Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Every day when I go to Asher's room in the orphanage, there is Ivan. (not his real name)

Ivan is the saddest child I have ever met. He has reason to be sad. The chances of Ivan ever finding a family are 1/147,000,000. Like Asher and most of the kids in his group, Ivan has Down syndrome. He is one of the "least of these". In Serbia and most of Eastern Europe, he is among the unwanted. The training of Stalin, Lenin and Hitler has labeled these children as "useless eaters". The caregivers told me Ivan is 10, yet he is the size of a typical 4 year old. Let me rephrase that: He is the height of a typical 4 year old, but he is so incredibly thin. It is painful to look at a 10 year old child who's lower leg is no bigger than your two thumbs put together.

Ivan is a very passive little guy. He sits on his bed or in a corner of the room and watches everyone else. Rarely do I see him doing orphanage stimmy stuff. No, he just sits. Sometimes, his lower lip pokes out and a tear runs down his cheek.

Ivan is the target for the three kids in the room who are highest functioning and also the most aggressive. A couple days ago I went to pick up Asher and there was no caregiver in the room (very normal) One little girl who appears to have nothing wrong with her, had Ivan on the floor, laying on top of him,  her teeth embedded in his cheek. He didn't cry, or even make a noise. He just laid there powerless, this much bigger child on top of him, and cried silent tears.

Tommy is another little boy with DS in the room. He is more solid that the other kids, with stronger survival skills. While Tommy appears aggressive, he is really just surviving, using the skills he's developed to keep himself alive and near the top of the child pecking order. Every day Asher comes running to greet  me. If I stand in the doorway more than a second (like if Asher is getting a diaper change, etc.) Ivan will cautiously and quietly come take  my hand. He is so gentle. Then he looks up at me, willing me to take him out of that room, always with his lower lip out and on the verge of tears. The very first time he did this, I learned to protect him from Tommy. Before I knew what was happening, Tommy came barreling across the room and slammed his hand into Ivan's face, causing his head to slam against the cabinet. All in one movement Tommy latched himself onto my leg and started climbing up me. There stood Ivan, stunned at the blow. I peeled Tommy off me and tried to give Ivan a hug, or at least a rub on his head. He looked at me, stuck his lip out and opened his mouth to scream. Not a single sound came out.

Ivan cries the cry of an orphan. The silent cry that comes because the child knows their cries will not be answered. Twenty Two visits I've had with Asher. Twenty Two times I've watched Ivan cry as I've had to turn him away, to unwrap  his tiny fingers from my hand and gently guide him back into  his room.

It is survival of the fittest here, and Ivan is not the most fit. He is not alone; There are 50 more Ivan's here. Some have DS, some have Cerebral Palsy or vision impairments.

The point is there are many children here and there is a registry of approximately 40 children available for international adoption in a country not much bigger than the state of  Minnesota. No, you won't find photo listings of them. We never saw a picture of Asher before I met him, and it didn't change things for us because we realized we never saw our biological children before they were born either. Our priority isn't what the child looks like, and to be honest, now that I've met Asher, I do remember  having seen a picture of him on a popular photo listing sight. Believe me, looks can be deceiving. I'm glad I didn't fall in love with the picture and a fantasy child I created in my mind before meeting him.

I don't know if Ivan is on the adoption registry. The only way to find out is to contact the ministry and ask. If not this Ivan, I know there are others who are. Please, somebody go save Ivan.


  1. This is heartbreaking, Leah. Completely heartbreaking...

  2. Oh this is awful. I wish I could pick him up and carry him here. I hate that they suffer.

    Be blessed

  3. I was very touched by with your story about this Ivan. This is one so little and so unhappy child. From now on the name of Ivan remember me a sad story :-(