing.  He had surgery shortly after that for a life threatening bowel obstruction.

Little TX has had a few complications during his recovery, but he was finally strong enough to discharge to our medical home in Beijing.  He’s being closely monitored as he continues to recover and is making up for the kisses and cuddles that he missed out on while he was in the NICU.  

Everyone involved in his story – from his orphanage leaders to the doctors in Beijing -  have been amazed at how quickly we were able to jump into action and get him the specialized care that he needed before it was too late.  We are very grateful for all of you who have chosen to support us in this work.  You are making a difference every day for little ones like TX.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Made for Love - Trauma Responsive Care

 We believe that every child has the right to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. For the children in our care, it is crucial that they are also treated with a compassionate and understanding approach that accounts for past trauma. We know that trauma changes the way children interpret the world around them, the people in it, and where they belong. It shapes and impacts children’s emotions, behavior, memory and ability to learn.

Most of the children who come into our care have experienced trauma, such as abandonment, loss of parental care, chaotic family situations, and sometimes invasive medical procedure and prolonged hospital stay. These stressful experiences can adversely affect a child’s sense of safety and stability, which leads to difficulties in forming close and healthy relationships. 

This requires that we adopt a trauma-responsive frame of mind in all aspects of our work. It means that we not only have a good understanding of the impact of early trauma, but we also need to be able to recognize the signs and behaviors of trauma. 

Children who have experienced trauma may exhibit a range of behaviors that indicate their inner struggles. These can include withdrawal, aggression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and hypervigilance. Recognizing these signs (and NOT regarding them as trouble-making or attention-seeking) is crucial for providing appropriate support and intervention. 

For example, one day a child slapped one of her classmates in school. The classmate had patted her on the back, wanting to tell her to stand in the line. This was seen as a serious breach of school rules, and our group home manager was informed. Knowing the background of this child, the group home manager understood that this child was not meaning to hurt her classmate, but it was a fight-or-flight response to what seemed to be a "sudden strike" in the eyes of this child. After discussion with the school, this child was given opportunities to amend her wrongs and make things right with her classmate. 

To provide trauma-responsive care also means making deliberate efforts to build a sense of connectedness with the child. Many children who were impacted by interpersonal trauma have difficulties building and maintaining meaningful relationships. In order to help them, it is our job to create a supportive environment where they feel seen, understood, respected, and cherished. 

We provide children with supportive environments through our family model of care and our early learning classrooms, where they can experience positive relationships. In their everyday life, we try to provide predictability and consistent routines. They helps maintain a sense of security for the child. Being able to know what to expect every day reduces anxiety and help children feel more in control. We also create opportunities for children to make choices. This helps them regain their sense of control, practice agency, and learn to be responsible for their choices. 

We are also providing ongoing trainings for staff members to ensure they can consistently provide trauma responsive care.  It is our job to understand the impact of trauma, to recognize its signs, and to respond with compassion and connectedness, so that we can help the children find hope and possibilities for their future.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Watermelon Delights !

 Hot summer days are here, and what better treat to cool down with than watermelon?  Well, ice cream is good too, but watermelon is definitely healthier - and helps keep you hydrated too!  Or, you can do what our little ones tried recently, and have your watermelon in an ice cream cone.  You know, a "watermelon cone".  🍉🍦 😆 

 Or maybe you are craving some skewers?  We love BBQ skewers, but that's not really a project for a preschool classroom... so we substituted watermelon. 💕🍉

Never tried one of these delicacies?  Let us show you how it's done...

First, you start with a cone.  Ask a grown up to halve or quarter the watermelon.  Then you peel the bananas.  Oh, did we forget to mention the bananas?

Once your bananas are peeled, use your ice cream scoop to scoop balls of banana and watermelon in your cone, like this:

Once your cone is filled with fruit, you drizzle a little bit of yogurt over the top:

Voila... ready to enjoy!

And then for those skewers... these are even simpler than the cones.

Scoop balls of watermelon:

Once you have scooped out a bunch of watermelon balls, thread them on the skewers:

You can enjoy them right away - no cooking or waiting required! 

Hope you enjoy your watermelon as much as we did!

Friday, June 14, 2024

Mama's Little Helper

 Baby N was a newborn weighing only three and half pounds (1600g) when he was abandoned in early 2020.  

This was a time of great uncertainty, as China was just beginning to formulate policies to control the brand new Covid-19 pandemic.  Little Ning was sent directly to the hospital and spent many weeks there while the orphanage was on lockdown.  When he was 2 months old it became clear that he no longer needed that level of care but transferring him out was a bit of a logistical challenge.  We were quick to agree when his orphanage asked if we could help.

Little N is now 4 years old, and things are very different from when he arrived!  

He is no longer a tiny little fellow in quarantine with his baby room nanny, but lives in a foster family in our family model of care.  He is smart, active and has a very cheerful personality.  He loves to help his foster mom with household tasks, just as he sees the bigger kids doing.  

He hasn’t had any other medical issues but does suffer from speech delays.  He’s receiving speech therapy and is learning many new words, however he hasn’t yet started stringing them together in phrases or sentences.

It is our greatest hope that N will be placed in an adoptive family.  His orphanage is also pursuing that goal, but so far all of the families who have considered him have been fearful of his ongoing speech delays.  We are so grateful to all who have chosen to support us in this work.  You are making a difference for little N and all of the other children in our care!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Made For Love - The Vital Role of Adults

 We believe that adults play a significant part in children’s development, and the relationship that trusted adults have with the child is the best tool that adults can use to work with the child.  This philosophy guides much of our work in our Made For Love programs.

Adults play a significant part in any child's development. They provide nutritious food, medical care, and a safe environment. They teach the child to observe social norms like turn taking and guide them to form health relationships with peers. The child depends on adults to learn language and everyday concepts, which paves the way for communication and future academic learning. Adults are also role models and facilitators for the child to know themselves, to recognize and regulate their emotions, and to cope with stressful events in life. 

The children we work with are often faced with emotional challenges because of the hardships early in life, such as illnesses, physical impairments, abandonment, and disadvantaged family situations.  This means the presence of caring and responsible staff members, such as caregivers and teachers, are of utmost importance for the children's development and overall well-being. 

It also means we need to work extra hard to bond with the children, to ensure consistency and reliability so that they get to experience and learn what it is like to form trusting relationships with important adults in their lives. This is especially true for the children with trust and behavior issues. What we emphasize is to look beyond their less-than-ideal behaviors, observe more, and wonder what the needs are and how they can be met appropriately. 

We believe that every child needs to feel seen and cherished. It is crucial for children with traumatic backgrounds to receive individualized attention and to form one-on-one bonds with loving caregivers and/or a teacher. To have a go-to person is an essential element in creating a nurturing, home-like environment, where each child feels safe, loved, and valued. Healthy and stable relationship with trusted adults help the children build a sense of security, confidence, and self-esteem. 

In everyday life situations, trusted adults are role models for children and demonstrate positive behaviors, social skills and self-regulation. Children observe and absorb how adults around them treat themselves and others, how they handle problems and challenges, and how they make friends and resolve conflicts.  

A loving and supportive relationship with important adults is not only healing during early childhood, but its impact extends all the way into adulthood. Young children who form strong, trusting relationships with adults are more likely to become resilient and acquire positive coping strategies, which is beneficial for them in the face of challenges in the future. Positive and meaningful relationships with adults can also lead to better educational achievements and healthy relationships with others later in life. They strengthen the children's sense of self-worth, inspire them to pursue their goals, and shape their overall life trajectories. 

The relationship between trusted adults and children in need is a powerful tool for their development and wellbeing. Together we strive to help these children build a strong foundation for healing, growth, and for reaching their full potential.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Fun Day Out!

 After our visit to the farm last month, the children in our medical home have been looking for more opportunities to get out and learn more the world around them.  We found a wonderful park nearby that combined many fun adventures and some relaxing time exploring nature.

Riding the tram was a new experience:

Right away we were greeted by some friendly dogs.  Dogs can be scary if you have never been around them, but some of our little ones were brave enough to even pet them!

A fun day spent outside is never complete without bubble blowing, so that was next on the agenda:

Playing in sand aways fun:

But you might have to stop afterward to dump all the sand out of your shoes!

Of course, there was plenty of time to walk slowly and smell the flowers:

Who can pass up a chance to swing on the swings?  We had a bunch of different options to choose from!

And the slide:

Everyone worked up an appetite after all that!

And that universal childhood ritual: blowing a dandelion:

The highlight of the day was a mini roller-coaster:

It was a very enjoyable day, full of new excitement and learning.  We are so grateful to all who helped bring the outside world to our most medically fragile little ones.  It was an amazing experience!