Friday, 13 February 2015

Regarding Leo ... and others

You might have seen reports online of a father taking his newborn son, Leo, who has Down syndrome, from Armenia, to New Zealand after his mother was said to have 'abandoned' him soon after birth. On the strength of initial online reports, outrage followed and an online funding page attracted much more money than was requested by Leo's father. Further consideration and information has led to some more thoughtful responses to the broader range of issues raised.

The first comment on our Facebook page's link to the story (7th February) points out that (as have others) ...
I am happy for this devoted daddy. However... if he had of been a woman with the husband leaving this would not have made media, and that beautiful baby boy probably would have not ended up with such a money gift. Not suggesting he does not deserve admiration ... it's just that there is an imbalance here that does not pay credit to the thousands of single mothers who are doing the same as him ...
Each of these blog posts was written by a parent or sibling of someone with Down syndrome:

Leo Forrest, Samuel and Ruzan
David Perry, How Did We Get Into This Mess? 10th February 2015
... So here's one conclusion: the internet is a thoroughly lousy place to figure out the intricacies of a relationship, especially one in crisis, from halfway around the world.
We are biased, flawed, creatures, too prone to leap to the heart-rending story and, in many cases, to lay our money down based on partial information ...
Leo, abandonment, and life with Down syndrome in some places
Mark Leach, Down Syndrome Prenatal Testing, 11th February 2015
... It was only through investigative reporting and progressive social policies to de-institutionalize and move individuals with disabilities back into the community that the expectation for a life with Down syndrome could be seen with more hope by parents. They finally had examples of what that life could be like from their neighbor, church member, child’s classmate, and employees at their local stores.
But these changes will not happen in countries like Armenia on their own ... donations would be better spent supporting the families to accept their children, rather than continuing the problem of institutionalization by funding the orphanages.
Jennifer Bekins, Talk - Down Syndrome, 8th February 2015
When Down syndrome (DS) makes my Facebook trending sidebar, I click the link. By now you’ve likely seen the article on Sam Forrest heroically taking his son when his wife allegedly abandoned him. And the internet exploded with outrage followed by the desire to “do something to help.” As of this morning Forrest’s Go Fund Me account has raised over 475K. Please let that sit for a moment. Complete strangers who heard the initial story of Forrest’s desire to move his child to his native New Zealand following resulted in nearly half a million dollars in funding in 12 days.Seriously. Red flags were everywhere ...
Father of Baby with Down Syndrome Raises $500,000 through Gofundme
Stephanie Meredith (guest blogger), Thin Places, 9th February 2015
... Methodically shifting social paradigms with hard work is not as sexy as one gripping story, but it’s the most effective way to improve conditions internationally — by working collaboratively with individuals within these nations and empowering families there. While I understand that donations roll in for individual cases like the Forrest family, and I’m genuinely happy Leo will get the support he needs, it’s frustrating that the public is much less likely to support these coordinated efforts that help many more people ...
An Open Letter to Baby Leo’s Dad…from a “Down syndrome Mom”
Meriah Nichols, Medium.com, 12th February 2015
... The one thing that I beg you not to do is to donate to Armenian orphanages. Doing so will help to perpetuate the very institutionalism that we seek to change ... I urge you to keep a firm eye on the conditions within Armenia and Eastern Europe for children with disabilities, the very conditions that caused you to leave ...

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