Last August, we had our first encounter with Daniel Manchu. When we met him, he seemed like the rest of the boys at the home: energetic, aggressive, intelligent, and desperate for parents. But right away we noticed that he didn’t look like most Guatemalan boys. It took a bit of probing to find out that Danni’s different look is due in part to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
We had never heard much about FAS before Danni, and it honestly didn’t make sense to us why he hadn’t been adopted. After all, he was such a cute, cuddly, lovable, healthy-looking five-year-old. Several books and many websites later, we started to realize the impact that alcohol has on fetal development. It is tragically amazing that a mother’s drinking can so severely limit how much a child can grow and develop. However, there is no set limit to what each FAS kid can handle and Danni seemed to be a pretty healthy, normal kindergartner. A doctor in Guatemala even told us that his development looked fine and that he would lead a fairly normal life.
On subsequent trips, we watched for signs that Danni was behind his peers. We got excited when we saw him skipping and jumping, things that are often difficult for FAS kids. He cuddled up and sat still for an hour when I offered to read to him a Spanish comic book, which might be difficult for even non-FAS kids. He attached to us so much in one week that by the end he was crying hysterically when we finally had to return home.
On the other hand, according to his report card, he struggles in the conceptual areas like math. With children who have FAS, this is often a predictor of future trouble with money and finances. He tends to play more by himself and often reacts somewhat coldly to the other children at the home, preferring to interact with others only when they have something he needs. It’s hard for him to maintain eye contact. All these are signs of slowed development and more heartaches to come. We have thought many times about Danni’s situation and growth. Would it be best for Danni to be adopted into a U.S. family? Would he have to have supervision for the rest of his life? What will happen to him if he stays in Guatemala?
Nothing is for certain. Danni could grow up to lead a healthy and productive life, finding himself happy in spite of circumstances. Or maybe Danni will struggle throughout his life and never be able to survive and thrive on his own like his peers. Or, even worse, maybe, because of his lack of understanding of cause and effect, he’ll do something to endanger himself or others. Regardless, what can we do but love on him and pour into him with the hope that maybe things won’t turn out as badly as they could? Maybe in those moments of ridiculous love, God will step in and perform miracles.
Whatever the outcome, it’s worth it to Danni for us to pour ourselves into him and love him unconditionally. After all, potential shouldn’t decide who gets our love. It certainly didn’t when Christ died to erase our sins. So even though we can’t take away the FAS or bring back his parents, we’ll go on loving him like crazy and praying that God will intercede and give Danni a bright, hopeful, healthy, and happy future.