Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Waiting for a Baby Sister

Do these two look like they're ready for a baby sister? The prediction is that she will be the most docile of girlie girls who will not know what hit her. Don't let them fool you though...they are my sweet boys.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Anxiously Awaiting The Call

Our Dossier has been approved by Holt and we are being told we are now number 4
on the waitlist. I thought the wait would get easier as we got closer, but I find myself so focused on when the phone will ring! I actually told my husband to stop calling me on the home phone when he's at work and to use my cell phone instead. He didn't understand why he sensed disappointment when I answered his 3rd call of the afternoon :-)
I have never looked so forward to Mondays as I do now. I wake up each day wondering if today is they day we will know who our daughter is. When we began our official wait with Holt, they said we should expect to be matched within 1-2 months. It's been 5 weeks so it could be today, or a few weeks from now.
Predictions anyone??

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dossier Done (again)!

...and is on its way via FedEx to Holt. We had so much fun the first time, we thought we'd do it again! When we switched agencies, our dossier was already in Ethiopia and so it was not returned to us from our previous agency. That meant we had to completely re-create it. Why the push to do it quickly? Well, for two reasons. First, although we are on the official waitlist to be matched with a child, Holt will first match families who have completed their dossier. So apparently we are #5 or 6 on the waitlist but could potentially move up even higher once our dossier is approved. Secondly, once Holt approves your dossier, it goes on to the Ethiopian and U.S. Embassies in Washington D.C. for authentication which can take a couple weeks. Then it gets sent to Ethiopia to be translated and authenticated in-country, which is another few weeks. You cannot get a court date scheduled until Ethiopia has your dossier. It's not a big deal now since we haven't yet been matched with our daughter, but when we are, the sooner you get a court date (and pass court of course), the sooner you can bring your child home. I've been asked what the dossier is. Essentially, it's all the legal documents that support why you are eligible to adopt. Here is the list of documents. All of them have to be notarized, and a few have to also be certified by the state.
  • Home Study Report
  • Power of Attorney (for Holt to act on your behalf through the court proceedings in Ethiopia)
  • Certified birth certificates and marriage certificate
  • 2 Letters of recommendation
  • Police clearance letters
  • Medical certifications from Physician
  • Letters from employer
  • Letter from Bank
  • Income Tax Returns
  • Attestation of "Personal Conditions" (assets/debts)
  • Letter to MOWA (Ministry of Women's Affairs in Ethiopia) on why you want to adopt
  • And a few other ancillary documents

So now we've done all we can at this point on our journey to our daughter...now we just want to know who she is!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I've Learned So Far

I was naive when we began this adoption journey over a year ago. Here is what I've learned so far:
  • that when I first researched Ethiopia and read there are 5 million orphans, most of these orphans are not the children that are adopted
  • many children are relinquished by a living birth parent because they are no longer able to care for them
  • that I would struggle so much with the realization our daughter will likely come to us because her mother loved her so much
  • that I would have to so deeply question the ethics surrounding international adoption; that there are only a handful of agencies out of many I would trust to handle our adoption
  • that no matter how hard the wait is, we are lucky to be waiting; that at this moment in Ethiopia, a mother's heart will forever ache because she has made the most selfless decision to give up her child for adoption
  • that the adoption community would be such a huge support network
  • that you have to have faith that no matter how difficult the journey, it is leading you to the child you are meant for

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Perspective on Waiting

I've been reading about and empathizing with other families who are waiting....waiting to get "the call." Waiting to be assigned a court date. Waiting to hear if you passed court. Waiting to bring your child home. And for some, there is no end in sight to the wait. I think because we are close to being matched with our daughter, I find myself thinking a lot more about what the wait means to our daughter's birth family. Today, I read the words of an adoptive parent, CarrieOutWest, who shared her perspective now that her wait is over. She could not be more right... I am sincerely sorry for everyone who has endured the endless delays of late. Waiting is grueling, which is only compounded when you don't know when or where the end will be. It cuts to the core. What I am about to say does not change the hurt and the hard of the wait and it is in no way meant to belittle all of the emotions wrapped up in the wait. Our wait is beautiful. We are waiting to say hello to our future. We are waiting with hope. Waiting with dreams of what will come and visions of family. The families of our children are waiting to say goodbye. Waiting to kiss their cheek for a final time. To smell their sweet skin and whisper in their ears. They are waiting for loss. Loss that most of us will never have to bear. And our children will wait too. They will wait for all that is known to return to them and yet it never will. They will wait to hear the whispers of those who love them again. Whispers they will never hear. If children are not lingering in care. If the agencies we use are acting without haste and due care, then we should be at peace because a decision has not had to be made to say goodbye. There will be one more day. One more kiss. One more moment. I wish I could go back in time and sit next to the important people in my daughters' lives and whisper in their ears. Just one more day. Give them one more day. Take your time. I will wait here as long as you ask me to.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. Consider these statistics for Ethiopia alone: 980,000 Number of people in Ethiopia living with HIV/AIDS 92,000 Number of children in Ethiopia living with HIV/AIDS 67,000 Number of HIV/AIDS deaths in Ethiopia in 2007 Please watch this video. AHOPE is a non-profit organization in Ethiopia that cares for HIV+ orphans. video

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rambling Thoughts

I am feeling a myriad of emotions these days. I find myself high with the anticipation that we could soon know who our daughter is. I told Ryan as great as the weekend was with him and the boys, I am glad it's Monday because it means 5 solid days of having my heart jump with each phone call. It is unlikely "the call" will be this week. We'll just be glad if it's by Christmas. But the fact that it is possible makes me all the more excited to think about what each new day may bring. I also find myself thinking quite a bit about what may be going on right at this moment in Ethiopia. It could be this very day that her birth mother or living relative decides they can no longer care for her. I can no sooner imagine what her birth mom must be feeling then shoot myself to the moon. And I find myself thinking about what our daughter is feeling. She is likely between 6 and 12 months old. I imagine her grieving for her mom. I feel pain in my heart for her, and her birth mom. Everyone told me this was a difficult journey. It is. The process itself to get approved and to the point where you are officially waiting takes patience, determination and yes, faith. Then the wait. I am so thankful to have two very energetic little boys that keep me busy during this time. How all the more difficult it must be for first-time parents. And the worry. Lots of worrying. Worrying about the daughter I have yet to meet; the birth mom or family I will forever hold in my heart. Worry about whether the program will be shut down. Worry about whether I will feel the immediate connection I hope to feel when I first see her picture. But as my Mom always said, worrying does not change a darn thing. Of course it doesn't. And you can't let it get you stuck. So I'll get my heart around my worry and wait for the call.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Officially Waiting (again!)

We received the great news today that we are on the official waitlist with Holt! Apparently, there are only 5-6 waiting families ahead of us so there is a chance we could know who our daughter is by Christmas! It feels a bit surreal. I keep imagining what it will be like to see Holt's number on our phone and know that it's the day we've been waiting for. And what it will be like when Ryan and I open the e-mail to see our daughter for the first time. Happy thoughts.....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Roller Coaster

So it's been a bit of a ride these last couple weeks. As we approach 8 months of waiting (and 1 year since we began the process), we received notice from our agency that the estimated wait time was extending to up to 24 months. That means up to 16 more months until we are matched with our child. We also received news the wait time after referral was extending to 6 months (to when you can travel to bring home your child). That means we could be potentially be waiting another 22 months until we bring our daughter home. Almost 2 years. I couldn't wrap my brain around that kind of timeline. A lot can happen in 2 years. The fact that I'm an impatient person doesn't help matters. We had to consider other options. I re-looked at the agencies we had researched when we first started the process. There are only 3 agencies that I consider to be on par with each other in terms of ethical adoption practices, humanitarian efforts, and level of child care in Ethiopia. After talking with others who had direct experience with both our agency and others, after researching agency reviews, and after speaking to the Program Director, we are switching to Holt International. So here is where the ride starts. Holt has many children in its orphanage, and not many waiting families right now. That means we are looking at a relatively short wait time for referral. Possibly only 1-2 months. That means we could know who our daughter is by January, and then travel to get her summer, 2010 (although I have learned never to count on anything in international adoption). So Holt adds you to their wait list upon approval of your homestudy, prior to submission of the dossier (the 100 or so pages of legal documents). So we will have to get the dossier back from our agency and likely re-do at least some of it, but that can be done while we are officially on the waitlist. A couple questions I had to have answers to before considering this switch. Why the short wait time? How can one agency have a wait of a couple months while our agency is looking at 2 years? Holt is fairly new to Ethiopia and they do not have nearly the number of waiting families as our agency. Our agency has close to 400 waiting families while Holt has a very small number in comparison. And Holt happens to contract with an orphanage that has seen a large number of relinquished children. The next question surrounded their in-country practices. Holt doesn't consider poverty alone to justify adoption. They even offer assistance to allow the birth family to remain together. They also are involved in many humanitarian efforts within Ethiopia itself. For these reasons, and many others, we felt confident that switching to Holt was the right decision for us. So the ride continues! As one of my close girlfriend said: "This little squirt is giving you guys a wild ride already ... her soul is as anxious as yours to finally meet you - her mother! ... But you know she's also laughing as she'll be the greatest teacher you'll ever have and this 'lesson' is only the beginning of what she's got in store for all of us ... the path is laid but the blinders are on ... try to enjoy the journey using your other senses." I hope my next post is to share the news that we are officially waiting (again) for our daughter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reflections at 6 months

We've been officially waiting 6 months!
(and that doesn't include the 4 months of paperchasing). Realistically, it could be up to a year more until we are matched with our daughter. The current estimated wait time continues to be 12-18 months. That's a LONG wait. I can rationalize it until the cows come home....the boys will be older, Blake will be in preschool, the wait ultimately is what it's supposed to be and leads us to our daughter. Nonetheless, I am by nature an impatient person so it's not easy! I hereby dedicate these mileposts to all the good memories we've built during that time. So what's happened the last 6 months? A whole lot of good times!
  • Spencer turned 4!
  • Many trips to our family's beach cabin - building sand castles, digging in the sand, making forts, catching crabs, riding bikes, throwing rocks, campfires and s'mores ...endless fun for the boys and spending time with family and friends
  • A trip to the ocean - more of the above!
  • A visit from my sister who lives in Europe
  • Fun in the sun in Arizona
  • Visits to the Zoo
  • A trip to Portland to see family
  • Waterpark fun
  • Countless hours playing outside and having the best summer weather
  • Meeting new Ethiopian friends
  • Lots of fun with family and friends
  • Getting to see your children grow into remarkable little people who are happy and enthusiastic about life
So much to be thankful for...so much to cherish, today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An Amazing Family

The next time I think I'm busy, I'll think of this family....29 kids, many adopted from Ethiopia. Pretty cool they live in the Seattle-area too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIibuOo3Er4

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shining the light on unethical practices in Ethiopia

We have heard the horror stories about the child being taken from his/her family. Or the misrepresentation to the biological mother that she is simply sending her child off to America to receive a better education and her child will keep in touch and return some day. Or an adoptive family thinking they are the new parents of a healthy child only to find out once he is legally theirs they are facing serious medical concerns and the child faces a shortened lifespan. All of this has happened....and it's happening in Ethiopia. There was a recent broadcast by the Australian Broadcast Company questioning the ethics in Ethiopia intercountry adoption. I watched it and was horrified. It specifically called into question the practices of one specific, rather large agency working in Ethiopia. Even though the report did not portray any other agency, you could not watch it without wondering how extensive the concerns are. Possibly in response to the broadcast, JCICS, the Joint Council on International Children's Services, issued the following statement today: "Joint Council is well aware of the grave issues relating to intercountry adoption in Ethiopia. Earlier this week, Joint Council initiated an immediate assessment of any possible violations by Adoption Service Providers. Pending review Joint Council will issue a public statement. Any action taken by Joint Council, based on its findings, will be reported to the appropriate authorities." This is good news. The number of agencies working in Ethiopia has grown dramatically in the last few years. I remain hopeful that JCICS will shine a much-needed light on those that have no place pretending to serve the interests of children and families. All of this only reinforces the reasons why we chose Children's Home Society. They view adoption as a last resort and have programs in place to keep families together. If adoption is necessary, you can have confidence in their ability to ensure an ethical adoption occurs.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ignorance

Today, I read this entry and cried. I cried for this family I don't even know. The ignorance and hatred they experienced is almost unimaginable. You know racism exists and that it exists everywhere. You accept that your child will one day face prejudice based on the color of her skin and you plan how you will deal with it - whether a one-person act or systemic discrimination. We are not naive. What I can't wrap my brain around is this actually happening to us. I honestly don't know what I would do. And this hits close to home. We live in Washington state, which I've always thought of as a diverse, open-minded place to live. We are headed to the Olympic Peninsula in another week for our annual visit. This is where we will bring our daughter each year and what happened scares me. We have lived a life of privilege. We have not experienced racism because we were born white. We have not had to stare it straight in the eye nor been forced to flee from it. I pray our child doesn't ever face this level of racism. But we will be prepared to fight if she does.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Ethiopian Friends

Our daughter will grow up knowing her culture. She will be surrounded by it because it will be part of us. She will also be surrounded by Ethiopian family who will teach her what we cannot. I have been fortunate enough to become friends with two wonderful women who are Ethiopian, Almaz and Messi. Messi just got back from visiting her family in Addis and she invited me to her home on Saturday. I could not have anticipated what I was about to experience. Messi was dressed in a beautiful formal Ethiopian dress which is worn for holidays or church. I met her roommate, Sani, (she has two and her second roommate arrived later) and immediately realized I was going to be treated to much more than a casual get-together. I sat down to watch some of the various DVD's Messi had brought home to show me. They were of Ethiopian musicians singing and dancing with beautiful scenes of Ethiopia in the backdrop. Messi and Sani were both very busy in the kitchen and I suddenly was glad I hadn't eaten lunch yet because I realized they were preparing a lot of food. They served Injera with Doro Wat and Tibs. It was very delicious (and a little comical when I took a bite of a half of jalapeno (I am a complete wimp with spice!)). Next they served what they described as their "popcorn." It was a blend of all sorts of yummy nuts and grains. While eating, we spent time talking about the Ethiopian culture (including their wedding customs (which, by the way, spans 2 weeks and typically includes about 1,500 people at the ceremony). Then they presented me with gifts they had brought back for me from Addis. They were so gracious. And lastly, I got to experience the coffee ceremony. I felt very honored. We sat and chatted for a couple of hours and all I could think of was that our daughter will grow up with a strong connection to her heritage. These friends are so proud of their heritage, and I walked away feeling happy that their arms will be spread wide to receive our daughter.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Many Families Matched With Their Children

There has been a significant increase in the number of referrals through our agency. There were 29 referrals two weeks ago and 21 referrals last week. I think there was about 20 referrals on average per month in the last couple of months so that is a pretty big jump! CHSFS says the uptick is a result of Mussie orphanage in Hosanna (one of two orphanages (and the biggest) they contract with) providing child welfare services in new areas of the Southern region. Hooray to all those families who were matched with their child(ren)! It makes me have hope we might possibly be one of those families by this time next year!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A great article in Vogue

This is a great article written by a CHSFS forum member...
Madonna and Child
When a white Western woman adopts an African baby, everyone has an opinion. By Bess Rattray
A few months ago, when news hit that Madonna was attempting to adopt a second child from Malawi, most American parents of kids born in Africa—including me—groaned out loud. The gossip magazines showed Madonna, outfitted for her African sojourn in black combat boots laced to her knees and jungle-camouflage guerrilla pants, hand in hand with a little girl identified as Mercy.
I would like to think that Madonna had pretty much the same motivation I did when I adopted an eleven-month-old girl named Nettie Tesfanesh from Ethiopia a year ago: She wanted a child, and if that child could come from a place where millions of kids live without safe homes and loving arms, well, all the better. Yes, OK, it’s always to the greater good when a celebrity adoption gets us talking about Africa’s children—so why could the sound of smacked foreheads be heard in multiracial families across America? Because the talk that results when a white Western superstar—sporting an $800 haircut and Parisian safari gear—“rescues” a black child is not usually an enlightening dialogue on AIDS orphans, or how money can best be spent to address poverty. In the hands of the tabloids, it’s more like an outtake from BrĂ¼no.
What these commentators completely miss—and what is so irksome to workaday adoptive parents like me—is the legitimate opportunity to question why Madonna, who adopted a boy named David to much criticism in 2006, decided to adopt another child from a country that doesn’t have an established, transparent adoption system. In reputable adoption countries—which include China, Russia, and South Korea—there are elaborate checks and balances in place to guard against baby-trading and to protect the rights of a child’s birth parents. International adoption suffered a huge black eye, for instance, when it was left to London’s Mail on Sunday to track down David’s purported birth father to inform him that his son had been “spirited away.” Privacy—a child’s right to decide who knows his or her personal story—is often another casualty of celebrity adoptions. Mercy, whose father was likewise exposed by The Sunday Mirror, has already had that decision made for her, too.
(As an aside, and in Madge’s defense, one of the biggest misconceptions constantly harped on by the knee-jerk pop-media critics of foreign adoption is the idea that because a child—Mercy or Zahara or my Nettie—has a living birth parent, he or she should never have been relinquished for adoption. Time for a reality check: A large percentage, perhaps even a majority, of children who enter any adoption system—in the United States, Africa, China, or Russia—aren’t lacking a living parent; they are lacking parenting.)
Extra watchers could be excused if they thought all African adoptions were a Madonna-like mess. But it isn’t necessarily so. As the doors to adoption began to swing shut over the last few years around the globe—in Guatemala, for example, where rampant corruption basically called a halt to the whole operation; and in China, which responded to its overwhelming popularity in the West by imposing stricter restrictions on potential parents—Ethiopia was learning from other nations’ mistakes and is now considered to run one of the most progressive adoption programs in the world. Angelina Jolie, as the whole world surely knows, adopted her daughter Zahara from the country four years ago, and ever since then Ethiopia has unfortunately become known as the “hot new adoption destination.”
Although TV commentators like to say that white Americans—like Angelina, and me, and thousands of other applicants last year—are drawn to Ethiopia because we’ve simplemindedly fallen prey to a fad, the real reasons are probably similar to my own. It was important to me to adopt a baby who might otherwise languish in an institution, scramble to stay alive on the streets—or die. People often ask why I didn’t adopt in the United States, and, boiled down, my answer is that I wanted an infant, I wanted to go where the need was greatest, and I was open to a child born to a mother infected with HIV. In the States, there are families waiting around the block to adopt healthy infants, while in East Africa, formal foster-care and domestic-adoption systems are more or less unheard of. It’s never easy to leap through the flaming hoops of paperwork and bureaucracy, especially as a single parent, but my year-and-a-half journey to motherhood via a remote, coffee-growing hill town called Mudula was relatively smooth, even speedy, in relation to most international adoptions.
In contrast to the Madonna circus, the circumstances of how my daughter came into Ethiopia’s adoption system were, as a matter of course, investigated by the government and by adoption agency social workers. Video was taken of her birthplace; members of her nuclear family were interviewed on tape, standing barefoot in front of their one-room mud-and-thatch home; witnesses were brought to court.
In June of last year, in a small room smelling of roasting beans, with the help of a translator, I met one of Nettie’s birth relatives face to face, to ask questions, and answer questions, and to vow to take precious care of the baby I was about to take away on a jet to New York. Once a year, I am required to file a progress report, complete with photographs, which is then made available to my daughter’s first family. I can also send video, and a personal letter.
In a country that has been blighted by rapid and calamitous deforestation, Nettie’s family were woodcutters and wood carriers. On my visit there last June, I watched women with bathtub-size loads of wood on their backs, walking mile upon mile upon mile along unpaved roads and across open wastelands with hardly a tree left in sight.
Nettie’s family fell victim to both HIV and tuberculosis and Lord knows what else. Within months of my daughter’s arrival in Addis Ababa, in January of 2008, Doctors Without Borders opened an emergency feeding station in her home town in the Southern Nations. Pictures of starving country people—starving neighbors who looked at lot like my girl, with her black curls and her Queen of Sheba lips—appeared on the news wires. Obviously, adoption can’t solve poverty. But it can bring a few thousand of Africa’s suffering children home to adoring parents.
The world has become smaller since I adopted Nettie (who is now healthy as an ox, a giddy, dimpled charmer). I am now bonded to Africa. (And, yes, that means I send money back to Ethiopia to help other children remain in the families of their birth.) Yet, almost every day, I am haunted by what Nettie’s family told me: “Please God, she lives.” The experience of becoming Nettie’s mother showed me that international adoption is an ambiguous, ethically complex thing to do, but I truly believe my decision was unambiguously the right one.
-Bess Rattray Madonna Photo: Amos Gumulira/AFP/Getty Images; Angelina Jolie Photo: James Davaney/WireImage; Other: Courtesy of Bess Rattray

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cup Feeding vs. Bottle Feeding

I remember being surprised when I first heard our agency's (CHSFS) care center cup fed infants rather than bottle fed. Everything I had always heard pointed to the benefits of promoting sucking. Clearly there had to be a reason because everything our agency does seems to be in the best interest of the children. Here is the story... Dr. Yeshiwas Amsalu a medical doctor working at Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS) Ethiopia Sipara Mother and Child Health Center in Addis Ababa was awarded for confirming in a research that cup feeding is better than bottle feeding in poor resource settings and childcare centers to reduce the incidence and recurrence of diarrheal illness. Dr. Yeshiwas Amsalu found out that cup feeding reduces complications of a child suffering from diarrheal illness and decreases mortality. According to the research, it is easier to clean a cup thoroughly than a bottle. Bottles were found to be more contaminated as compared to cups. The award was given to Dr. Yeshiwas Amsalu on May 3, 2009 by the Academic Pediatric Association at an annual meeting organized by American Pediatrics Society in Baltimore, Maryland. Over 6000 pediatricians and scientists were in attendance at the meeting held from May 2 to 5, 2009. Dr. Yeshiwas Amsalu conducted his research at CHSFS-Ethiopia Foster Care Center in Addis Ababa. He compared cup feeding with bottle feeding and found out that caregivers provide better attention to children while feeding with cup than with bottle. Babies are also fed faster by a cup than a bottle. The risk of neglecting an infant being under-fed is found to be low in the case of cup feeding. The advantages of cup feeding outweigh that of bottle feeding with superior microbiological safety. After conducting the research on 20 infants with ages ranging from one to three months, Dr. Yeshiwas came to the conclusion that feeding young infants by trained caregivers using graduated cups and the replacement of spillage, adhering to infection prevention practices, is safe for an infant especially in poor resource settings and childcare centers. Cup feeding has been practically implemented and has significantly decreased the occurrence of diarrhea at CHSFS-Ethiopia’s Foster Care Center. Dr. Yeshiwas said, “I was very happy to receive this prestigious award. This is a sign that any Ethiopian can achieve a lot if situations are suitable for him.” He further said, “If we all work hard with integrity and diligence in our respective professions, God will break the yoke of poverty that is suppressing Ethiopia.” Prof. Mirzada Kurbasic, Chair Person of American Academic Pediatric Association Special Interest Group, handed over the award to Dr. Yeshiwas Amsalu. Dr. Yeshiwas presented his finding to the participants of the meeting. CHSFS-Ethiopia is involved in many development activities with a view to improving the lives of many poor Ethiopians. It is focusing particularly on the provision of quality health and education services. It has constructed and opened schools and health centers. It has helped people in remote areas get access to clean water and electric power. The organization plans to construct several schools and health centers in the coming five years.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reflections at 3 months...

We've been officially waiting three months. How many more months of waiting? Not sure. I do know this journey will teach us more about patience than anything else we could imagine. CHSFS predicts our wait time to be 12-18 months until we are matched with our child. The current wait time is about 14 months. Families at the top of the list are right at the cut-off for whether they will receive their referral and get a court date prior to the 2-month court closure. So families who get matched in June have a chance of getting a court date prior to courts closing in August, but nothing is for sure. Otherwise, you are matched with your child, but you have to wait until court opens in October before your court date. Then you wait another month or so until you are able to travel to meet your child. I have a feeling we may be facing that predicament next year. I also know that based on the number of waiting families ahead of us, there needs to be an average of 25 referrals each month if we are to be matched with our child a year from now. Based on the trend so far this year, I think we're in for the long haul. I need to keep reminding myself that everything happens as it should and I feel in my heart of hearts that the timing will be right for our family...because whenever it happens, that is when our daughter is destined to join our family.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Wonderful Referral Story

I love reading referral stories. Every day, I check our agency's forum to see if there is an announcement of a family being matched with their child. It's so great to imagine how the waiting family is feeling....joy, relief, probably over the moon with emotion. I love to imagine what it will be like when we finally are matched with our little girl. It sometimes seems a bit surreal, like "Is this really going to happen?" The wait just seems so long. These referral stories help remind me that it is the journey that makes it all the more meaningful. I especially loved reading about a particular referral of two siblings being matched with a couple that have been on a very long journey to meet their children. Their 3-part story can be read on her blog and it will make you smile. Click here for part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why the low number of referrals right now

The wait time for a referral of a single infant from our agency is still estimated at 12-18 months. That said, May has been disappointingly slow when it comes to the number of referrals. Those at the top of the list have been waiting approximately 14 months. Our agency provided this explanation for the long wait. It doesn't make the wait any easier, but it is especially encouraging to hear about the increase in assistance to keep families together.

Referrals have been a little slower this month. Ethiopia is a popular country to adopt from. With many country programs closing, on hold or with extended wait times, many families have migrated to the Ethiopia program. We had a large amount of families submit dossiers in July-October, so this has impacted the wait. Last summer we expected to receive referrals but got only a handful of them. So that held up the waiting list a bit.

The processing of the children’s paperwork prior to referral is taking longer. Also, there has been an increased number of agencies working in Ethiopia in comparison to a couple years ago when we were one of the few. There are newer agencies working in the southern region of Ethiopia as well, which is where our orphanages are located.

A couple years ago, there was a huge gap in international child welfare assistance. Now, there are more ongoing programs to help families stay in tact. To read about CHSFS humanitarian aid, please visit here: http://www.childrenshomeadopt.org/Ethiopia.html Families in process cannot financially support our programs, but I thought you would be interested to know what different programs we have.

We did sign a working agreement with another orphanage. However, currently they are undergoing a change in authority from MOLSA to MOWA. So this is causing delays in adoptions from that orphanage. I’m hoping once this change in authority happens, things will pick up and we’ll receive more referrals.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CHSFS Ethiopia - Helping Families

Our adoption agency, Children's Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS), is based in Minnesota and facilitates both domestic and international adoptions. One of the many reasons we chose this agency is because of the incredible support its Ethiopian program provides to the Ethiopian people. The Program is much bigger than just matching orphaned children to families. They are committed to helping the Ethiopian people and only look at adoption as a last resort. I don't believe there is an "adoption" agency that begins to compare to what CHSFS is doing in Ethiopia. For example, they are involved with a number of humanitarian activities such as opening schools, opening a mother and child health center, and helping poor families start their own business. Here is some more information showing what CHSFS Ethiopia is all about. Children's Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS) Ethiopia is a US-based, non- governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to empowering individuals, families and communities in their efforts to create favorable conditions for children. In Ethiopia, there are nearly 4.5 million orphans that need help. CHSFS-Ethiopia believes that adoption in general and inter-country adoption in particular, is the last resort. We believe that it is only when children cannot be able to survive and grow well if they stay with their birth parents or relatives that they should be adopted. Our vision is to see an Ethiopia where poverty is alleviated and socio-economic well being of its citizens ensured. Our services: Adoption, Child Care, Family development program, Primary Health Care Training Center, Primary School in Ottoro, Primary school in Addis Ababa, and Maternal & Child Health (MCH) center Future plans: Pediatrics Emergency Clinic (in Addis Ababa & Hosanna), High Risk Birth Mother's Place (in Hosanna), Primary School (in Mudula and Hosanna), and provision of family planning service (in Hadiya and Kambata Tembaro Zones), building complex. Our Staff: CHSFS Ethiopia launched its work with only nine employees. It currently has created job opportunities to over 300 Ethiopians. The different sections of the organization are run by professionals. Currently, the organization has over 100 professional staff.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Allegations of Corruption in Addis

There's been concerning developments that have caused the Ethiopian government to temporarily stop hearing cases of children who were abandoned in orphanages in Addis Ababa. The allegations are that children were stolen from their homes in Addis and a local police officer forged the necessary paperwork for them to be considered orphaned. These are children that had been matched with their families and there is now a big question mark of corruption hovering over them. The government is investigating. Our agency, CHSFS, is not impacted because the children CHSFS families are matched with come from orphanages in Hosanna and Nazret. In addition, the majority of children that come through these orphanages are relinquished by a sole-surviving parent who is unable to care for their child. I feel badly for those families who had been matched with their child only to find out that child may have been kidnapped from his/her birth family. I am so glad the Ethiopian government is being diligent to prevent corruption from having a place in Ethiopian adoptions. Hearing about this, as well as some questionable practices by some agencies in Ethiopia, has really been eye-opening to me. I did not know the extent of the dark side of adoption before beginning this process. It is horrible to think a child was stolen from a family, or that a birth parent was lied into thinking their child was just going to go get an education or live somewhere temporarily and then come home. Call me naive. I am just thankful we are with an agency where I don't have a question-mark as to their ethical practices. It is well-established and highly ethical. I know this not only because of what they stand for, but from listening to many other families who have used them. Some have used them and other agencies as well so you have a comparative. In addition, there are forums that rate the various agencies. CHSFS is consistently at the top. The only complaint I've ever heard is the wait times being slightly longer than smaller, less established agencies. I'm okay with this since I have confidence that our child's birth mother or father made a clear and independent decision to give their child a chance at a better life. Or, that our child was abandoned as a result of no living parents. I will sleep better at night knowing that.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Waiting for a Baby Sister

How do you explain to a 4 year-old how long he has to wait for his baby sister? Spencer keeps asking when we can go get his baby sister from Africa. When I say it's going to be a long wait, what does that mean? So I try explain it by going through the seasons and he says "You mean like 30 minutes?" He sure is excited. He keeps asking questions with her in mind.....is that the bassinet my baby sister will sleep in? Are those shoes for my baby sister? He wants to go meet her "tonight." Since he just had his 4th Birthday, I think it helped to put it in terms of his next Birthday. So he would need to wait another year until his 5th Birthday party and then soon after that we would be matched with his baby sister. It's incredibly long for parents, let alone kids. I still don't think Blake really gets it other than his brother often bringing up his baby sister. As anxious as we all are, I am glad he gets more time to be the baby of the family.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Obama "Scolds" Ethiopian Dictator Zenawi

The Ethopian Review - April 3, 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama scolded Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi during a brief one-to-one encounter at the G20 meeting in London on April 2. Obama reportedly told Meles that the human rights condition in Ethiopia is deplorable and unacceptable. Following a meeting with Obama, Meles Zenawi, who was invited to represent New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) at the G20 meeting, abruptly canceled a press conference he was about to give. "His people gave no reasons for this. But insiders in the press center said Zenawi was worried about the kind of questions that were going to be put to him concerning human rights violations within Ethiopia and his dealing with his opponents and Ethiopia’s neighbors," Henry Gombya of BSN reported.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Immigration's Approval Notice

Today we received the Notice of Favorable Determination from the USCIS (Immigration). That was the last step in the process and now we just wait to be matched with our child! We were officially waiting as of March 23 and the current wait time is about a year. The wait could end up being as long as 16 months (wait times are just estimates and things can change along the way that may make the wait longer or shorter). After we are matched with our child (the "Referral"), we have to wait approximately 3 months before the Court date (where an Ethiopian Judge officially grants you custody) and then you travel to bring your child home about a month after you pass court. We are super excited!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ethics in Adoption - blog by Randy Cohen

There is a fair amount of controversy over ethics in international adoption (especially with Madonna's failed adoption attempt in Malawi). I really liked Randy Cohen's view on this subject in his latest blog in the New York Times: April 6, 2009, 5:30 pm The Moral of the Story Madonna and Child - by Randy Cohen Several readers assert that rather than undertake foreign adoption with its attendant problems, ethical and otherwise, Madonna and others should adopt locally. Sadly, as many people who have attempted this can confirm — and as some readers note — it’s not easy, and sometimes it’s all but impossible. I know a couple of families who turned to foreign adoptions only after being thwarted in their other efforts to have children, including through adoption here in the U.S. Which raised this question for some readers: isn’t there a greater moral obligation to help those close by? It was once commonly thought so. Samuel Johnson, the great 18th-century moralist, said as much to James Boswell, as recorded in the latter’s “Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides”: “A man should first relieve those who are nearly connected with him, by whatever tie; and then, if he has anything to spare, may extend his bounty to a wider circle.” Particular relationships do entail particular obligations. Parents have duties to their children that they do not have to strangers. But national borders do not define such relationships: they are not moral borders. And “nearly connected” has a different meaning today than it did in the 18th century. Our ease of travel (if “ease” can be said to apply to anything involving an airport) as well as the flow of images and ideas, both foster and make increasingly apparent the connectedness of humanity. The philosopher Peter Singer is a notable proponent of the worldwide reach of our moral obligations, a subject he takes up in his book “One World: The Ethics of Globalization.” Another concern readers have: Madonna’s motives. Is she publicity crazed? Is it all egomania? Johnson had something to say about Madonna, too, if not by name. (He was prescient but not that prescient.) “To act from pure benevolence is not possible for finite beings. Human benevolence is mingled with vanity, interest or some other motive.” I believe Freud reached a similar conclusion about our tangled motives, albeit from a different angle. Or to put it another way, failing to achieve sainthood ought not disqualify anyone from parenthood. Last Friday, a court in Malawi rejected Madonna’s application to adopt a 3-year-old girl named Chifundo ”Mercy” James. Judge Esmie Chondo affirmed that adoptive parents must reside in the country for at least 18 months, a provision meant to thwart child-trafficking (and one that was waived when Madonna adopted a Malawian boy last year). Clearly celebrities should not use their status to skirt adoption regulations. But some children’s advocates oppose not only this adoption, but international adoption in general. Is it ethical for families from wealthy nations to adopt children from poorer countries? There is a creepy evocation of colonialism when a rich American or European swoops into a poor African nation and grabs a child, as if the country were a baby plantation. Critics charge that the adoptive parents benefit from the persistence of poverty. They do, but in much the same way as Lenny Bruce described the modus operandi of Jonas Salk, J. Edgar Hoover and himself: “These men thrive upon the continuance of disease, segregation and violence.” That is, they respond to but do not promote human misery. (O.K., except for Hoover.) Is it ethical for families from wealthy nations to adopt children from poorer countries? What’s more, poverty is not the sole reason children are abandoned. It was China’s one-child policy that made so many girls available for adoption. Genocide orphaned thousands of Rwandan children. AIDS still reduces children to wretchedness in many parts of Africa. Adoptive parents do not seek to protract anyone’s torment but to build a family and help a child, actions we esteem. But as far as helping children, adoptive parents might do so more effectively simply by donating money (as Madonna has also done in Malawi). A fraction of the typical $20,000 spent on an adoption or the $250,000 it takes to raise a middle-class American child could assist a great many African kids. But the ethical obligation to help suffering children does not apply only to those who wish to adopt; it is a general duty we all share. We are morally required to aid a child who lies bleeding on our doorstep. Or a child across the street. Or across town. Or across the Atlantic Ocean. Rather than merely urge adopting families to redirect their expenditures, we should reallocate the money we ourselves spend on a ski weekend in Aspen, a flat-screen TV for the dog’s room, a $3 billion stealth destroyer for our Navy ($4 billion if equipped with optional — and fictional — leather upholstery). Some groups, notably Save the Children, based in London, assert that the prospect of a foreign adoption encourages desperate parents to abandon their children in the hope of securing a better life for them. This claim is unconvincing. Families are demolished not by the possibility of adoption but the reality of poverty or disease or war, according to Dr. Jane Aronson, a pediatrician specializing in adoption medicine. It is vital to address these harrowing conditions, but that does not preclude adoption, she says; “To help one child is a worthy thing to do.” Save the Children is more convincing when it argues that children should be raised by their families in their own cultures. This is a laudable goal, but to achieve it, Aronson says, much needs to be done to “help rebuild communities around the world so families can receive proper social services and needn’t give up their children.” Indeed, Judge Chondo’s decision does not mean that Mercy James will be raised by a relative. She has been placed in an orphanage — albeit, one of Malawi’s best, the judge says (some consolation, I suppose, if you like your ironies grim). As long as there are orphans, the ethical question is not whether it is O.K. to adopt but how to do it. Jacqueline Novogratz, the head of the Acumen Fund, a non-profit that promotes anti-poverty efforts throughout the world, says: “Reputable adoption agencies know where children come from. Some children are abandoned and some are placed in orphanages when their families can’t afford to raise them. Finding those children good, stable, healthy homes could change their lives immeasurably. Going through the right agencies is key.” Sadly, such scrupulousness, while necessary, may not matter much in the end. If Malawi (or Russia or Ethiopia or Guatemala) threw open its doors to everyone on earth who wished to adopt — no rules, no red tape, no embarrassing Madonna-indulgences — it would barely diminish the heart-rending parade of homeless or orphaned children stretching to the horizon. Most estimates put their number above 100 million worldwide. And who will adopt those who are not adorable infants — a traumatized 11-year-old Pakistani street kid or a 5-year-old Nigerian with AIDS or, for that matter, a teenager shunted around New York’s foster care system? One other consideration: would endorsing foreign adoption compel us to stop teasing Madonna? Happily, no. While she seems to have acted creditably here, as long as she dons a T-shirt emblazoned with the unconvincing slogan “Kabbalists Do it Better,” let the mockery be unconfined. She’s rich, she’s glamorous — a self-made success, still a pop star at 50. Of course we make fun of her; we need to.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What is a Referral?

A Referral means you are matched with your child. So we really hope that at around this time next year, we will get the call we've been waiting for and receive our Referral! Once a child is brought to the orphanage, all the necessary medical testing is done and then the child is referred to the next family on the wait list that matches the criteria set by the waiting family (age, gender, whether open to special needs, etc.). Then the agency calls to let you know you have a child (the "Referral")! They send a photo of your child along with a medical report. You then have up to one week to meet with a doctor about the medical report and "accept" your Referral. Once you officially accept the Referral, a court date is set approximately 3 months later where an Ethiopian judge rules on the adoption. They base their decision on many things, including your dossier and the circumstances surrounding the child's orphan status (relinquishment of rights, etc. including as I understand, that if a birth parent is living, he/she has to appear in court). If you don't pass court the first time, you typically will have additional opportunities to pass court. Once you pass court, you travel 3-4 weeks later to meet your child! You then spend a week in Ethiopia before bringing your child home. It seems so far off. We are just glad to be officially waiting for a Referral.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Facts About Ethiopia

Ethiopian people are known to be very warm and hospitable. They are deeply religious and very proud of their country. Here is some information about Ethiopia you may find interesting: Overview Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa. It's 3,000 years old and has never been colonized. The Queen of Sheba is from Ethiopia. It is located on the Horn of Africa and is the size of Spain and France combined. It's total population is 77 million, making it the 2nd most populous country in Africa. The capital city, Addis Ababa (pronounced ah-deese a-ba ba) has a population of 3.6 million people. More than half the population is age 16 or younger. There are more than 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The major ethnic groups are Oromo (40%), Amhara (22%), Tigrayan (10%) and Sidamo (9%). Ethiopia is where Lucy was found in 1974. She is the oldest complete human fossil ever found at 3.2 million years old. Life Expectancy Life expectancy for males is 39 years and 42 years for females. The leading cause of death is communicable diseases such as malaria, typhoid, meningitis, cholera, AIDS, tuberculosis, yellow fever. Woman have an average of 7 children and the maternal mortality rate is 1 in 14 (one in 14 women will die in childbirth). Poverty Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over half the population lives on less than a $1 a day. The annual income per capita has been less than $120 US dollars for the past several years. Languages There are 83 languages with more than 200 dialects, each representing different cultures and traditions. Amharic is the official language. Many Ethiopians speak and/or understand more than one dialect. English is the main foreign language taught in schools. Education Fewer than half of all children attend school. There are not enough schools and many families are simply too poor to pay for school materials. In many areas, children work to provide for their family. Only 50% of males are literate and 35% of females. Geography and Climate Ethiopia has dramatic shifts in geography...altitudes range from the lowest point in Africa to the fourth highest peak (Mount Ras Dashen). The landscape is predominantly volcanic formation and mountainous plateau, surrounded on 3 sides by a low-lying desert. Ethiopia is home to the one of the hottest and driest places on Earth, the Denkali Depression. The rainy season is mid-June to mid-September in the highlands. Ethiopia experiences all 4 seasons. Religion Christianity came to Ethiopia in ancient times and became the official religion in the 4th century. The Orthodox church is heavily influenced by Judaism. 35-40% belong to the Christian Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Islam is the dominant religious group in eastern Ethiopian. About 45-50% of Ethiopians are Muslim. Calendar Ethiopia uses the Julian Calendar, which has 13 months in total. 12 months of 30 days each and the 13th month has 5 days. The calendar is also seven years and eight months behind the Western calendar (so it is 2001 there now).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Officially Waiting!

As of yesterday, we are officially waiting for our baby girl! Now we just need to hear from Immigration. That is our last hurdle and we should know in a couple of weeks. Since we've already been approved by our agency (CHSFS) and have completed our dossier, we get to be on the wait list and they assume you'll eventually receive Immigration's approval (we hope so!). What does it mean to be "waiting" and why is it so long? If there are so many orphans, why do we need to wait a year or longer for a referral? There are steps and processes put into place by the Ethiopian government to reduce the chances of an unethical adoption occurring. We've all heard the horror stories of child trafficking or families being coerced into adopting their child. So what is the government doing to prevent this from occurring? The government has steps in place to ensure the child truly is an orphan going to a loving home. They make certain any remaining family is unable to care for the child and that they understand the adoption is permanent. Judges review each case very thoroughly. Unlike some other governments, none of our adoption fees go to the government to help facilitate the court process. There are only 2 judges in Ethiopia handling adoptions. Ethiopian courts also close for approximately 2 months out of every year. All this adds to the overall wait time (which is why you typically wait 3-4 months after your referral until you can travel to receive your child). In addition to the government, our agency (CHSFS) plays a huge role in ensuring adoptions are ethical. They contract with local orphanages and oversee the running of the orphanage, including the level of care, the integrity of the staff and medical professionals, etc. One of the primary reasons we chose our agency was because of their reputation. Not only do you have confidence in the level of care your child receive, you can trust your adoption is meeting all ethical standards. Many families choose to use CHSFS because of their reputation. That means you are waiting alongside many other families (I think there are approximately 350 other families from our agency currently waiting to adopt from Ethiopia). This wait time is typically longer than other smaller, maybe less-established agencies. Although we are anxious to meet our daughter (who may or may not be born yet!), we trust in the timing and that it will all play out as it should.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Memory of Haregewoin Teferra

Haregewoin Teferra, foster mother to hundreds of Ethiopian orphans, has passed away. You won't recognize her name unless you have read the book There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene. It gives you hope in the difference one person can make in the lives of an entire country, and beyond; her story is one that will not ever be forgotten. This is a great loss to so many children. If you wish to help provide care for the children she left behind, Worldwide Orphans Foundation has set up a special "Emergency Fund for Haregewoin's Children."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dossier Sent!

We just sent off our Dossier! All 110 pages of it (one set of originals at 55 pages and a copy of every single document). For those of you who happen to be interested, here is what makes up the Dossier (almost all docs have to be notarized and a few also have to be certified by the state - a whole process in and of itself): - Power of Attorney Forms - Adoption Home Study - Agency License - Family Profile - Letter to Ministry of Women's Affairs - Passport Photos - Birth Certificates - Marriage Certificate - Letters of Recommendation - Clearance Letters from local law enforcement - Medical Certificates - Employment Verifications - Copies of Passports - Income Tax 1040 - Listing of Personal Assets/Liabilities - Bank Account Verification - Post Placement Agreement Reports (each year you submit a post-placement report of your child until they are 18) - A few other agreements and disclaimers This is in addition to all the applications and statements we've had to make to date. Now we know why this is called the Paperchasing phase (over 50 pages of writing and over 50 documents). Next, the Ethiopian Embassy and the State Department has to "authenticate" our Dossier, and then we'll be officially waiting. The projected wait time right now is 12-18 months for a referral. Then you wait a few more months until court and travel. It seems so far off, but as long as it happens, we can wait as long as the process needs to take. We just have the one last "hurdle" of passing Immigration. And we hope to have that info by the end of next month.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where are we in the process?

Well, we've compiled our dossier (all the legal paperwork) and it's ready to be sent off once I receive our certified copies from the Secretary of State (the home study and power of attorney docs have to be state certified). Once we get that back, we'll send the dossier on to our agency in Minnesota - CHSFS. They will review it in a couple days and send it to the State Dep't and the Ethiopian Embassy to be "authenticated." Somewhere in that timeline, we'll be added to the official waiting list! (we hope maybe within the next two weeks?) We also just submitted our I-600A to Immigration and are waiting for our fingerprinting appointment. USCIS (Immigration), has to grant you approval to bring a child into the U.S. though (we don't have to receive USCIS's approval prior to getting on the official waiting list). Here's to getting on that waiting list!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lucy

Today Ryan and I went to the Lucy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. We both really enjoyed it. I guess the exhibit has been losing money, which is too bad. We thought the exhibit was very well done; it focused a lot on Ethiopian history and culture and Lucy was absolutely fascinating. There is so much for Ethiopian people to be proud of. We look forward to teaching our child the richness of her heritage and people.

Author Rebecca Haile speaks

Author Rebecca Haile was a guest blogger on one of my favorite adoption blogs The Eyes of My Eyes are Open. Rebecca Haile is the author of a book called Held at a Distance – A Rediscovery of Ethiopia. She wrote about her return to Ethiopia after living in the U.S. for 25 years. It is next on my reading list! Here are some excerpts of the interview…. Friday, March 6, 2009 Friday Friend or Family Feature: Guest Blogger Edition- Rebecca Haile-Part II. Ms. Haile answers our questions... I wonder if she could comment more on the dynamics between the Ethiopian-American community and the African-American community? One of the things I think about is that my future child will have a whole cultural background from Ethiopia that I want to preserve as much as possible, but that he or she will most likely be perceived as African-American in this country - what are the implications of that for raising a child? I’ve thought about a lot about the dynamics between these two communities, and happened to address the question in my joint remarks (with my dad) at the Harvard conference last April. Here is what I said then: “A third prediction is that the new generation will redefine the relationship between Ethiopians and the existing African American community. The relationship between Ethiopians and African Americans has not always been good, and I’ve found this to be a very sensitive subject for the first generation. At worst, Ethiopians can be overly prejudiced – this is the uncomfortable flip side of what my father has described as our sense of ourselves as a separate peoples. At best, we come to the United States with little appreciation of the history associated with African American culture and are therefore susceptible to all manner of misunderstandings. For example, when I was a freshman, Williams College invited me, as it invited all African American freshmen, to come to campus a few days early for orientation. Neither my father nor I knew what to make of the invitation – in retrospect I know that I did not have the cultural compass with which to decipher the meaning of the gesture. Did Williams think black kids needed special help? Did it expect its black students to be part of a unified group? Was there something going on I did not understand? Clearly, there was. For its part, the African-American community has not always been understanding of the culture and history that is specific to Africans or Caribbean blacks. The next generation is changing all of this. We reject the prejudices of our parents and have developed a much better understanding of the complexities of race in the United States. Moreover, as we come of age in the United States, particularly in urban areas, we often find that an “African-American” identity is as reflective of our experience as any. Again, in the interviews I conducted in Los Angeles, “African American” was a top choice.” If I am right, as I hope, the historic disconnect or unease between Ethiopians and African-Americans will be less of an issue going forward. How will Ethiopian children be perceived or self-identify? As I wrote in my initial post, the Ethiopian-American population is growing, and that growth brings greater opportunity for cultural preservation. At the moment the Ethiopian or habesha identity remains strong among those born in Ethiopia or born to first generation parents. But even a community of 500,000 is a tiny minority in the United States, and adopted children will have a much weaker tie to Ethiopian culture. So I think it is quite likely that adopted children will find a home within the African American community, and that they will almost certainly be seen as African American by others. I’m not sure what the “implications” of this will be. Obviously, every parent in a biracial family should be prepared for the issues associated with raising a child that does not look like his/her parents. But since the adoption of Ethiopian children is a relatively new phenomenon, the question of how this particular group of internationally adopted black kids experience the added element of coming from Ethiopia -- or even whether there will be a general, rather than family- or child-specific, experience that can be described -- remains to be seen. In my own multi-cultural family, the plan at the moment is to incorporate all of our cultures into our lives as much as we can (again why I am so grateful for my parents and look forward to visiting Ethiopia). Going forward, I hope I can take my cues from my kids to figure out what they need and what they enjoy and try to respond to both. I am curious if Ms. Haile has made any observations about what the Ethiopian community living in the US feels about so many Ethiopian children being adopted and raised abroad. I know that readers of this blog are well aware of all the pro and con discussions surrounding international adoption, which in the case of Ethiopia generally means the adoption of black kids by mostly white families. I can’t say where the Ethiopian community comes down on these issues, as I don’t know of any surveys or studies of attitudes. Anecdotally speaking, I can report that within my own group of family and friends people generally express the same mix of support and concern I see expressed elsewhere, with the older first generation being somewhat more in favor and less concerned about how adopted children will fare in their new families than people my age or younger who’ve grown up here (which may tie to the overall generational/cultural attitudes toward children discussed above). In addition, I hear more concern about the government’s role in the process, and also some sadness around the idea that “we can’t take care of our own.” Here is something I think about which falls a bit outside the usual discussion: whether adoptive families will in time become engaged advocates for Ethiopia. It isn’t sexy, the long term business of pushing for a democratic government or good US foreign policy in the Horn or advocating for infrastructure or the development of good farming practices (discussed below). It isn’t nearly as clear-cut or gratifying as responding to a heart-breaking famine or loving a beautiful child. But Ethiopia desperately needs such advocates. I don’t mean to say that adoptive families have a special obligation – I know that decisions about what causes to support and how are personal ones informed by many factors. But if such families do help raise awareness about Ethiopia, or if they do become involved with these issues, then that, I think, would be a significant and very welcome consequence of adoption. If Ms. Haile would also kindly be willing to entertain the complex issue of foreign aid in Africa, I'd be very interested to know how she feels. I've heard some say that a whole generation of people in Africa know nothing but subsisting on aid as a way of life. Is aid helping more or harming more the people in Africa? This is indeed a complex issue and I don’t have any special expertise in the area. So please take my comments accordingly. I think that if you are looking at aid from the perspective of a hungry family, it is hard to be “against” it. I know that if my child were suffering from malnutrition and I had no options I would take any assistance I could, no matter what I felt about the source of the help or long term impact of my decision to take the help. However, if you look at whether aid as it is currently designed is helping or hurting the goal of food-independence, there is a lot to worry about. It is sobering to think that Ethiopia was ever known as “the breadbasket of Africa.” Ethiopia has plentiful rivers, abundant rainfall and fertile farming regions. A frequent reaction from people arriving in Addis Ababa for the first time is surprise at how green the city is. Ethiopia does not, however, have modern irrigation systems; it does not have decent roads via which food can be transported from productive regions to arid ones; it does not have farmers with access to fertilizer or pest-resistant hybrids or anything remotely resembling 21st century farming practices; it does not have a market economy (all farms are state-owned) that rewards farmers for good decisions or a democratically elected government concerned with general welfare rather than self-preservation. Direct food aid doesn’t do anything about these underlying problems. Worse, it may be counterproductive because it distorts local markets and undercuts local farmers – this in a society where an astonishing 85% of the population makes its living from agriculture. So what is the rationale for having such a small percentage of US aid to Ethiopia allocated to farming development -- less than 5% of all aid, and by several estimates less than 1% of all food aid? Or for the United States to require that all direct food aid come in the form of food produced in the US rather than allocating some money to buy food from Ethiopian farmers in regions not affected by drought? Readers of the book will recall that my Uncle Tadesse, whom I admire, has made it one of his life’s projects to advocate for an irrigation system that harnesses the water of the highland rivers and delivers it to farming regions in a reliable manner. He is absolutely convinced that Ethiopia can feed itself. The good news is that the shortcomings of aid are well known. And while the political realities in donor countries may frustrate reform, private foundations such as the Gates Foundation have begun experimenting with forms of aid that are designed to address the underlying issues. Hopefully these measures, together with homegrown efforts like Tadesse’s, will produce some long-term results.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thoughts from an Adoptee

I found this blog written by a Korean adoptee who is also an adoptive parent. I was moved by her words about how she felt growing up knowing she was adopted. Click here to read her story.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Home Study Approved!

Our home study has been approved by CHSFS so we are one-step closer! Now we can finish compiling our dossier, which we hope to do in the next week or so. Then once that is reviewed and "authenticated" by the Ethiopian Embassy and the State Department, we will officially be on the wait list. It's very exciting, yet we're facing our next hurdle. USCIS (Immigration) still has to approve us. Many people have asked what Immigration has to do with adoptions. You have to submit your home study and your "Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition" (I-600A) to the USCIS. Then you are fingerprinted by them. They will evaluate all aspects of your life and must grant approval of your orphan petition in order for you to bring your child into this country. Ryan and I have learned just how intense and complex international adoption is. We are hopeful our Ethiopian journey is the path we are meant to be on. We understand that anything can happen at any point along the way. So I have to keep reminding myself that we are on a journey to find our next child. We believe she's in Ethiopia, but if not, that just means there is another path leading us to the child meant for us.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

There Is No Me Without You

I just finished reading a really wonderful book - There Is No Me Without You. The author, Melissa Fay Greene, adopted 4 children from Ethiopia. She tells the story of a woman, Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra, whose home became a refuge for hundreds of AIDS orphans. She eventually began to find adoptive families for the children and the book follows the story of some of those children. Greene also discusses the theories of how the HIV and AIDS virus came to be, and why so many millions of African children have died due to lack of medicine. The book was fascinating. I could not put it down.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Made it through Home Visit

Well, we made it through the home visit today (barely!). Ryan woke up feeling sick. He wasn't sure if it was something he ate at the restaurant last night or the flu bug the boys had earlier in the week, but he was not feeling too hot. Our social worker canceled last week's session because she was sick....we decided to just keep our appointment and Ryan stayed a comfortable distance away from her. While Ryan was on the verge of getting sick, it was past naptime for the boys so they were just a tad "needy" of our attention. I served lunch and Blake kept spitting out his food....on me. It was lovely. It was a gorgeous day outside and Spencer probably said "I want to go outside" 20 times. That was while he was cleaning the floor with his body (he was so tired he just laid on the ground and scooted himself around the kitchen). Overall, it went fine and all I can say is that it could have been worse!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Adoption statistics

Here is the breakdown of the # of all adoptions from Ethiopia to the U.S. in recent years: 2008: 1,724 2007: 1,254 2006: 731 2005: 442 Profile of children adopted in 2006: 50% female 29% under age 1 34% ages 1-4

Monday, January 5, 2009

How long are the children in the Care Center?

There are drop-off centers throughout the country. Once a child is brought to one of these sites, they are there for 2-3 weeks during which they given medical treatment and testing is conducted. They are then brought to the main Care Center in Addis Abbaba, the capital of Ethiopia. Once they arrive at the Care Center, they are immediately referred to the next family on the list from our agency that fits within the criteria defined upfront (e.g. age of child, medical history, whether willing to take on any special needs, etc.). You have one week to accept the referral of the child and then you are typically looking at a 3-4 month timeframe until you travel to meet your child. This is the typical timeframe for an infant and toddler. Older children are often in the orphanage longer until a family is willing to adopt them. We can feel good in knowing they are given wonderful care during their time at the orphanage. They are also taught english so that when they are adopted, the transition may be easier.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What is the process to adopt?

Here is a broad overview of the steps involved: 1. Home Study (where we are currently in the process) - will be complete the end of January 2. Dossier (a boatload of legal documents/homestudy report/references) - estimate completion the end of February 2a. CIS process - application submitted to US government for approval/processing (can be done prior to Dossier or simultaneously) 3. Once our agency approves the Dossier, it gets submitted to the Ethiopian Embassy and State Department for authentication - your wait time for referral of child then begins - the current wait time for this agency in Ethiopia is about 1 year (which puts us about February, 2010 if all goes well) 4. Receive child referral 5. Dossier and child information is submitted to Ethiopian court to review - 4+ weeks 6. Travel to Ethiopia to receive daughter - approximately 3 months after court approval (you are in Ethiopia for one week) So if all goes well, we would bring home our daughter in May/June 2010 timeframe. The current referral wait time of one year may change (it may go down), but that is the estimate at this point.

The current state in Ethiopia

There are an estimated 5 million orphans in Ethiopia. Most children are orphaned due to poverty, drought or famine, or their parents may have died from disease. Ethiopia is facing a famine as bad as that of 1984, which killed nearly 1 million people. Unicef estimates approximately 6 million children under the age of 5 are at risk. For more information about the famine or to contribute to the cause, please visit http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/ethiopia.html

Why Ethiopia?

Many have asked how we arrived at Ethiopia. There were two main reasons. First, we narrowed our choice based on the type and level of care given in the orphanage. We had heard wonderful things about the Ethiopia program and the more we looked into it, the more we were inspired by the Care Center in Addis Abbaba run by Children's Home Society and Family Services of Minnesota. I've spoken to numerous families who have adopted from this agency in Ethiopia and the response is the same. When you meet your child, you will know they were loved and nurtured. There are so many wonderful things about this Care Center, including the care-giver to child ratio, the fact that they hold the children when giving a bottle, when they cry, etc. All around, it's a loving and happy environment for the children. The second reason we chose Ethiopia was because of its people. They are a very loving people and children are the center of their culture. This is reflective in the nannies' care of the children at the orphanage. It also is reflected in the fact it is uncommon for parents to abandon their children. Typically, one or both parents have died due to disease or famine, or they are unable to care for their child. They are also a very proud culture. This is due to many reasons, the main one being they are the only country in Africa never to be colonized. We know our daughter will grow up proud of her heritage and the Ethiopian culture will become part of our whole family's culture.

Spencer's reaction

When we told the boys about our plans to adopt we told them there were kids without mommies and daddies and we were going to bring home a child without a mommy and daddy to live with us. Spencer looked concerned and said "No Mommy! I want to bring home all the kids without mommies and daddies to live with us." Obviously the boys are too young to really understand what this will mean to their world. We think they will be at great ages when their little sister comes home.