In most of the countries I work in special needs children begin life in the system by being relinquished at the hospital. The parents are counselled by doctors that the child will be too difficult to care for and the best place for them is in the orphanage. A child could be born with Down Syndrome, or a heart defect, or just simply prematurely. These children are born to poor single women, to poor couples, and also to wealthy and educated couples. Their society does not have room for them. So they are placed in the orphanage.
In most of the countries I work in the babies are not available legally for international adoption. The countries will try to place the unplaceable children in their home country first. Thank you Hague. Generally when they are over a year old, they might be registered to be placed internationally. This first year is mostly spent confined to a crib. Bottles are fed on schedule 5 times a day and no nigh-time feedings, in a good orphanage. The caregivers are overworked, the budget is underfunded. The children are not picked up, their cries go unanswered. They fall further and further behind developmentally and their chances of being adopted even internationally become smaller and smaller.
In most countries I work in doctors practice medical triage. A child with special needs may not get a needed treatment or surgery if they are considered “not worth it”.
In most countries I work in the children with special needs are thought to not feel pain. This is the belief held by not just the general populace but doctors and psychologists too. They are picked up and carried by one arm. They are thrown down on a table to change. It is gutwrenching to watch.
In most countries I work in by age 3 the children with special needs “age out” of the baby houses. They are moved to one of two places. They are either deemed ready to enter an orphanage with normal children, or, more often, they are transferred to a mental institution. The mental institution houses not only children but also adults.
In most countries I work in if the child has down syndrome he has a 95% chance of dying in the first year he is transferred.
In most countries I work in orphaned children will never live up to the potential they were born with. Sometimes they become too damaged to ever meet this potential. But always they are worth saving. Always.
*all statistics have been gathered from unverified sources. The actual yearly statistics on the number of children who die in mental institutions or orphanages worldwide relies upon the reporting of caregivers and these numbers are suspect of manipulation. It is sufficient to say that the situation is grim and children are suffering.