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Taylor joined our family in January, 1998 at the age of 9 months. She was born in the city of Rostov-na-Donu, Russia. What a blessing…our beautiful baby girl! She had dark curly hair, dark eyes and a smile that took a while to come but once here, it melted our hearts!
We know very little about Taylor’s early months. Pieced together from the brief medical report we received and conversations with our Russian facilitator and the orphanage director, we can assume she was typical of most orphaned babies in Eastern Europe. She appeared healthy although very quiet and developmentally delayed. They were very rigid at the orphanage with feeding times and care but with so many babies to take care of there was no doubt a lack of time and effort given to these tasks.
We were assured by all that with lots of love and proper nutrition, Taylor would thrive! And she did! She grew quickly, smiled often, and life was good. She sucked down a bottle faster than any baby I’d ever known. Although we had read many articles about the challenges that come home with internationally adopted children, we didn’t truly realize the impact until we began experiencing them first hand. Delays in milestones hit first, then speech/language issues. The list grew as we discovered during educational evaluations when Taylor started school. FASD, RAD, learning disabilities, sensory issues, etc. became part of our daily lives. As adolescence started, I began my quest to understand eating issues that were causing health problems and weight gain. A genetic test confirmed that we could add one more diagnosis to the list…Microdeletion 16p11.2. This diagnosis confirmed a rare genetic disorder that presents learning disabilities, health issues (such as heart conditions and spine problems) not to mention 50% of those identified with this disorder go into adulthood obese. It affects the “shut off” valve for eating.
After 14 years of experiencing life through my daughter and learning about early childhood trauma with the effects of poor nutrition and feeding, I think I can consider myself an expert Mom on the topic. Now when I look back at her early days with us and consider her experience at the orphanage, I not only realize that most of what they were feeding the babies was watered-down porridge fed to them by cutting off the nipple and propping up the bottle so a worker would not have to feed each individual child. Not only was the food/formula not nutritional but the feeding process itself caused much detriment to the babies in regard to growth, oral development, speech issues, etc. I know this was not from lack of want on the part of the orphanage workers but the reality of the situation at the time.
I would love to think that after 14 years positive changes are happening in all of Eastern Europe when it comes to caring for their orphans. Money and donations of needed food medical items, playground equipment, etc. are a must for these children but a really important piece that could make the most impact on developing healthy children is education on nutrition and the feeding process. It’s a proven fact…the first months of a child’s life are critical for brain development and growth. Giving orphanage workers the gift of knowledge could make a child’s future bright where it once was bleak. I wonder how different my daughter’s life would have been had her orphanage workers had this education? We’ll never know but I can guess.
In 2000, I became involved in Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption (FRUA). FRUA is a 501(c)3 national organization with a mission to offer hope, help and community to adoptive families. In 2000 I founded the St. Louis Chapter and moved into a national role in 2007 as Education Chair. My greatest gift though from FRUA was being offered the position of Orphan Support Chair in 2010 and being able to work with other organizations who share our mission to help those children residing in orphanages or children’s homes in Eastern Europe and Central Asian countries. Seeing first-hand how FRUA’s donations are working directly to improve the lives of orphaned children makes my job so fulfilling.
Advocating for my daughter became my passion years ago. She will always have challenges because of her genetics and early childhood but knowing what we’re up against now, gives us hope for her future.
Orphan Support Chair
National Board of Directors
Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption
Hope, Help and Community for Adoptive Families
The Nutrition Profiles on this site express the views of the individual authors and not SPOON Foundation. SPOON Foundation has not conducted any independent verification of the information contained in the Nutrition Profiles. As a result, SPOON Foundation makes no representations concerning, and assumes no responsibility for, the accuracy of the information or the appropriateness of advice contained in the Nutrition Profiles. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from the Nutrition Profiles with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your child’s physician.