Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Down Syndrome Abroad

Get It Down; 31 for 21

"Why do the children in Eastern Europe go to institutions at a certain age...why can't they just stay in the orphanage? And why such a high mortality rate when they get to the institution....are they just thrown in a room left to die?"

In many former-soviet countries people with disabilities aren't integrated into society at all. There is no accessibility as far as ramps for wheelchairs (or strollers!), there aren't schools, programs, or therapies with those with developmental or speech delays. There is an outlook that we know is false... but the birth of a child that doesn't appear to be "normal" is seen as a curse to the family. It's not even generally a choice whether the child is given up at birth or not... it's just the way it is.

Now, there are many 'helathy' children at any given orphanage as well due to the impoverished state of some nations. These children, at the age of four, move to an "internat" which is an orphanage for older children. They begin going to school, learning independence, and eventually at the age of 16 are turned out to "make their own lives." Of course a majority of the boys then turn to crime and a majority of the girls to prostitution.

That said, children with disabilities are not served at these internats. Even a child that is intelletually above par if they do not feed themself, walk, and use the toilet, they are not eligible (generally) to go to the internat. And though the children are sometimes able to be held at the baby house longer than 4 years old, sometimes until 5 and even 6, at some point the orphanage has to age the child out to the next group.

The institutions serving people with special needs are very low funded. There are few caregivers making the care severely below par. Often there is not enough food to go around, and if there is, then if the child next to a little one is able to get it, that child may very well eat every one of the other kid's meals. There isn't enough time or resources to continuously change diapers on the number of children there so they are left in their own excremements. If a child is able to get out of his bed this is seen as a danger for the child and caregivers will restrain the child to keep him in bed. Also, if a child has any self-injuring behaviors such as scratching or hitting... which are a result of under stimulation and a need for input... then the child may also be restrained.

As you can imagine, there is no treatment for common illnesses. If the flu, chickenpocks, a respiratory infection, or any other illness enters the building, there is very little ability to fight off sickness for most of the children and adults.

In addition, some children with special needs need medical attention for things such as heart defects, GI issues, etc. and receive very little if any of this at the institutions. Many children live less than a year after being transferred to an institution, and most do not live past their 10th birthday...

1 comment:

  1. That is so sad and just tugs terribly at my heart. We are on hold with moving forward with adoption for personal reasons. Mainly financial.