While waiting to join a permanent family through adoption, a little girl with severe special needs receives the attentive, nurturing care she needs in her foster family in Thailand.
When our partner staff in Thailand met Worawan, they were shocked by her condition. Born prematurely at seven months, she spent the first three months of her life in an incubator — and two months on a ventilator. At birth, she had multiple special needs and health problems — including respiratory distress syndrome, rickets, anemia and congenital heart failure, among other severe and complex conditions. At the age of seven months, she weighed just over 8 pounds and was just 19.5 inches long. Most of the time, she laid still in her crib.
“Worawan had global developmental delays and failure to thrive,” says Jintana Nontapouraya, the director of the Holt Sahathai Foundation in Thailand. “We were so worried about her condition and also very afraid about whether the foster parents who agreed to receive her would still want to welcome her when we brought her to their home.”
Nine months have now passed since they welcomed Worawan into their home and lives.
“Although they appeared worried as she looked very tiny and fragile,” Jintana remembers, “they said they believed their family was the best choice for the girl under this situation as they were not afraid to love and nurture her.”
An HSF foster family since 2007, Mrs. Malinee, a homemaker, and Mr. Yuth, a local religious leader, felt fully confident in their ability to care for Worawan. Although they have five children by birth, only one son still lives at home — a 16-year-old boy working toward his bachelor’s degree at a nearby college. Nine years ago, as their children began to come of age, Mrs. Malinee and Mr. Yuth’s love of children and desire to provide loving temporary care to children waiting to reunite with their family — or join an adoptive family —inspired them to become foster parents. Since that time, they have fostered eight children in their home in a semi-agricultural area outside of Bangkok. Worawan is their ninth foster child.
“They love, treat and care for Worawan as their own child,” Jintana says of Worawan’s foster parents.
Although Mr. Yuth is often busy with his work in the community, he is a very involved foster father and Worawan has grown quite attached to him. Every morning before he leaves for work, and every evening when he comes home, he takes Worawan on a walk around their property — a shady yard full of edible plants and dragon fruit trees.
Since she has come into her foster family’s care, Worawan has made progress little by little. She has gained almost nine pounds in nine months, though she is still underweight for her age. She used to vomit her formula quite often, Jintana says, but her foster mother has tried different techniques to help her digest it better — such as adjusting her feeding position and feeding her in smaller amounts. Mrs. Malinee was also concerned about her poor appetite, eating very little at every meal, and tried giving her different foods to see if it would motivate her to eat more. Since Mrs. Malinee changed her feeding approach, Worawan keeps her formula down and eats three meals every day of finely chopped foods with steamed rice.
“They’ve never tired of the extra work brought to them by her special needs — from having to take her to see different specialists at hospitals in Bangkok two-three appointments a month, to cooking healthy foods and feeding her, to providing her with the stimulation she needs,” Jintana says of Mrs. Malinee and Mr. Yuth.
From laying down most of the time when she first came into care, Worawan can now pull herself to standing and cruise around by holding onto furniture. She has started to babble in baby language, and can stand without support for about 5 seconds before falling. And with a bit more bravery, her social worker assures that Worawan will soon be walking.
In September, Worawan is scheduled to have an operation to drain fluid from her ears — a significant step to help her regain hearing. A hemagioma on her abdominal wall has gradually reduced and is no longer a concern. And her pediatrician at the pre-term babies’ clinic, who sees Worawan once a month, is quite satisfied with the attentive care and stimulation Worawan receives in her foster family. It shows, Jintana says, in the progress she has made.
“They’ve never been afraid to love her and nurture her,” Jintana says of Worawan’s foster parents. “Although Worawan is still very small for her age right now and still behind developmentally, the little girl has been thriving and making amazing progress, little by little, under the tender, loving care of her foster family.”
Worawan’s birth parents have relinquished her for adoption, and our partner staff in Thailand is now processing the paperwork so they can begin seeking a loving, permanent home for her. But until that time comes, Worawan will remain in the devoted care of her foster family — a family that loves, treats and cares for her as one of their own.
Robin Munro | Managing Editor
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