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When University of Houston Professor Patrick Bordnick boards a plane for Beijing, he will be loaded down with all things Texas: cowboy hats, lassos, toy horses and lyrics to traditional Lone Star songs. The items will be used in a unique camp he's leading for special-needs children who are waiting to be adopted by American families.
"There will be 46 children who will come to learn about American life and culture," Bordnick said. "We want them to have fun, ask questions and just enjoy our little bit of Texas we're bringing to them."
Bordnick, a licensed social worker and associate professor in the UH Graduate College of Social Work, will perform assessments that will be used to help families decide whether adoption is right for them. He'll also give the children information about what it's like to live in the United States and what it's like to be adopted. The trip was coordinated by Great Wall Adoption, which is headquartered in Austin.
"Often, information in a child's file doesn't tell the whole story about them," said Stephanie Crouch, manager of the Waiting Child program. "Patrick speaks Mandarin and will be able to get more detailed information about them by having this face-to-face interaction." Crouch will travel with Bordnick. The assessments will become part of the children's permanent file and will be used by the agency to match them with families.
Bordnick will gather information on the child's social skills, ability to interact with other children and behavior and development. While professionally, he is lending his expertise, the trip also is very personal. He has three daughters, ages 6, 4 and 3, who all were adopted from China. The youngest had a special health need.
"When you are committed to adopting a child with special needs, you want as much information as possible, so that you can make as informed a decision as possible," he said.
He'll treat the children to a Texas rodeo-themed camp, complete with cowboy hats. They'll learn the song "Texas Star" and lasso a pretend horse. Additionally, Bordnick will show videos from older recently adopted children who will share their stories of living in America with their new parents.
"One 13-year-old girl we approached really wanted to share her story," he said. "In her videotaped talk, she addresses her anxieties about starting her new life in the United States, which are probably the same fears the other children have. She talks about what she's doing now, her school, the kinds of activities she does and tries to allay any fears."
While his absence comes with the support of the college's dean and at his own expense, Bordnick is eager to participate.
"At the college we talk about being the change you want to see in the world. If just one child is adopted because of our efforts, it will have been worthwhile," Bordnick said.
For more information about Great Wall China Adoption, visit http://www.gwca.org/.
For more information about the UH Graduate College of Social Work, visit http://www.sw.uh.edu/main/home.php.