Monday, February 25, 2013

The List

This list is for all those brave souls who have come to a place when they realize that there is room at their table for another.
This list is for all of those who are standing on the edge of the cliff and wondering whether they should jump.
This list is for those who are home alone with their newly adopted and are feeling overwhelmed and alone.
This list is for those in the church who are beginning to understand that caring for the orphan is not an option but a command and that families who have adopted need support and help.
This list is for the grandmothers and the aunts and uncles and the cousins. It is for the neighbors and the friends.  It is for the pastors and the teachers.
It is for you.  It is for me.
This list is made up of real children who struggle with real issues because they were orphaned through no fault of their own.
This list is a group effort.  It is the experience of numerous families who crossed the ocean.
It represents tragedy and sorrow but also love and commitment. 
It is not written to scare people away from adoption but instead to draw families in.  To break hearts.  To bear witness to what so many children are going through on a daily basis.

It is written to give insight and understanding into why the children may act in certain ways. 

It is written with a wide range of children in mind - the crib-bound, laying down room children; the children with physical or mental disabilities; the children who are mildly disabled; the typical children and the older children. 

It is written with a wide range of places in mind - the babyhouses, the internats, the mental institutes, foster homes and the boarding schools. 

It is written with the understanding that some children will fit seamlessly and effortlessly into a family without pause and others will battle the demons of their past.  It is written with the understanding that some children will carry only a few of these burdens while others will bear testimony to the harshest of worlds. 

It is written with the understanding that some of these behaviors are easily handled and others take time and more time. 

It is written with the understanding that every single child is unique and their story is unique. 

It is written in dedication to our Aaron.

Aaron's one baby picture

As we consider him, his struggles, his needs.

As we find those places on this list that describe him.

As we recognize how much he has overcome in the two years he has been with us.

As we realize all the ways that he has rocked our world.

Aaron at four years old at the baby house.

As we wonder how we survived in our family without him....


When a child is taught from birth that no amount of crying will solicit a response from the caretakers that child may....

Not cry. 
Cry only silent tears.
Not know how to express their feelings of pain or discomfort.
Have such a high pain tolerance you don't know that anything is wrong.
Sometimes laugh hysterically when something hurts. 
Be unable to express or even process their feelings.
Have bursts of screams for good and bad emotions.
Scream all day long for no obvious reason.
Lay in bed scared, sick or needing help yet will not cry for help.
Have been drugged to keep them quiet.

When a infant is never held or rocked and has not experienced the gentle arms of a mother and father holding them in their arms, that child may, out of a desperate need to be touched...

Rock back and forth in their cribs, sometimes violently.
Bang their heads repetitively against the crib rails.
Grind their teeth.
Scratch themselves, often to the point of making themselves bleed.
Hit themselves over and over and over again.
Bite, chew or suck on their tongues, lips, fingers, hands, arms.
Pull their hair out.
Lay limp and unmoving for hours.
Space out with a blank stare on their faces.
Moan and groan and make other repetitive noises, sometimes for hours and hours on end.

When a child has never experienced tender touch, hugs or kisses, that child may....

Be extremely sensitive to touch and will pull away from it.
Stiffen when picked up, held or touched.
Sit stiff on a parent's lap.
Become frightened by the movements of a rocking chair.
Fight off attempts to be carried or held.
Become frantic when being carried.
Get upset when being carried facing towards the parent.
Hang like a limp noodle when picked up or carried.
Not know to hold up their arms to be held.
Not care if they are picked up or held.
Want to be held or carried all the time.
Cling and hang on to the parent and become frantic when they are out of their sight.
Lean into a parent in an attempt to communicate their need to be held.
Seek out affection from anyone who is willing to give it.
Not understand what it means to be tickled.
Refuse to make eye contact.
Have a complete disconnect with people and surroundings.
Not come to the parent for comfort when hurt or in need.
Not understand kisses and hugs and may reject them.
Turn their back on the parent when being laid down.
Seek out physical attention by misbehaving.

When a crib-bound child in an institute is left for vast amounts of time without any social interaction or stimulation, some of them...

Are unable to sit up or hold up their heads.
Have low muscle tone.
Are unable to to pull themselves up to a standing position.
Twirl their fingers in front of their eyes for hours.
Chew on the crib rails.
Dislocate their joints over and over again.
Moan and groan and make other chanting noises for entertainment.
Roll back and forth violently in their crib.
Blank the world out and disappear into the recesses of their minds.
Rock on all fours for hours on end.
Play with their spit.
Scratch or bite themselves.
Flap their hands.
Have problems with their eyes (vision issues).
Sleep for long hours at a time. (15-18 hours a day)
Sleep for only short hours at a time. (3-4 hours a day)
Have been drugged in order to keep them quiet and will go through profound withdrawl. 
Prefer being in bed to being out of it.
Will not signal that they are awake.

When a child has never had opportunity to play with toys, that child may...

Be sensitive to touch and not like having anything in their hands.
Not understand how to play.
Throw the toys away.
Break, chew or spit on the toys.
Tear books to shreds.
Have a complete disinterest in looking at books.
Want to look at books for hours on end.
Gravitate towards easy board style picture-books even if they are beneath the age of the child.
Choose toys that are beneath the age of the child.
Fixate on one toy and refuse to play with anything else.

When a child has never owned anything in their lives, that child may...

Steal things from other members of the family.
Horde and hid their things in closets, under the bed, behind shelves.
Be overcome with gratefulness for everything given to them.
Not want to play with their toys for fear of breaking them or losing them.
Scream at anyone who comes near their things.
Struggle to share.
Refuse to do anything without gaining something (bargaining for behavior).
Break everything they own.
Believe that everything is theirs for the taking.
Believe that if anyone tries to help them with a toy that they are taking it away.
Develop an entitlement mentality that the world owes them everything.
Want to wear the same clothes for days on end.

When a child has spent their entire lives inside any type of institute and has never had anyone work with them, read to them, take them anywhere or teach them the basics, that child may...

Come out not knowing ANYTHING.
Be unable to talk or have an extremely limited vocabulary.
Struggle to learn a new language.
Be academically and cognitively behind by years.
Have an extremely poor attention span and be unable to concentrate. (ADHD)
Be so overwhelmed by new information that they can only take in small bits at a time.
Not know what to do with pencils or crayons or paper.
Be extremely sensitive to the sights and sounds of the outside world.
Be terrified out in public to the point of frantic fighting.
Be unaware of dangers around them.
Be prone to wander and explore - even outdoors - even in the middle of the night.
Become obsessed with the electronics in the house (light switches, appliances, water faucets, outlets etc.)
Never have had their teeth brushed.
Never have had more than just a sponge bath.
Be terrified of water and getting a bath.
Be obsessed with water and want to get multiple baths during the day.
Choose to watch TV shows, read books or play with toys that are for much younger children.
Have a total lack of interest in playing with their peers.
Gravitate towards playing with much younger children.
Gravitate towards interacting with the adults or older people in their life.

When a crib-bound child in an institute is left to lay in their own waste because the budgets in many orphanages allows for only two diapers in a 24 hour period, that child...

May have red, raw, inflammed skin around their bottom.
May play with their bowel and paint it on the crib and walls around them.
May have urinary tract infections.
May not be potty trained, even if he/she is an advanced age.
May be afraid to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, even when able to walk.

When a crib-bound child is fed only liquid meals out of bottles several times a day and is forced to drink their bottle in a matter of minutes before it is removed they may...

Develop a fear of eating.
Be unable to process foods and may develop re-feeding syndrome.
Have an inability to eat solids.
Have severe malnutrition.
Have severe weight loss when their diet is changed.
Have rickets and other vitamin deficiences.
Refuse to drink liquids.
Vomit up a large portion of what goes in.
Be allergic to numerous foods.

When a child is fed enough in an orphanage to sustain them but not enough to satisfy their physical or emotional need for food that child may..

Be the size of an infant even at an older age.
Have brittle bones.
Be unable to feed himself, hold a cup, chew or swallow.
Not know how to drink from a straw.
Only be able to tolerate soft foods.
Only to able to tolerate bland foods.
Have an oral fixation - wanting to lick everything and put everything into his/her mouth.
Scream and cry when the meal is being prepared or when it is over.
Eat anything including paint chips, paper, mulch, their own poop, crib slats, balloons and more.
Reject all food that is similar in taste or texture to what was eaten in the orphanage.
Reject all food except that which is similar in taste or texture to what was eaten in the orphanage.
Throw food or play with it.
Not have an understanding of hunger vs. full.
Gorge themselves on food without stopping until they are sick.
Be obsessed with mealtimes and menus.
Be hungry and want food all day.
Hide food or steal it.
Refuse to leave the kitchen when food is being prepared.
Eat like a dog with face in the plate.
Eat all his food within just a few minutes time period.
Eat food off the floor and lick the floor where the food dropped.
Eat out of the cat/dog dish.

When a child is physically disabled or has health issues, they are often unable to get the treatments and therapies they need.  Because of this many children....

Are unable to walk.
Are unable to feed themselves.
Have enlarged tonsils from lack of treatment.
Have numerous and on-going ear infections and sinus infections.
May have hearing loss.
May have heart defects that are past the point of repair.
May have lung damage.
May have rotten teeth.
May have incorrect diagnoses and undiagnosed problems.
May have increased symptoms.

When a child becomes sick or needs medical help they are often taken to the hospital and left alone for days/weeks/months on end without anyone offering them comfort, visits or attention. They also are left without a caregiver/advocate who would check to make sure they are free from pain. That child may....

Have an uncontrollable terror of people wearing white coats.
Be terrified of all medical procedures.
Cry uncontrollably when taken into any medical building.
Tune out or blank out when taken for medical procedures.
Become angry or aggressive after coming out of procedures/anesthesia.
Turn their back on the parent or push the parent away when being offered comfort.
Latch on to the nursing staff inappropriately.
Latch on to visitors and allow them to lavish attention while ignoring the parent.
Have a high pain tolerance.
Have a high tolerance for narcotics (some hospitals keep the children drugged to keep them quiet).
Have a low pain tolerance and a fear of every bump, bruise or scratch on their body.
Have an obsession over anything that might cause them pain.

When a child has been transferred from their babyhouse to a mental institute that child may....

Lose the ability to communicate.
Imitate the behaviors of the children around them.
Blank out and stare for long periods of time.
Rock, moan, groan.
Grind their teeth.
Wet or poop in their pants.
Withdraw and refuse all eye contact.
Become sensitive to touch.
Exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviors.
Lose the ability to walk.
Be terrified of the dark or being alone.
Struggle to communicate in their native language. (Some of the children are transferred to an institute where the child's language or dialect is different. This often leads to loss of language skills in their native language.)
Struggle to learn a new language.
have been drugged.

When a child has never had anyone listen to them, help them process their thoughts and feelings or help them understand the world, that child may...

Struggle to express their feelings or emotions.
Throw fits of rage over seemingly little incidences.
Withdraw, check out or blank out when feelings become too hard to handle.
Cry silent tears.
Rock back and forth when afraid.
Latch on to anyone who spends any time with them.
Talk incessently.
Talk loudly.
Manipulate with their words - I love you if...
Want to touch everything and everyone in an inappropriate, excessive way.
Be unable to laugh or understand when something is funny.
Laugh at inappropriate times.
Laugh or respond inappropriately when told no or when reprimanded.
Cry when happy.
Hit themselves in the head, face or jaw when upset or angry at themselves or someone else.
Hit themselves when told no.
Be unable or afraid to ask for something they need or want. 
Choose to steal, lie or go without before asking.
Repeat the same phrases or conversations over and over again.
When a child has had their entire lives ordered for them (when to get out of bed, when to eat, what to eat, what to wear, when to go to the bathroom  etc) without being given a choice about anything, that child may....

Be unable to make even simple choices.
Become frightened or angry when the schedule is altered in the slightest.
Become angry and out of control when he/she doesn't get their way.
Pee and poop in their pants even when potty trained because they are afraid to ask to go to the bathroom.
Be too afraid to get out of bed even when needing to use the bathroom or when it is time to get up.
Continue to want his/her life ordered for him and refuse to do anything for themselves.
Not understand or accept the concept of waiting.
Choose to latch on to one parent over another.
Need to review over and over and over again the simple happenings of a day.
Ask the same questions over and over and over again for comfort.
Struggle with needing to control anything and everything.
Focus on controlling the one thing they can control - their bodily functions (these children will vomit, spit, pee, poop etc. as a way to have control).
Refuse to walk when out in public.
Throw fits of rage when told no.
Try to manipulate to get their way.
Lie. Steal. Cheat.
Run away.

When a child in an orphanage has learned that only the strongest and the fittest survive, that child may...

Be terrified of the dark or being alone.
Be unable to fall asleep easily at night and struggle to stay asleep.
Prefer playing with children younger than him/her.
Be physically or vebally aggressive with his/her siblings.
Be sexually inappropriate.
Boss younger siblings around.
Hit, punch, poke, bite and kick other children and animals.
Have the language of a sailor out to sea.
Struggle to let the parent be in control.
Be unable to attach emotionally to the parents. (Reactive Attachment Disorder).

When a child is freed from an orphanage, institute, boarding house, internat....
They may be grateful, upset, happy, scared, excited, angry or fearful.
They may be so afraid that 'this too will pass' that they will hold themselves in check for days, weeks, months and even years before they allow themselves to actually let themselves live freely.
They may be so relieved that someone finally loves them that they will blossom as soon as kind hands carry them away.
They may fit seamlessly into a family.
They may fight with every ounce of their being.
They may provide a lifetime of pure laughter and delight.
They may cause you great sorrow.
They will rock your world.
They will cause you to rethink your priorities.
They will help you gain an insight into the Steadfast and Unfailing Love that the Father has for You.
They will teach you way more than you taught them.

And you... well...
YOU will never be the same.



  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Julia. It needs to be out there and the reality for these kids needs to be shared. Praying this list will move many more to follow the Lord's promptings to adopt. May the Lord bless you.

  2. Thank you for writing this Julia! It is heart felt and VERY TRUE! Yes, our world has been rocked 4 times, and we LOVE what it has done to our family. We have had all the responses above; the smooth transition to the very difficult transition and every single time, it has ROCKED our world and made our foundation in Christ, STRONGER!
    We love our children who have come from such difficult places..... and they are all thriving. :)

  3. Wow...this is so sad...and explains so much that I sometimes forget in parenting wounded former-orphans. Thanks for sharing this...

  4. We are adopting "Garnet"is from Reece's Rainbow. She is 11home and still crib bound in a baby house. Thanks for this list!

  5. Thk you for this. Sharing, sharing, sharing.

  6. Great and comprehensive list - hope some agencies grab onto this as well. Thanks for the help, the reminders, the truth!

  7. Thank you for posting this list. I too am praying that it breaks many hearts and many families step forward to rescue those who are still in these situations.

  8. I read a list - but I heard the names and saw the faces in my head of the children - the PRECIOUS BABIES - who this list represents. . . my own son included. . . thank you. Will eagerly share. Eyes wide open is the best way to go on this journey.

  9. Can you send this list to my email I can't copy your post from the screen

  10. Yes! Thank you for all the work you and the other adoptive families put into making this excellent list. What a labor of love (and pain).

  11. This was really excellent. Thank you!


  12. Wow. Thank you so much. This is incredibly true and heart wrenching.

  13. I just kept thinking- "this is my daughter, this is my daughter." I wish I could carry this around with me and hand it to people as they are looking at my daughter and wondering why she is acting a certain way. The general public is so uneducated when it come to parenting former orphans. Thank you.

  14. Thank you, Julia, for sharing this, too.

    Before I go farther, let me say "up front" that what follows is in no way intended to be critical of any family who has experienced a failed adoption, or any other adoption challenges. It is an honest quest for information.

    I've often wondered why some adoptions don't seem to "work out," and the children wind up being re-homed or sent back. Is it because some families are unaware of the possibilities on this list, and just can't handle it? Is it because they see international adoption of one of those "fairy-tale rescues" you mentioned in an earlier post?

    I'm sure there are legitimate reasons why some adoptions fail -- but could "under-preparedness" be at least part of the problem?

    It seems (to me, anyway) like it might be helpful to address some of those issues in a future blog post.

    Thanks again for sharing!


    P. S. It might be helpful to have this list on the RR website, as "prerequisite reading" for all prospective adoptive families!

  15. Dear Julia,
    We adopted 2 gorgeous 6 year olds from Lithuanian orphanages. I am frequently glad they are cute, seeing as how I counted 57 list items that applied to them! :) The grinding, the rocking, the screaming, the inappropriate (insert everything). To Kathy (kyhtak), I would say that we knew what we were getting, but knowing and dealing with it in reality are 2 different things. I am not surprised by them, I am surprised by "me," how hard it is to be a good parent. This after raising 4 terrific bio kids. I thought I was experienced enough, and I am, we are, but just barely. Our church has been little help, but thankfully, our sons, who WERE helped by our church, have come alongside of us and pitch in every week (with their wives). (It's a good church, but clueless as to our struggles...they hear it but don't offer anything other than, "I'll pray for it," and when we sought to have Zabrina on RR get some aid, not a soul has pitched in a cent. She is our daughter's former best "grupa" friend, but our church pretty much views adoptions as a way to grow a family when yours isn't big enough, not a mission.) We are experienced, we have resources and we are holding on by our fingernails. I can imagine how fewer resources would make the job impossible. It is the hardest thing we have ever done, but we love our little terrorists, and would do it all over again. Although, I think it is best not to know fully just how hard it will be! :)

    P.S. I agree with the "list" 100%, except that hoard is spelled wrong...if the list is ever distributed!

  16. Julia,

    We adopted a child that was listed on RR and was never given this list - I think this is a HUGE help in preparing families that I honestly do not think are well prepared for the children they are bringing home. Some are well prepared but I honestly think many are not. You must have had a great homestudy agency! This list is WONDERFUL!!! Thank you for posting!

  17. I posted above with the son and daughter home for 7 and 4 years. The list, reading books, attending education etc. give you an idea of what to expect, but living it day in and day out is so different. You can't pre-learn emotions, frustrations, fatigue, sadness, etc. You can only try to plan ahead of time for what resources and support you will utilize if you need to. Yes, there is plenty of adoptive families being "under prepared" but that is not the main cause for the typical struggles. It is the severe lifetime impact of time spent in an institution and the lack of support in the community for these issues.

    My two have had many struggles. We adopted our daughter after our son was home for 3 years and we thought we were knowledgable for our 2nd adoption. An example of only one out of many of our children's stuggles. Our daughter was 24lbs at 4.5 years old (size 0 to 6 months pants and 12 mos shirts). We assumed she just needed some good nutrition at home and she would be one of the kids that gained 10lbs in 6 months. Well for 3 years home it was completely horrible dealing with her eating. She refused to eat, vomited all the time, barely grew, etc. Hours and hours a day were spent trying to get her to eat. Not to mention picking up vomit many times a day. For example one Christmas she woke up and the excitement of the morning made her vomit on her presents. One Easter we sat down to dinner and before eating one bite, just looking at all the food she might be forced to eat made her vomit on her plate. No doctors, specialists or therapists really helped us including a feeding therapist. She just had zero appetite and refused to eat. Our whole family suffered. It is very hard to be happy and focus on normal family life when you are spending hours a day telling one child to "take another bite" of food and picking up vomit. We were so close to looking for respite care. Finally I just demanded a feeding tube and she got one. Not an ideal solution (we still have to pick up vomit and feeding tube spills) but now our family life is so much happier. So no, we were not prepared for a severe eating disorder. It was horrible and no one understood.

  18. Two of our precious children were adopted from dissolved adoptions. The original adoptive families were NOT prepared for the severe behaviors in the post-institutionalized children they received.

    Both of our children are healing. They show fewer of the behaviors on the list than they did when they came home.

    Neither of our children could have healed in their first adoptive families. Our family has been blessed by both of these children; we have grown immensely as parents; we will never be the same again.

  19. Thank you so much for this list - I, too, hope it will see wide distribution. I just linked your site (and the list) to a forum dealing with adoption, so hope more people will find and learn from it.

    Many thanks...btw, I'd never seen Aaron's baby picture before - he was a cutie then, and remains one now!

    Cousin to 2 from EE

  20. Two of our girls who were in lying rooms both have hernia surgery scars; a result of crying so hard and having nobody pick you up. Then, they stopped.
    It is not unusual for orphans to have had hernia surgery as a baby.

  21. Dear Julia, thank you so much for sharing. I translated your list to russian and reposted it in my blog
    Russian adopting families liked it a lot and they are reposting it all over.
    Russian adoption magazine would like to put your list in their issue. Please advise your opinion regarding this subject.
    Best wishes, Anna

  22. Dear Julia, please be so kind to advise whether we can put your list in a russian adoption magazine with your name and blog mentioned. Magazine is published by a adopting family with 3 adopted kids on money raised by our adopting community.
    thank you in advance for your kind reply,

    1. Anna - I sent you an e-mail but you must not have received it. Yes - You are welcome to use my List. My e-mail is I'd love a link to the Magazine when it is published!!

  23. I linked to my blog;

  24. Thank you for this post. Sharing on my blog as well.

  25. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us! Led here by one of our daughters with 5 children, the oldest recently home from Ukraine at 16...and we have 3 others as well in our families that came to us from God's heart in different ways to be family with us, forever, fully loved and enveloped in God's love - 15 grandchildren far ;-) But the story must continue to be told so that the community of Christ can be His arms of love and service to those of you who reach beyond the more "common" ground of building family. May the Father continue to bless your family and bring even the nameless to your door to serve you.

  26. Wonderful insight! Thank you so much for pulling the list together!

  27. God has used you to share his thoughts and hurts of these children. Thank you for this.

  28. very helpful! i have adopted one son from Guatemala in 06. i'm sending my dossier to Haiti next wk. i'm a single mom (husband died in 09) and i have felt God's calling for me to adopt, again. we as the christian community need to do more!

  29. Thank you - I will share this with my girl's teachers. "Gotcha" 11-11-98 Bulgaria.

  30. So wonderful you posted this...been there...six times...our lives will never be the same...and I am glad. Thanks be to God...we can be redeemed!

  31. Tears, Julia. Tears.:


Loving words from kind people make our hearts glad!