UPDATE: Yay! As of November 2012, Shelley has a family! Congratulations Shelley!
by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager
In July 2010, I had the privilege of spending time with a most precious little girl. Near the end of my eye-opening trip to China, I had already met and heard the stories of over a hundred children in different areas of the country. Even two years later, Shelley’s* story is still crisp in my brain and heavy on my heart.
Shelley was found in February 2007, at the foot of a hill in the middle of the cold, long winter. She was assumed to have been just born that day, and although the local police searched for her birth family, they could not find them. She was reportedly “at her last breath” when sent to the social welfare institute. The caregivers took this little one struggling to survive to the hospital, where the doctor gave her a grim diagnosis. But her caregivers refused to believe it. They had seen Shelley make it this far and knew she had a lot of fight left in her. They lovingly kept her as warm as possible, watching her become healthier every day, and getting her to smile and laugh by playing with toys. Shelley made it through that winter and spring, and then in July, she joined a foster family. In the years since, they have continued to dote on her, encourage her development, and make her laugh.
At age 3 ½, Shelley was a very responsive, engaging, and beautiful child. I watched her walk with determination while holding onto handrails or a staff member’s hand. I observed as she fit blocks into a hole, and smiled as she played with the older boys visiting from another foster home. She continues to grow and develop to this day. According to recent reports, she asks good questions, poses for photos, and loves to recite the most recent song or poem she has learned.
With a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, Shelley may need resources beyond what a typically developing child needs, but she certainly doesn’t let that stop her from being a typical kid! She can count to 100, feed herself with a spoon, and walk alone, though a bit unsteadily. She knows the names of the parrots and turtles her foster family keeps as pets and is very polite to guests. She is a favorite in the neighborhood and is the first to greet someone she meets. My favorite sentence from her most recent report just about sums it up: She can stand up by herself when she falls down.
Please join me in advocating for Shelley to find a permanent family, one who has access to resources she may need and who understands the implications of the grief that Shelley will most likely feel upon leaving her foster family to become part of her adoptive family.
For more videos, photos and information about Shelley, please contact Erin Mower at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* name changed