I love hats, true proper outrageous hats.
For the past two years I have made an Easter hat fascinator for Dellabug and both times wished I could justify making more. This year, with two little girls *squeal* in need of hats I doubled the fun.
While at Hobby Lobby, engrossed in carefully collecting supplies I saw a clustered flower notion and thought, “That would look great on a hat for Angelina”. Just like that, those flowers found their way into my basket, along with a few additional hats.
This year I am making more than two hats.
This is Angelina. She looks great in her hat. She is at my favorite age — the age for dolls, tea parties, and of course fabulous hats.
If this blog were an Anne of Green Gables book or Shirley Temple flick, I’d be making a hat with these flowers for Angelina. She would receive it in the mail on a day when she was feeling particularly lonely; the knowledge that someone in the world cared for her would lift her crumpled spirits. One day, while sporting her hat, she would catch the eye and then capture the heart of her future family. They would do everything in their power to bring her home and within a few short months she would be out of the orphanage and thriving.
Saccharine as it sounds, I wish this could happen, however we do not live in a Pollyanna wonderland and Angelina needs more than a hat to comfort her. She needs a home NOW.
Let me tell you about her reality. As you can see on her Reece’s Rainbow profile, she is “at risk of aging out”. I wasn’t sure what exactly that entailed, but from what I’d gleaned from conversations shared on Reece’s Rainbow, the future is bleak for a child who ages out.
To understand what that ominous phrase meant I figured it was best to ask professionals who work on adoption cases in her country. I contacted the Family Coordinator at Hand of Help in Adoption (where Angelina is also listed), they know where she is located and what the most likely next placement will be for her. They were quick to answer my questions. I was told that “Since she is not mobile she will more than likely be transferred to an adult mental institution (emphasis mine). Depending on which institution she goes to would depend on whether they have any wheelchairs and whether she will be left in a crib or stroller all the time” Just to be clear, her options are she will be left in a crib or left in a stroller/wheelchair all the time.
Do you see that word? Left. She will be left. Because adults are supposed to be able to fend for themselves.
It is a blessing she has not been transferred yet, children even younger than her (and she isn’t even 8 years old!) can be transferred. She may still be at the baby house thanks to an available bed, but there is no way of knowing when she will be transferred. It could be any day now. It could be today.
Those three words, adult mental institution should not be looming around Angelina for three good reasons:
1. Last time I checked, seven year olds are still children, not adults.
2. Despite her long medical record description, nothing there implies cognitive areas that would require inpatient mental health assistance.
Take the final words “delay of physical, psychological and speech development” with your daily dose of salt. This phrase is tacked on most children’s descriptions because yes, living in an orphanage significantly increases ones chance of delayed development due to neglect.
I have had the privilege of hearing from a family who met Angelina while at her orphanage adopting their own child. They shared additional pictures and video clips of Angelina. Let me tell you, she is a spunky cheerful girl who navigates a wheelchair way too big for her across a grassy yard in order to join friends. She giggles, chats, pulls up the collar of her t-shirt to hide an embarrassed smile, and I even caught a glimpse of her pulling up on a railing to weight bear through her legs. Beyond seeing her with a mother’s eyes, I also see her through my professional view as an occupational therapist. I see her and am appalled that her untapped potential is dictated by a physical birth condition which, in her country, is lumped in with mental disability and is streamlined into an institution. That leads us to the final word.
3. Institution. What a cold word. I cannot emphasize enough how devastating it is for a child to be transferred to an institution. According to UNICEF“research and data on child disability are scarce” and while trying to pin down valid reliable statistics I was told by an agency in Ukraine that “it is very hard to find any real statistics since the Ukrainian government is NOT going to publish that kind of information.” That being said, a common estimated provided by adoption communities is that the mortality rate for children transferred to institutions is above 90% within their first year of transfer. This paper by LUMOS also says that the mortality rate for children with disabilities is 100 times higher than their peers without disabilities in institutions; unfortunately they do not site that source.
Only a few months ago I was blissfully oblivious to the reality but after reading other family’s stories, watching documentaries such as this one, and reading articles including Family matters: a study of institutional childcare in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and Enabling Reform: Why supporting children with disabilities must be at the heart of successful child care reform (both released by EveryChild), I can no longer plead ignorance. I can no longer sit idly by.
So I am making hats.
Hats? Really? After all that ^ up there about urgency, doom, gloom, dread, despair. Hats?
It seems so small, so very insignificant – I know. But it is something, and it is what I am able to do, so I am doing it! International adoption is expensive, and in Angelina’s country it is also a relatively fast process, so the family who goes for her (please let a family see her soon!) will need as much funding already available as possible.
This darling confection of a hat has already kicked off this endeavor by being commissioned for a little girl. I find it immensely fitting that the first hat went to an adopting family. It’s now adorning the nursery, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their little girl who will be home soon!
Now that you know the why, here is the how. New to the idea of fundraising as I am, I am slightly baffled by how to proceed but I’m flinging myself forward. This will hopefully work itself out as I gain experience, but for now here is how supporting Angelina and getting a hat will go:
1. Go to Angelina’s family grant page.
2. Scroll down and click the donate button. Donate a minimum of $20 (you can always give more!) straight into her account. This way you know exactly where it is going and I don’t have to keep track of people’s donations.
3. You will receive an email of your tax deductible receipt. Please forward the receipt and the address you wish the hat to be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. At the moment I am only mailing to USA addresses.
4. In addition to the receipt and mailing address, please let me know if you have any specifics for a hat. I think it is loads more fun to give an extremely general idea and then sit back and wait to see what happens! Did you see one that you liked in particular (I may not have it available anymore, but I can probably make something similar!). Do you want the small, medium, or large. Will you want a scrunchy baby headband to come with it. These hats are small and designed as fascinators with two hair clips attached on the bottom to either go straight into a hairdo or clip onto a hairband.
5. Sit back and wait for your hat. I have no idea how many hats I will be making – that depends on all you guys. I do stitch the ribbons on by hand, the clips and other bits and bobs that can’t be sew on are sealed with glue. If you want to share pics of you wearing your hat, please include them in the comments below! (I’m assuming that is possible.)
6. Tell people about Angelina. Please help her family find her!