China (MNN) — In 2010, UNICEF estimated that there were around 712,000 orphans in China, but child welfare groups now believe there could be millions.
Each year, hundreds will be adopted, but there’s one group of orphans who tend to be ignored: children with Down syndrome.
Elisabeth McGinnis of Bethany Christian Services says these kids kind of get a bad wrap and have limited options. Many are forced to stay in state care their whole lives.
“There was kind of a negative stigma and some cultural norms that make the Chinese feel that these kids may not be adoptable, and quite frankly in the U.S. as well. There are a lot of families in the U.S. who wonder why anyone would want to adopt these children,” she says.
But just because these children were born with an extra chromosome does not mean they are defective, nor should they be rejected.
“These children are very precious, of course, and we wanted to prove to those people in the U.S. and in China that these children are worthy of love and affection and loving families and are very much adoptable.”
For years, Bethany worked to change the views of people. “We saw a lot of need and not a lot of families stepping forward and not a lot of agencies really focusing on these children.”
But in 2013, their efforts finally paid off when they received 14 files of children with Down syndrome through their partnership with the Jinan orphanage.
That’s when The Bamboo Project was born.
What is The Bamboo Project?
“The Bamboo Project is a specific focus recruitment effort to find families for children in China who have Down syndrome,” McGinnis explains.
It’s a way for kids to have a life outside of state care, to be part of a family, and to feel loved.
So far, of the original Bamboo kids, 10 have been adopted by Christian families who are telling them about Jesus, and one more will be going to an adoptive family in the next year or so. Also, more files from the Jinan orphanage have been received totaling to 22 orphans.
“We’ve had enormous success with these first 14 children and have now expanded that to six orphanages in China in an attempt to find additional families,” McGinnis says.
Some of the original Bamboo families have become close and call themselves the “Bamboo Cousins.” Next week, they will be having a reunion in Chicago and part of Wisconsin.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for them to get together and kind of celebrate their kids and strengthen those bonds that they have so they can be a very strong support network for each other.”
As a way of supporting the adoptive families, Bethany created a Down Syndrome Toolkit, a Webinar regarding Down syndrome, and provided financial services. Now, your help is needed, whether that’s praying, sponsoring adoptive families, or adopting a child.
“In China there are over 200 children with Down syndrome. Their files are prepared; they are ready to find their family and they are sitting there waiting.”
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