Sunday, February 8, 2015

Baby Leo---So Many Thoughts

Everyone in the Down syndrome community (and society in general) is all abuzz about Baby Leo and his dad.  When the story first broke, Leo's Dad claimed that he was given an ultimatum:  His baby (who has DS) or his wife.  He was declared a hero and thousands upon thousands were raised for him and his son on their Go Fund Me page.  A few days later, the mom came out with her side of the story.  It's a story that struck a chord with me because it's so true all over the world.  She knew that her son would not be accepted in her native Armenia so she wanted to place the baby in an orphanage.  After all, that's what people do in Armenia (and around the world) when their child is born with a disability.

Now, of course, there are a million questions and speculations going on:

*Why isn't the mom going with the Dad to New Zealand? 
*Why couldn't they raise the child together in Armenia?
*Do most kids with disabilities in Armenia really end up in orphanages?
*Does the dad really need all that money?
*Were the parents going to get divorced any way?

*Is that dad really a nice guy?
*Doesn't the dad already have tons of money?

*What is the dad going to do with all that money?
*Did the dad already have a disabled child and family in New Zealand?

And on and on and on.....

I have no idea where the donations are coming from.  Are they from mostly Americans?  Armenians? Or people all over the world? I don't know.

I find it fascinating that so many people care about this little baby.  I'm glad they do.  They should.  But there are so many kids around the world (and in our own country) with Down syndrome and other disabilities that no one cares about.  In the US, an estimated 92% of women who get a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to end that pregnancy.  Americans have no right to judge how other countries deal with children with Down syndrome.  We don't even let them exist.

In many countries around the world, children with disabilities are given up at birth and placed in orphanages or institutions.  (That is my daughter's story.)  It wasn't that long ago that we did just that the in the US.  Hid kids away and told their families to forget they existed. I won't judge birth parents for doing that.  They don't know any differently and are following the advice of doctors and "experts."  To say they are unwanted or were unloved because of their disability majorly oversimplifies a very complex issue. 

People all over the world have a lot of work to do to overcome the huge stigma of disability.  This is true of the US, Colombia, Armenia, and the entire world.  Until then, we need to find ways to support families so they can have the confidence and ability to raise their children.  All of their children.  Mission to Ukraine is a great example of an agency doing that every day in Eastern Europe.

If you want to help children who have already been placed in orphanages because of their disability, you can check out Maya's Hope.

If you would like to help some kids in the same country as baby Leo find adoptive families, you can make a donation to any of these kids.  Or pick one and share their profile!

If you would like to help a family that is adopting two kids from the same country as baby Leo, you can make a donation to the VanHalle family here.

Let's not worry about who is right and who is wrong in the situation.  Let's use it to highlight the plight of kids with Down syndrome around the world.  Let's use it to make a child or family's life a little better!  

If baby Leo's story makes you mad or  sad or indignant or even curious, do something about it!

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