How well I remember it. My husband and I were living in The States together with our three children. We were preparing to adopt a fourth child from a very sad circumstance - a disrupted adoption.
When we shared this news with our immediate family, one member said "we're very proud of you but just remember, you can't save them all".
At first, I felt a little indignant at that remark. It stung. I took it personally and felt the speaker was accusing me of having a "super hero" complex.
But I understand that statement much better now, thanks to the little boy in this picture.
When we met him two weeks ago at his shelter, he was burning up with fever, listless, painfully thin and only semi-conscious. I was so afraid he would be dead before we could get our paperwork in order to admit him.
But he lived. And got over the fever. And has started to walk.
He is five years old. And diapered.
We began to fear we had made a mistake in admitting him within just an hour of having him in our home. He tried to eat paper, toys, the fur he puled from our dog, banana peels from the garbage - anything in arm's reach.
He pulled all the items from our shelves and tried to pull the television over on himself.
He had seizures that we were unaware of.
This child needed his own caregiver 24/7. He could not be allowed to walk around our home.
He bit me and drew blood.
(This next sentence is NOT for the squeamish - you are being warned).
He reached inside of his dirty diaper TWICE and proceeded to eat the contents with great gusto.
All of this done in complete SILENCE with no eye contact and no response to his name or any stimuli.
This child was in such peril!
His cheeks were covered with bruises and his body with scars, many round scars that resemble cigarette burns.
His arms and legs were stick thin and his belly distended.
It was with great sadness and a decent amount of defeat that we had to call his referring agency and inform them we were not equipped to keep him and the other children safe.
Being bitten by a child who eats his own feces is a terrifying experience. I now know this firsthand and pray I never experience it again. SIDENOTE: Do not "google" anything related to human bites unless you want nightmares. END SIDE NOTE.
In fairness to the referring agency, we ASKED for this child. The last time we saw him, he appeared to be dying of an untreated illness. We intended to get him to hospital right away. His file says nothing of seizures, pica or the other behaviors we witnessed.
He was on the streets with an older sibling and I have no idea how this child did not get hit by a car or fall into some deep ravine. He has no safety mechanisms.
So, yes, we took him back yesterday. He did not seem to notice or care. He is in a place much safer for him, with plain rooms empty of all but a few beds and mattresses. He has a teenage caregiver assigned to him 24/7. He sleeps beside her. She feeds him. She was very happy to see him return.
But we care.
Now we must care for him from a distance.
We will buy him "onesies" and pull-on pants so he can not access his diaper easily.
We will take some teething rings and baby toys to him next week so he can, hopefully, bite those items instead of people.
We will pray for this boy, and the sweet girl who cares for him.
The cruelty of poverty, homelessness and lack is manifest in this situation in countless ways.
We will remember the words that once stung and now rang true.
You can't save them all . . .