Friday, October 30, 2009

Photo of the Week - Visiting China

This week, Julie from Ireland and Arlene from the UK have been visiting our programs in Hunan, Henan, and Anhui. We have received a few wonderful photos from their travels. We loved this photo of Julie that was taken on Monday in Hunan. What a precious new baby!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What is a Special Need?

Promoting special needs adoption has been our focus since Love Without Boundaries began. The very first baby helped by LWB and adopted was baby Kang, a beautiful baby boy with a heart defect. Almost all of the orphans we help in China have some sort of need, some really minor others more significant. Every one of these children are just that…..beautiful children….but so often children are defined by their needs.

Today in the Huffington Post, there was an article called "Stereotyping Kids with Special Needs is Looksism" by Ellen Seidman . This post discussed how Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley recently adopted a baby from Korea with a special need. The problem is that no one has been able to “see” the specially need and has commented on how normal she is. What is normal? What exactly are special needs?

Education is the key…..either for anyone may be considering the adoption of a child with a special needs. There are so many different kinds of special needs, some that are visible and others that aren’t. There are children waiting for families with just about any special need in every country, including the US. Because we know how important it is to learn about different needs, to understand exactly what the special need involves in terms of treatment, surgery, or therapy, and for families to decide what needs they are able to handle, we have developed a website for potential parents. This website contains basic facts and treatments for each particular special need –

We hope more families will join the Heigl/Kelley family in adopting a child with a special need as every child born deserves a family to love them. What do you think of when you think of "special needs"?

Karen Maunu

Monday, October 26, 2009

Asian Eyes

My 11-year-old daughter and I have been recently had discussions around when she can use make-up. Yikes! I am not ready for this, but I know that she is starting to feel more grown up, and I knew that this would eventually be a discussion we would have. She and her younger sister have a bag of make-up they can use for play, but I knew this recent discussion was beyond just play. She has been fascinated watching me put on my make-up. Although she won’t be wearing makeup out in public anytime soon, we have had some very interesting discussions around her Asian eyes.

She has been very concerned about putting on eye make-up without any eye folds. I have told her that when the time comes for her to be old enough to do this, we would get some books, research, and visit some cosmetologists that specialize in Asian eyes so that we can learn how to do this right. She has been one to comment on our differences in my Caucasian looks and her Asian looks since she was five years old. Her absolutely gorgeous eyes have been a topic of many conversations. When she was five, she had to have an entropion repair, to tilt her lower eyelashes out, as they were scratching her corneas and causing her severe vision issues. From this surgery on, she has asked so many questions about her eyes.

Having just had another discussion this weekend about make-up and her eyes, including the eye surgery she had to have when she was little, I was so interested to read this great blog from Malinda, who runs the China Adoption Talk blog. Last Monday she had a very interesting and controversial blog titled “Eyes Wide Open: Surgery to Westernize the Eyes of an Asian Child”. This blog was about a man who had his daughter's Asian eyes surgical changed to be more Western. I didn’t even know that this surgery existed, and I had no idea that some parents had even thought about changing their daughters' eye shape. I did a little more research and found this article titled "With These Eyes" from the Los Angeles City Beat. I was surprised to read that four out of ten women in Korea have this procedure done. Malinda had a great article today titled “Asian Beauty/Asian Makeup Links". I will be saving these links for our future beauty lessons.

Have you had a discussion with your daughter about make-up or applying make-up to Asian eyes? Do you have any great resources or websites for teen girls to use to tastefully apply makeup? What do you think about eye surgery to change the shape of Asian eyes?

Karen Maunu

Friday, October 23, 2009

Photo of the Week - Esther

This beautiful child is Esther from our Huainan Believe in Me school. She is in our preschool class. We just received some great pictures of each of the children in this program all posed in a different way. We loved this tree-hugging picture!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I think it is a fair statement to say that most of us who have adopted internationally think that our child's birthparents made the decision to abandon their child. I have read many essays and poems where adoptive parents imagine the birthmother hiding in the bushes or watching until the tiny bundle is found. Perhaps that is how you imagine it to be as well. I know I certainly did, until I helped run a cleft mission where many of our patients were rural children with families. On that trip, parents told me one story after another that quite simply turned everything I thought I knew about abandonment on its head.

I want to share one of those stories today, as I have been thinking so much about my son's birthparents lately.

On this particular cleft mission, we had far more babies needing surgery than space available, so very sadly we were having to turn families away. We had set a weight requirement for the kids' safety, and we soon learned that parents were sewing rocks into their babies' clothing in the hopes that their kids would meet our 10 pound requirement. We also had begun turning away babies who were obviously younger than 5-6 months because we wanted to make sure the kids would do well under anesthesia.

I was sitting in the intake room one morning when an anxious young woman came running in holding a tiny bundle. I could immediately tell that the baby was a newborn, and I asked our Chinese director to break the bad news to the woman that the baby was far too young for surgery. As she was given the news, the young lady burst into tears and began pleading and begging to have her child be seen. My friend came over to me and told me that I needed to go and speak with the woman in private, and so I did. She pulled back the blanket to reveal a tiny baby girl with severe cleft lip. The mother told me that her daughter was 28 days old, and that their period of confinement was over in just 2 more days. As she was crying and talking, the mom kept kissing her baby's forehead, and she kept telling me again and again, "I love her....I love her so much."

But then she went on to tell me that her extended family would not accept her daughter since she had been born with a cleft lip. They felt this tiny baby would bring shame to them all. With tears streaming down her face, she told me that her mother-in-law was coming to take the baby away from her in two days' time. The mom was begging me to heal her daughter, to make her daughter beautiful, so that she could keep the baby that she had carried inside of her for 9 months….the daughter she loved completely. When I explained that the baby could not safely be put under anesthesia at four weeks of age, she fell on her knees and was sobbing at my feet, pleading and crying and begging me to help her. Right now...even typing this brings a pain to my chest that I cannot describe.

Over and over on that trip, I heard stories from birthparents who adored their children with cleft, but who were told the children could not stay in the extended family. I met a woman whose daughter with cleft had been taken from her by her in-laws while she slept. She never saw her daughter again. She had come to our mission after reading about it in the paper, to thank us for giving parents a chance to keep their children.....a chance she herself did not have.

That trip changed everything for me about how I view birthparents in China. Many people give pat explanations about infant abandonment that cover the issue in blanket terms: “Babies are abandoned because rural families want sons.” “Babies are abandoned because the medical needs were too great.” Simple, one line sentences, to explain a personal life event that is often very complex.

When it comes to human life, and heartbreaking decisions…..abandonment and loss.....I have learned that there are rarely simple explanations. Every single one of our children faced a great loss in their lives, but the reality is…..we have no idea about the deep, personal stories of the people involved. We have no idea who made the decision that a child couldn’t stay in the family. We have no idea of the anguish, or sacrifice, or resignation experienced. It is easy to think it was a birthparent who lovingly placed the child by the orphanage front gate, but it could have just as easily been an in-law or an uncle who was given instructions by the head of the family to remove the baby from the home. Every child has their own unique story. It certainly hurts more, however, to think that any of our kids have birthparents like the woman I met on that very somber day.

There is still such a stigma surrounding children born with special needs, especially in the rural areas of China. For those of us parenting these amazing kids, the unknowns of their beginnings are very sad to think about, aren't they? Have you thought much about this issue? Do you normally think of a birthparent making the decision to leave a child? Or were you already aware that especially for children with special needs, many become orphaned to not bring shame to the family at large?


Monday, October 19, 2009


Last week, I was invited to attend an event on behalf of Kathy Ireland who received a Woman of Achievement Award through her partnership with the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. I have learned through knowing Kathy that she is a philanthropist with a huge heart, supporting many different charities. Receiving an award like this was much deserved, because she works so hard to help others.

Attending this event was a very powerful experience for me. Kathy Ireland is very strong in her Christian faith, and most in attendance were Jewish. We began our prayers with a Jewish prayer and broke bread together in the Jewish tradition. The entire message of this wonderful event was one of Unity – of looking beyond individual faiths and beliefs to come together to help those in need.

Kathy is quoted in this article on Yahoo Finance before receiving this award:

“The extraordinary work of Sheba Medical Center is critical to Israel and all Nations. It is essential that Jews and Christians come together to support the wonderful hope and inspiration that is accomplished at Sheba everyday. The doors of Sheba are open to all people. . .race, gender, religion do not matter to the wonderful people who devote their lives to helping others heal. My prayer is to be able to contribute in some small way to the magnificent work of all those who support Sheba Medical Center," shared Kathy Ireland.

During the talks at the event, I learned that at Sheba, Palestinian babies lie next to Jewish babies in the newborn nursery. The hospital is a place of healing, in ways more than just medicine. In a world that often has so much division, what a wonderful message to hear.

So you might ask yourself, where do Chinese orphans come into this picture? We have always talked about how we are a worldwide foundation, where helping orphans in the very best way is our daily mission. This world might have just got smaller, as Kathy invited me to meet with Emeritus Director of Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Mordechai Shani, and the Executive Director of Friends of Sheba Medical Center, Jack Saltzberg. I hope through this meeting that we might be able to introduce Sheba to hospitals in China….to widen this message of Unity. We are all one people…..a worldwide group….working to better the lives of all.

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Friday, October 16, 2009

Photo(s) of the week - 10/16/2009

Quinn and Cambree from our Anhui Cleft Healing Home both were scheduled for surgery this week. We couldn't decide on just one photo this week as BOTH of these pre-op photos in the hospital were just too cute for words!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Help Us Choose the Top Ten Photos

Each year, LWB shares our Top Ten photos of the year from our work with children in China. This year, we would like YOU to help us decide. Please visit the following link to choose your favorite photo of all. We know it isn't an easy decision, which is why we needed some extra opinions!

Thanks for your input!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Orphan Tourism

I was forwarded a very interesting article last week about “orphan vacations.” You can read the article here:

In the first section, the author discusses that this type of trip could encourage orphanages to purposely keep the children in bad conditions to encourage donations. I have had firsthand experience with this in one private orphanage (not an official government facility). The conditions were terrible, with crowded rooms and broken cribs, and no heat or warm clothing. We were moved to tears when we first visited, and of course our hearts wanted to give in every way possible. However, thankfully we took the time to do our research on the facility, and we discovered that multiple groups had donated large sums of money, while nothing ever improved. More research revealed that the person in charge of the orphanage lived in a brand new building in very nice conditions. I believe in this case the children were being used for donations, and thankfully the Chinese government eventually shut the home down.

I do think there is a big difference between going on an “orphan vacation,” which implies a recreational component for the adult, versus volunteering to go overseas to truly serve children in need. We have sent many teams into orphanages to help with physical therapy, education, and medical care. But I honestly had no idea the term “orphan vacation” even existed. A quick Google search just proved otherwise.

Have you heard of this new type of vacation? What are your thoughts on this topic?


Friday, October 9, 2009

Photo of the Week - October 9, 2009

We recently had several graduates from our Henan Cleft Healing home. One of them was sweet David-Michael, a true charmer. Before he left to meet his new foster parents, the aunties snapped the following photo. Doesn't he look cute sitting in his Bumbo seat looking like he is ready to strum a guitar? We think he wanted to serenade the lovely ladies who took such excellent care of him in the cleft home!

We certainly will miss you in the healing home, David-Michael....but we know we will get to follow your continued progress in foster care as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I read this powerful blog here on abandoning a child who needs life-saving health care that they can’t afford. It really made me about the anguish a family must go through when they feel that abandoning a child might save their life.

We have seen a number of parents in China on the verge of this desperation. We’ve also seen children who have obviously had some medical treatment as they are abandoned with surgical scars or needle marks from previous IVs. Obviously the parents tried to give the child they medical care they needed, but we have to wonder if they ran out of funds and so felt the desperation of having to leave them in the hopes they would get care. This is the reason behind our Unity Fund, our medical treatment fund that helps poor, rural families who can’t afford medical treatment. We want families to stay together, and we love when we can “prevent an orphan” by providing the medical care needed so that the family doesn’t have to consider such a drastic decision.

Can you imagine yourself being so desperate to save your child’s life that you would have to abandon them? Imagine how many families around the world are faced with this dilemma and the thoughts that must lead up to their decision to leave their child. What more can be done around the world to help support these families?

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Monday, October 5, 2009


Last week, I saw this article about a woman who was on the Today Show, who adopted a child and later terminated the adoption here. The woman and her husband had five biological children and then adopted a baby boy. However, because the mother felt that she couldn’t bond with him like she could her biological child…..after 18 months they disrupted.

The subtitle on this article was “Of human bondage” and there are five pages of editorial comments on both sides of this story.

I have struggled with the idea of disruption for many years. When a child is born into your family, whether the child has “issues” or not, that child is yours. You don’t have an option to hand that child back. I know that this is a very complex subject, however, and with my motto being “Compassion before judgment” I try very hard to understand disruption when it happens in adoption. In our own extended family, there was a disruption of a child that I knew well….so I have seen this with my own eyes.

What are your thoughts on disruption? Is there ever a time that it is acceptable? In the end, was it better to have a family that will truly cherish this child or would it have been better for this family to fully commit to the child and work on bonding?

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Friday, October 2, 2009

Photo of the Week - Happy Birthday Maria

Little Maria just celebrated her birthday at our Heartbridge Pediatric Unit in Beijing. One of our past Heartbridge Coordinators sent her a birthday gift. Don't you just love birthdays? Guess what else Maria will be getting this year - a family!! Happy Birthday Maria!