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


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.