I was really happy when Laura Lofy agreed to tell us a little about her journey helping orphans.
She is an adoptive mom of three children adopted from East Asia, an educational psychologist, and advocate of orphans.
"I said, 'Somebody should do something about that.' and then I realized I was somebody." - Lily TomlinHow did you get started helping orphans?
I have always had an interest in child welfare. I was an exchange student in China during college in the eighties. I am an adoptive mother of three Asian children. I am an educational psychologist. I have lived and worked in Shanghai, China...first as the Director of Youth Services for the Half the Sky Foundation and then as a psychologist at Olivia's Place Pediatric Therapy Center. I now work in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a child development center conducting psychological evaluations for children with special needs from many different cultural backgrounds. When it comes to the orphans in China, like Lily Tomlin, I realized I am somebody and I needed to do something. China Kiddos
is the name I have given the informal charity that I have started. It is not yet a stand-alone 501(c)(3) nonprofit nor does it yet have any financial backing. It is essentially me and my computer with the support of some loyal friends in China and the US. Together we do what we can to advocate for the rights of a few children. My mission statement is this...
For every child...a meaningful education, a loving family, a promising future.
I started China Kiddos a couple of years ago after I joined a group of professionals from my own adoption agency on a visit to an orphanage in Shandong province. While I was there, I helped to evaluate a group of children (mostly boys) who by all accounts looked like they would be spending their childhoods living in an institution. When I left that institution, I made a commitment to myself and those kids that I would do whatever I could to find them families. Sweet Gracie is still waiting for a family
I started out with grandiose plans of finding homes for about 25 children, but soon realized how hard it was to match these older children. Instead of giving up, I switched my focus to helping one child at a time. I started with a child whose life was at risk given a complex medical condition. I remember the first e-mail I wrote asking for advice from a mentor. I quoted the Chinese proverb that reminds us that "a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step," and said something to the effect of "I don't know what I'm doing or how this story will end, but I'm going to try to find this kid a family." It took two years and a lot of help from doctors, social workers, foundations, and the advocacy community, but that boy finally has a family and should be going home this summer.
From that first step, I started to learn the ropes and established a network of like-minded advocates. A few successes have led other individuals to ask for help advocating for the orphans they know and love. Since then, I have worked together with other advocates to help four other kiddos find homes. My hope is to keep making a difference - one child at a time. Here I must acknowledge and express deep gratitude for those who have helped me learn about and do this work: Joanna Ren, Jasmine Xu, Rebecca Chang, Jessica McComas, Nancy Reffsin, Pamela Neail Thomas, Brooke Henningfeld, Johanna Cannelongo, and Rebecca Coleman. What in your life prepared you for this?
I feel like my whole life has been a road toward this work. All of my interests, skills and training have collided to put me in a position in which I can help bring a few children together with their forever families. It is helpful to have knowledge of the issues related to institutional care and adoption from both the professional perspective of a psychologist, but also from the personal perspective of a mother to three adopted children. I think my ability to understand both sides of the adoption equation has afforded me the ability to serve as a bridge between those who are caring for the children while they are in China and those who will ultimately become their parents. I think this may be my niche in the world. What is your favorite thing about it?
My favorite thing about this work is that it changes the course of children's lives. I really cannot think of any activity that is a better use of my time. Another great thing about this work is that it allows us to demonstrate what is possible when individuals step up, take responsibility for a child, and refuse to give up. I love working alongside my Chinese friends and learning together how much we can accomplish when we work together on behalf of these children. This little guy is John. He is still waiting to be adopted. What is one of the hardest things about it?
It is hard to raise money to support the adoption of children with special needs. Money is tight for everyone and there are so many worthy causes competing for charitable donations. I find it hard to ask for money, but am willing to do it for the kids. It is harder to wait and wonder whether or not there is a family out there for one of "my" kiddos. It is hardest to know the vast number of orphaned children with special needs who need families and also know that many of them will never have families and may never know a life outside of an institution. What is your best experience?
The ultimate reward is when a family comes forward and makes a commitment to a child, and when the child goes from being a "China Kiddo" to being a child with parents to call his own. To me, these are truly matches made in heaven.What would you tell someone who wants to help?
There are many ways you can help me help these kiddos.
1. Visit the website chinakiddos.org
(It is under construction, but keep checking back.)
2. Join the China Kiddos mailing list. E-mail me
and I will add you.
3. Spread the Word. Share the information on the the China Kiddos featured children, and ask others to share it as well! Post links on your social media and share their photos and stories with everyone in your network. The broader the net we cast, the greater the likelihood of them being found by their future parents.
4. Contribute to China Kiddos and help me fundraise. I fundraise in order to provide adoption grants to families interested in adopting one of the China Kiddos. Adoption grants have proven to be an effective means of improving a child's chance of adoption. Help me fundraise by having a sale, a raffle, an auction, collecting change, getting your church to do a special collection, put a tin can out in your office, etc...There are two ways you can donate
to my partner charity, Homeland Children's Foundation, which has agreed to safeguard the China Kiddo adoption grants for me. Homeland is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit whose founders have devoted their personal and professional lives to helping orphaned children. They will send you a receipt at the end of the year.1. Send a check (with "China Kiddos" in memo line) to:
c/o Homeland Children's Foundation
121 New York Avenue
Congers, NY 109202. Donate online
indicate funds are specifically for China Kiddos
-By selling or buying on Ebay
indicate funds are specifically for China Kiddos
Thank you so much Laura, for letting us peek into your world. We appreciate all you do for these precious children.
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