I have tried off and on for days to write a blog post about the situation with the Bac Lieu 16. Everything I wrote was garbage. Then I sat down and wrote an email to family and friends (my apologies for all the typos I didn’t catch before I sent it out). Since many who read my blog are also family and friends, here it is (I didn’t email it out to my blog friends, since I knew you’d read it here):
I am writing to you today on behalf of 16 orphans in Bac Lieu province, Vietnam. This is not spam. This is not something I have cut and pasted to just forward on. This is me, Elaine, writing from my heart.
Three years ago, around the same general time frame that our youngest son, Quinn, was finally able to leave Vietnam to come home to us, 16 other American families were receiving their official referrals of children in Vietnam. This means they were officially matched with a child. If you haven’t gone through the international adoption process it is difficult to understand what a huge thing this official match is, and how completely parents fall in love with “their” child based on scant information and a few pictures; but this love is very real, very deep, and very genuine.
These 16 families are not just random strangers to me. Though I don’t know them all, I do know many of them through blogs, emails, and our agency Yahoo! group. I have been blessed to meet one of the couples personally. As we struggled through the process to adopt Quinn, as we faced unexpected setbacks and delays in getting him home, many of these 16 waiting mothers were part of a vital support system. They cheered for us when we received our referral, they cheered us on as we waited months longer than expected to bring Quinn home, and they cheered with us when that long-awaited day finally came. I have an email folder titled “Congratulations Quinn” where I have saved all of their, and your, congratulatory messages.
At the time Quinn was coming home, the time these families were receiving and accepting referrals, the adoption relationship between Vietnam and the US was breaking down. There were reports of widespread corruption and unethical practices, and the US announced that it would let the Memorandum of Agreement allowing adoptions between the two countries to expire in Sept. of 2008. At the same time this announcement was made, assurance was given to waiting parents already in process that, so long as they had an official referral prior to the MOA expiration date, their adoptions would go forward. Families continued to accept referrals based on this promise.
Now, here we are, three years later. While most of those “pipeline” children have, indeed, been allowed to come home to their waiting American parents, 16 children in Bac Lieu province have not. They are still there, growing up in an orphanage housed in a former prison, with inadequate food and medical supplies. I have attached a flyer with pictures of some of the children that better explains the hardships they are enduring. Please open it so you can see them. As I look at their pictures, the song A Child’s Prayer loops through my head.
During much of this three-year period, the waiting American parents have been allowed to visit their children in Vietnam. In turn, they have gone over to take the children food, clothing, and toys. They have spent time playing with and loving these children, bonding with them, talking to them, reading to them. They have now been forbidden from having any further contact with the children or the orphanage. My heart breaks for the kids, now three and four years old, who must be so confused, and my heart breaks for the parents who want nothing more than to parent these children.
No matter the sins of the past in terms of Vietnam adoption, one fact is irrefutable now: these children have no biological parents coming back for them, but they do have loving, devoted, American parents who desperately want to bring them home. The vast majority of these children have undergone DNA testing to prove the identities of their birth mothers, who have willingly relinquished them.
Now the adoptive parents are told they will have to reapply to adopt these children after Vietnam is Hague accredited. Nobody knows for sure when that will happen. While rumor has it that it could happen as early as this fall, it is doubtful. Even if Vietnam is Hague approved by this fall, it would probably be at least another year before the parents could redo the entire adoption process and get these kids home. If you’ve ever worked with children, parented children, or just loved a child, you understand that time is of the essence, and another year (but, realistically, more) will further hamper, if not cripple some of these children, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
These children, and their tireless waiting parents, need our help. They aren’t asking for our money, they are asking for our help. Here is what you can do:
Join the Bring Home the Bac Lieu 16 Facebook page to keep abreast of their endeavors and see pictures and videos of the children. After joining, you can go into your FB settings and choose not to receive emails generated every time somebody posts to the group. The inbox does get overwhelmed otherwise.
Click here to sign a petition to Congress and send letters to your elected officials to help bring home the Bac Lieu orphans.
You can also read the blog To Bac Lieu With Love. Here you will find pictures, links, sample tweets to join the Twitter campaign, and other ways you can help.
If you want to help financially, you can:
Shop at the Mothers In Action for Vietnam Etsy store to help raise money for the 16 children. This money does not go to the waiting parents. It goes to a non-profit called Chances for Children, and 100% of all funds for Bac Lieu will go to purchase and deliver food and other supplies for the children. You can also make a tax deductible donation directly to Chances For Children. Make sure you put Bac Lieu in the subject line if you want your donation to help these kids.
If you are feeling really ambitious, plans are underway for an empty stroller march in Washington D.C. on July 21. Details are emerging as plans are being finalized, and you can follow it all on the Facebook page. I hope to go to this and would love some company!
I know this has been a long email. If you’ve made it this far, thank you; and I hope you will consider helping. Please, at the very least, take just a minute to sign the petition.