Monday, June 13, 2011

Importance of Photos

I just had a really good talk with my friend Paul, and his wife
Lawrencia. They came to visit me in my hotel room to gather up some
donations that I had brought for their group foster home, Nyame Dua. As
we sat and talked, Paul told me many stories of children. There are
certain things that are only said in person here. Some things,
Ghanaians feel, are not to be shared through email or phone conversations.

I don't think we Americans have a true understanding of how much our
Ghanaian children's caretakers and first families still love them.
These people don't just care for our children and then forget about them
after they leave for America. No. They wonder how the kids are doing
in America, and they are deeply hurt when there is no word--no post
placement reports. Sending photos and a quick description of how your
child is doing in America does so much to keep this program going.
Simply put--if you don't send post placement reports do not expect that
anybody in Ghana will want to trust you with another one of their
children in the future. It is that serious.

Paul and Lawrencia asked about every child they have cared for that is
now in America--going back four years! I had a hard time recalling all
of the children, but they did not. Paul would say, "Anita, we never
hear updates on X child. Why is that? Do they not respect us? This is
not good at all. These families should not be allowed to adopt." About
the families who do send reports I heard, "Oh, we love this family! You
see, they respect us and want us to know the child is doing well in
America. This is the type of family AAI should work with."

When you send photos to Ghana, expect that those photos are going to go
through several sets of hands. Social Welfare, the child's caregiver,
the child's biological family, the village chief, friends of friends who
once met the child. Paul told me that people often ask about my
daughter Kendi. They saw how sick she was when she first came into care
and think that she must have died. When Paul tells them she is well in
America, they do not believe it until he can show them the photos!

I'm not accusing anybody of being heartless and insensitive to the whole
post-placement thing. I am just as bad as the next person. I should
update more as well. I brought one set of photos with me this trip--for
Bright's family. When I meet my friends every one of them ask if I have
photos of Bright and Kendi to share with them. Thankfully, Kendi is in
several of the photos I brought for Bright's family, so I've been able
to show people how they are doing. However, when they find out that the
photos I've brought out aren't for them, I can see the hurt on their
faces. Auntie Comfort (and her family); Paul and Lawrencia; Muna and
Joha; these are all people who loved my children and expected that I
would bring photos for them. I didn't. Needless to say, I will be
sending some with traveling families so that I can make up for this mistake!

It's hard for we Americans to believe that simple photos could be such
an important part of keeping good relations here, but they are. From
top government officials, to the poorest biological family member, the
photos assure them that the children being adopted from America are
still happy and healthy and being loved.

I BEG you, if you are behind on your post placement reports, send them!
If you adopted independently and don't know where to send them, just
send them to me! I will make sure they get to where they need to go.
If you adopted from a different agency that for some reason doesn't send
the reports to Ghana, I will happily bring them for you. It doesn't
even have to be as complicated as a "Post Placement Report." I know
that term sounds intimidating. Your child's people in Ghana would love
to read how the child is doing, but pictures say way more than words.
Maybe your child's caregiver is on Facebook. Friend them! Maybe you
have your caregiver's email address. Send the pics and a small update
through email. Do *something* to assure your child's people in Ghana
that they he/she is well cared for and much loved. The future of Ghana
adoptions could depend on it.

Anita Gillispie
mom to Taevy (9, Cambodia), Samren (8, Vietnam), Bright (4, Ghana) and Kendi (2, Ghana)


Mama D.'s Dozen 3:17 PM  

Very interesting. We were never even asked for post placement reports 3 years ago.

I love all of the details you share.

:) :) :)

Renee 8:13 PM  

Thank you. I needed that kick in the pants.