Today someone called me a child collector. They hadn't met me before, they were introducing me to someone I have met before but not seen for a few years, and explained the fact that I had a different child with me by telling them I was a child collector.
I have to say, I was quite insulted by this. Child-collector; it goes with along with baby-farmer as an insult aimed at people who not only make their living out of caring for children but do so at the expense of the children. Think Mrs Hannigan and you're not far wrong.
I was also quite surprised - I only have 2 children with a very occasional part time extra; it's not much of a collection is it? It's less than the 2.4 children the average family in this country is supposed to have.
And then I started thinking about people with far larger families. And I wondered what the woman calling me a child-collector would make of Cindy's 39, or Christine's crew, or Mom to 14's 14? And I thought that if these are the women I'm being linked to, then I'm proud to be a child-collector. I don't see myself as collecting children; I see myself as growing a family. I just happen to do it through fostering and adoption. I can't see myself ending up with 20 children or even half as many; a 3 bedroom flat does limit family size somewhat. I don't think any of these women are child-collectors either; I think they're mothers who saw the need, felt the call, and responded.
So then I started thinking about another woman who could almost certainly be called a child collector in the most technical sense of the phrase. She has collected 44 children, rounded them up from government orphanages and is busy settling them into smaller (still large by western standards but with conditions so much improved) places, fixing what can be fixed through surgeries they said the children couldn't have, educating children who were deemed ineducable, loving children who weren't deemed worthy of love. Is she done collecting? I very much doubt it! But if she is going to add to her collection of rescued children then she needs more support from those of us who aren't already supporting 44 profoundly disabled children. What Sarah is doing is incredible; in the midst of so much need she is finding those most vulnerable, those least likely to be helped by any other kind of funding, and she is changing the lives of her children forever. Sarah has posted all her children's profiles here, along with details of how much it costs to care for those children. And she's asking for help. Help with sponsoring a child, or sponsoring a surgery for a particular child. Help towards the costs of vaccinating the children and getting them proper medical attention. Help towards meeting the day to day running costs of the homes these children are now living in. And of course help towards the costs of rescuing more children. Take a look at some of the "then and now" pictures she's posted. These are children who in some cases were close to dying, neglected, maltreated, starving. Who are now loved and sheltered.
Sarah has more children she knows about who she would desperately like to bring under her care, but she can't do that without financial help either. I know I sometimes look at child profiles here in this country, and it hurts to know that I'm not in a position to offer a home to a particular child with a disability. However, I have the reassurance that whilst that child may be having to live without the security of a permanent forever family, that child will be being fed, medicated, clothed, loved, educated. If it's hard for me, how much harder is it for Sarah, knowing that to turn down a child may mean that child dying before they ever realise how much they are loved? I know she'd be grateful for any help anyone might be in a position to offer.
Which is kind of off the point, but still worth saying I think. The point is, if I am a child collecter (albeit with a very small collection), then, well, I consider myself to be in some truly excellent company.