We believe that all children are born to love and connect, and that all children can learn and develop – this includes children with medical or developmental special needs, especially those who have been impacted by trauma. While most children we work with do have special needs, we recognize that they are equally affected by the trauma of birth family separation, serious illness, hospitalizations, institutionalization and more. In addition to their other special needs, the long-term effects of trauma on these children’s brain development, behavior and relationships cannot be underestimated.
We are often faced with questions from our own staff, foster parents, teachers and others who are confused why the children they are working with don’t respond to love, affection, discipline, and traditional educational methods the way “normal” children in families would. We realized that there was a great need to address these questions, so last year we launched Made for Love. Our goal is to share an awareness of the abilities of children with special needs, an understanding of the impact of early trauma, recognition of the signs and behaviors of trauma, and to teach others to respond with understanding, compassion, and connectedness.
Through Made for Love, we seek to provide support, evidence-based knowledge and practical skills to:
- People who work with children in orphanages, such as staff members, caregivers, group home parents, and special needs teachers
- Domestic adoptive families
- Families choosing to raise their own children with special needs
We began by providing training in our own orphan care projects. Word soon got out that we had developed training materials and were providing seminars to early learning teachers and orphanage caregivers, and we have been invited to provide these to other orphanages as well.
One orphanage we are working with has a model that we are particularly excited about (and hope to expand to other orphanages) that welcomes special needs children from the local community to participate in classes at the orphanage early learning center.
This is an incredibly valuable service to offer to those families, as specialized learning centers for special needs children are not widely available in China. Because services like these are severely lacking, this has long reinforced the belief that families themselves are unable to care for their own special needs children. We hope that providing this kind of support can begin to change attitudes in society and even reduce the number of children entering orphanages in the long term.
We are also seeing an increase in domestic adoptions in China (including the children in our own orphan care projects), but there are still very few resources available to these adoptive parents. Many of them do not have any preparation before the adoption, have unrealistic expectations, and nowhere to turn when they have questions about how best to deal with the inevitable difficulties of the first days and weeks at home with their child.
The Made for Love project is working to provide information and support for these adoptive families, and we hope that we can make our videos and materials widely available so that adoptive families all over China will be able to benefit from them.
We will be sharing more about about our Made for Love project in the days and weeks ahead, so stay tuned! We thank you for your support and look forward to helping even more families and children in the years to come!