By Kay Bratt
The author's first impressions of China are pure culture shock. I was a bit surprised that she had not done a little more research into what to expect. Many adoptive parents have the greatest love and respect for China as it is our daughters' homeland. We play down the negative aspects and play up the positive ones to foster a love for China in our children. The author has no vested interest in China and writes frankly about how she feels about China's people and the conditions she finds in the orphanage. The book has generated a bit of controversy in the Chinese adoption world mostly for the judgement and attitude of the author. Initially she is very critical of many of the methods used by the nannies in the orphanage but as the book progresses she comes to realize that there are good reasons for many of the things she found incomprehensible.
The orphanage that the author volunteers at is one of the poorer orphanages in China. It is understaffed and underfunded. The volunteers are initially met with scepticism and scorn from the nannies. Which is understandable as nobody wants to be watched, judged and told how to do their jobs. Eventually the author and the other volunteers are accepted and are able to improve life greatly for the children in the orphanage. Many of the children in the orphanage have special needs such as spina bifida, heart conditions or cleft palates. Unfortunately with the limited staff and many babies to feed and care for the most vulnerable babies sometimes do die. As with any job there are some nannies who are very good at their jobs and truly care for the babies. Then there are also some nannies who are uncaring at best and abusive at worst. Ultimately the author and her volunteers are able to raise funds for surgery for many of the children and provide them with opportunity for a better life.
I would not say that I enjoyed reading this book but I do think it was a worthwhile read. While I don't doubt the writings of the author I do not believe this orphanage is representative of the conditions in all orphanages. Grace came to us as an almost 20 pound happy 8 month old. She was well fed and obviously well cared for and loved. We will always be thankful to her nannies for that. Hopefully there will be a time in the near future when all children are cared for as well as Grace was.