I just finished reading Kay Bratt’s Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. I read this book with great interest because we adopted our daughter Emmaline from China when she was nine months old (she’s now 3 1/2 years old). We were not allowed to visit her orphanage then. However, I saw pictures of her orphanage. From those pictures I could deduce what went on inside her orphanage on a daily basis. Part of the reason for reading this book was to satisfy my own curiosity. Sad to say, my own suspicions were confirmed by Mrs. Bratt’s four year experience as a volunteer in a Chinese orphanage. As disheartening and tragic as the accounts of Mrs. Bratt’s experience were, I was not shocked or taken aback in reading them. Perhaps I understand the Chinese culture all too well and accept their modus operandi as the way of life. This is not to condone their practices but simply to reiterate that I understand how the Chinese culture views orphans and handicapped children.
Silent Tears is Mrs. Bratt’s memoir or personal diary account of her volunteer work while living in China. She also highlights some of the Chinese culture and their way of life. From her book we get a glimpse of the life inside a Chinese orphanage. All the orphans are rendered as a lower class of person, especially those with any handicap. Even though there were over 100 orphans, only four orphanage workers were employed which resulted in inadequate care. In an institution that was run based on efficiency, lack of stimulation or love, all of the orphans suffered, including the healthiest ones. This type of care resulted in unnecessary deaths that were preventable, but because of orphanage bureaucracy or lack of adequate care, these babies failed to thrive. It was very disheartening to read these accounts as I read Mrs. Bratt’s struggles to help these orphans so that they at least have a tiny bit of love and care. An important warning about this book is that it is not for those faint of heart. The stories in this book concern real people and it may be difficult to read through the book without crying.
Yet even in such a dismal and depressing institution, there were glimmers of hope. Some were adopted into loving homes in United States or China. The orphanage workers improved in their handling of the children because of Mrs. Bratt’s volunteer group.
I think this is a must read if you want to know more about Chinese orphans, and especially if you are or are planning on becoming an adoptive parent of one. It is helpful to know what kind of trauma and/or neglect your adopted child may have gone through. Too often adoptive parents don’t understand the weird or unexplained behaviors shown by their children, as some of these orphanage-raised children even lash out in anger and physical abuse toward their parents. If we can understand a bit of their history and the trauma they experienced as babies, we can better help them. This book hits home for me and perhaps when we’re on the other side of the ongoing challenges we’ve faced in parenting Emmaline, I will have the emotional energy to write about our experience with our adopted daughter. In the meantime we are relying on God’s strength to bring healing and comfort.