Thursday, February 25, 2010

3 Memoirs

While we wait (and wait and wait) I have been occupying myself by reading all that I can get my hands on about Ethiopia and adoption. Recently I have read three different memoirs that all come from very different perspectives, all involve Ethiopia (or Eritrea), and all had something valuable to teach me.

The first, and my favorite, is called My Father's Daugher: A Story of Family and Belonging by Hannah Pool. Hannah was adopted by a British family after her mother died at birth. Her biological father had several other children to care for and chose to leave her at an orphanage when she was an infant. When she was in her late twenties, she decided to seek out her birth family and made her first return trip to her native country of Eritrea.

Hannah describes well the difficult emotions that she experienced when seeking out her biological family - fear of rejection, fear of hurting her adoptive family, fear of not liking what she learns as a result of her search. Her writing helped me to understand the feelings that an adopted child often experiences at different stages of development. I highly recommend this book to adoptive families.

The second memoir, called Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia by Rebecca Haile, is written from a very different perspective. Rebecca's family fled Ethiopia during the political upheaval in the 70's when Rebecca was a preteen. They moved to the United States and settled in the Midwest. As an adult Rebecca returns to Ethiopia for the first time, bringing her husband for his first meeting of her extended family. They travel throughout the country and experience aspects of the culture and geography that she knew nothing about as a child. She learns about Ethiopia from the perspective of both an outsider and an insider. I learned a great deal about Ethiopia's history and rich culture from this book.

The third is called Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopa by Tim Bascom. Tim's parents were American missionaries and moved his family to Ethiopia when he was only three-years-old. Tim's observations about the Ethiopian culture and people from a child's perspective are interesting. Perhaps most interesting, though, is Tim's struggle when he was ripped from one culture and thrown into another very different one at a tender age. There are definitely valuable lessons for an adoptive family to learn from this book as well.

I'd love to know about any books that you have read and recommend about Ethiopia or adoption.

P.S. Please pray for our family over the weekend. Court Date #2 will happen Sunday during the night. Hopefully we will hear something on Monday 3/1.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Regarding Ethiopian Adoptions

Earlier this week CBS featured a negative and one-sided story about Ethiopian adoptions. I have been heavy hearted all week as I have mulled over the story, read many responses, and thought about how I would respond myself.

I feel as though I am wimping out by not writing a long and articulate response myself, but I don’t think that I can do any better than what this mother, working on her second adoption from Ethiopia, has written. Please take a few moments and read her blog post here. I agree wholeheartedly.

The adoption agency highlighted in the report, Christian World Adoption, has issued a well-worded response to the story. Please go here to take a look at that also. For the record, they were interviewed by CBS as well, but nothing from their response was mentioned in this sensational story.

Please take note that, as the CBS story states, there were 2277 Ethiopian children adopted by Americans last year. However, CBS doesn't mention that there are 5 MILLION orphans in Ethiopia. Only 0.4% of these children were adopted. The rest still live in orphanages, alone and without parents. Believe me, there is no need for children to be purchased from birth parents - especially hard-to-place, older sibling groups, such as the ones featured in the story.

What grieves me most is that certainly there are many individuals out there who have considered adoption from Ethiopia, but saw this story and changed their minds because of it. Perhaps they were nervous about adoption and the challenges that it would bring and were looking for a “valid” excuse to choose not to adopt. At one point we were in that place. We were halfway committed to the idea, but we had lots of fears. Something like this may very well have caused us to change our minds.

Let’s remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the Evil One. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He does not want children who live in orphanages and have no one to care for them to be adopted by families. Adoption is becoming more and more common among Christians, and he HATES that. He would love to shut down adoption from Ethiopia and to discourage the families who are considering it.

Adoption is a picture of what God does for us when he saves us. We are his ADOPTED children, invited into his family and given all the rights of a son. We learn about his love through adoption. Satan hates that too.

I will not pretend that corruption doesn’t ever exist in Ethiopian adoptions, or in adoptions from any country for that matter. Where there are people, there is sin. If you are considering adoption from any country, it is absolutely imperative that you work with a reputable, Christian adoption agency.

Our agency, America World Adoption Agency, has never had an adoptive family to discover that their child has been purchased or coerced from their birth family. (I know this because I asked this question directly.) They work only with three orphanages in Ethiopia because they are very careful about the integrity of the agencies that they put trust in. They have put the following policies in place to safeguard against fraud and corruption:

•America World will not engage in any practice that could be perceived as self-serving, but will always operate in the best interest of the orphaned child even to the detriment of our own organization.

The referral of orphans to families will NOT come from an organization or individual that has a fee-per-child arrangement and is involved with the birth mother or family in any way.

•America World will only work with licensed organizations that are approved to provide social services to the birth mother, the birth family and abandoned orphans. These organizations will NOT receive compensation from us on a per-child basis but based on the needs of their ministry as a whole. A guarantee concerning the number of referrals of children in exchange for donations made will NEVER be attached to agreements with these organizations.

• The referral of orphans to families will NOT come from an affiliated organization or individual who is controlled through a board, agreement, compensation or some other arrangement. Referrals will ONLY be accepted from separate licensed organizations whose mission it is to serve birth mothers, the birth family and the orphaned child, and which is in no way involved with adoptive families. We will uphold the standards of the IRS 501(c)3 code which limits self-dealing through our affiliated non-profit foundations and fee-for-service non-profits.

In addition, I want to share some detailed information about how the relinquishment process works. (As in, a living birth parent choosing to give a child to an orphanage.) Three different agencies must investigate the situation of a living birth parent to determine whether the parent is actually able to care for the child or not. Then before immigration takes place, the U.S. government investigates each child's status as "orphan" before issuing a visa. (The following information is taken from the CWA response.)

In Ethiopia, a relinquishing caregiver who seeks to have a child declared an “orphan” and available for adoption initiates the process by appearing before a local court with three witnesses. These four individuals must swear to the court that the child either has no parents or that the child’s surviving parent does not have the financial ability to care for the child. Should the local court make a finding of need based on the testimony of these four individuals, an investigation is triggered by Ethiopia’s social services department called “Ministry of Women’s Affairs” (MOWA). MOWA is then responsible to conduct its independent investigation as to the need of the child and render its findings, together with those of the local court, to a higher court for yet a third review into the need of the child.

This entire process is undertaken by the Ethiopian government, without any involvement by international adoption agencies. Most often, the entire process is completed before international adoption agencies are even made aware of the child. Finally, before a child can immigrate to the United States, the entire adoption, including the “orphan” status of each child is investigated by the United States government through the U.S. Consular’s office prior to a child’s visa being issued.

Well, this post has grown to be longer than I had planned, but I hope that it has been informative and helpful to someone out there. If you have considered adoption from Ethiopia, please do not let this scandal dissuade you. If you have any questions about adoption, you can always email me at family @ duboisadoption . com

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Happy Valentine's Day

My hubby is awesome. On Friday afternoon, we left Madeline with his parents and headed to Chattanooga for the night. He found an incredibly nice hotel room downtown via for only $50, and we had 24 wonderful hours away together. It was just what my sad heart needed that day.

It is so refreshing to have time to remember just why it is that we love each other. Time to be best buds again. The last year has been long and full of many challenges. Plus I have found it much harder to relax and just enjoy time together while at home ever since becoming a stay-at-home mom. My home is my workplace, and that means I am always at work. I often miss having the opportunity to clock out and go home at the end of the day.

So Daniel has discovered that getting me out of the house is my #1 love language these days.

We enjoyed walking around the Riverfront in Chattanooga, found a coffee house that suited us perfectly (Rembrandt's), and went to see an IMAX movie about Africa. We talked and talked and talked. It is so good to have some time with my best friend. And I didn't think about dirty dishes, laundry, or emails to write a single time. :)

In honor of the holiday, I want to share one of my favorite song about marriage. It is written and sung by my very, very favorite singer, Sara Groves.

Different Kinds of Happy

go on and ask me anything
what do you need to know?
I'm not holding on to anything
I'm not willing to let go of
to be free, to be free

I've got to ask you something
but please don't be afraid
there's a promise here thats heavier
than your answer might weigh
baby it's me, it's me

it's a sweet, sweet thing
standing here with you and nothing to hide
light shining down to our very insides
sharing our secrets, baring our souls,
helping each other come clean

secrets and cyphers
there's no good way to hide
there's redemption in confession
and freedom in the light
I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid

better than our promises
is the day we got to keep them

I wish those two could see us now
they never would believe how
there are different kinds of happy
different kinds of happy
there are different kinds of happy
different kinds of happy

Friday, February 12, 2010


That's the answer we got today. Apparently MOWA was closed yesterday and didn't have our letter of recommendation ready. (The Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs reviews our file and has to prepare a letter of recommendation for the court.) I don't know yet if his birth mom was able to make it. I think that usually if a family member makes a long trip to appear in court, they will go ahead and take their testimony so that they don't have to return again for another court date. Hopefully we will get more details about what happened later.

Our next court date is 3/1. Seventeen long days from now.

I am thankful to know that our son is in a safe place with plenty of food to eat and clean clothes to wear. I am thankful that our God is Father to the fatherless, and he is rocking my baby boy in his arms right now. I am thankful for the God of all comfort who comforts us in our troubles so that we can later comfort others. I am thankful that now I will be able to better relate to adoptive families who encounter problems and have to wait. I am thankful for his peace that passes understanding. I am thankful that God works all things for the good of those who love him. I am thankful that God is GOOD and he is LOVE. I trust him.

I have a lot to be thankful for. But, you know, my heart still hurts. Please pray for the 1st.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Please Pray

I humbly request that you say a prayer for our family before you go to bed tonight. Please pray that if it is, indeed, God's will for us to adopt this particular little guy that won't allow Satan to cause any unnecessary problems or delays in the court process. Our boy has been waiting in an orphanage long enough. I hope with all my heart that we will receive a phone call tomorrow telling us that we have become a family of four. You will probably hear me shouting from the rooftops when that happens!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Showered with Blessings

I was so blessed today to go to a shower for the Mihnovich family. This precious family has just adopted a sibling group of FOUR from Ethiopia to add to the three children that they already have. In just two weeks from today, they will travel to pick up the new additions to their family.

Tracy has been very influential in our decision to adopt. I first met this lovely lady in September of 2008 when I was providentially placed in her small group in our Community Bible Study class. International adoption was something that had already been in our hearts for a while, but having the opportunity to be around Levi (their youngest child, adopted from Ethiopia in January 2008) every single week, to ask Tracy questions, and most of all, to see her beautiful heart caused me to begin considering it much more seriously. I will always be thankful for Tracy’s influence on our family.

One of the many unexpected blessings on this journey has been the people that we have met along the way. The instant connection of the heart that I feel with other adoptive families is amazing. Our monthly get togethers are literally a highlight of the month for me. We have received so much encouragement and support from these wonderful families. My heart was blessed and refilled today as I got to talk to Gillian, Missy, Amy, Tracy, Kristi, Cindy, Gwen, and many others.

Only four more days now until our court date. It will actually take place during the night on Thursday. Please remember to pray for Little Brother, his birth mother, and all of the court proceedings this week. Thank you and God bless you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Little Feet

Look what I found when I went to the mailbox yesterday:

What a gift from above! I had asked an adoptive family who traveled to pick up their child a couple of weeks ago to take some pictures of Little Brother for us. I had been eagerly anticipating receiving those. When I saw that they had sent us a small package in the mail, I wondered why they didn't just email the pictures instead of mailing a CD. When I opened it up, I found this and absolutely fell apart. Our little guy's foot had actually touched this piece of paper that was now in my hand. This made me feel more connected to him than anything so far. I thanked our Father above for this gift and sat and cried for a while. Then went to his room to see if some shoes that I have for him are going to fit. :)

I pray that next Friday he will legally be our son, and I will be able to share the pictures that they sent. Thank you, Richardson family, for this precious footprint!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Court Date!

I am very, very excited to announce that we have a court date: Friday February 12th!!!

This is when our request to adopt our son will be heard by a judge in an Ethiopian court. No, we will not be present for the hearing. We will actually be asleep in our own beds when it happens, as Ethiopia is nine hours ahead of us. (Yeah right, like I will be able to sleep that night...) An individual from our adoption agency has power of attorney for us and will present our case to the judge.

Hopefully, we will receive a phone call early in the day on the 12th letting us know that we have passed and we are legally and officially the parents of our little guy.

Unfortunately, about 50% of families do not pass court the first time. This happens for a number of reasons:

  • First of all the courts are in Africa. Things are a little more laid back there than they are in the U.S. Recently, several families didn't pass simply because the courts decided to have some meetings that day instead of hearing the adoption cases that were scheduled.
  • Sometimes paperwork doesn't make it from one office to another. One missing document is all that it takes to not pass.
  • A member of the child's birth family does not appear in court. If there are any living birth family members, they must travel to the capital, Addis Ababa, to testify before the judge that it is, indeed, their wish to release the child for adoption. This can be a very big deal, depending on where they are from. Our son is from the far southwest corner of Ethiopia, Bench Maji. I've learned that it takes about 24 hours of travel to reach Addis from that region. A family who is in a situation that requires giving up a child for adoption is most likely not in a good position to make a huge trip like that. Our adoption agency assists them in their travel, but still it can be a tremendous burden on the family.
If we do not pass court the first time around, we must wait for another court date a month or so later. Yuck. If we DO pass, we will travel to Ethiopia pick up our son approximately six weeks later.

Please, please pray for our court process:
  • That God's hand will be over the whole process and his will be done in our son's life.
  • That all the proper paperwork and officials show up at the right time.
  • That Little Brother's mother will be able to make the trip to Addis Ababa to appear in court.
  • That we are able to find out more information about his birth mom's life and situation. Someone from our agency will ask her a few questions for us while she is in court and record the answers. We really, really desire to meet her when we are in Ethiopia, but we do not know yet if she will be willing. If she is not, this will be our ONLY OPPORTUNITY to find our more information about our son's history.
My emotions have been at a low point since last week. Last Wednesday we received a monthly update from our adoption agency, complete with photos and info about his current size and health. I had been nothing but excited about getting all of this information and seeing more pictures. But my emotional reaction was not what I expected. I could see immediately in the photos that he is bigger, and he has grown two pounds in the month since we received our referral. The realization hit me hard that he is growing up without us. He was four months old when we received our referral and saw the first pictures of him. He is now five months old - he has lived 25% more life already. And meanwhile, he is still just sitting in the orphanage, and we are sitting here in Tennessee, waiting around for something to happen. There is absolutely nothing we can do to expedite the process (except for pray, of course). He hasn't known what it is like to have a mother since he was relinquished at 6 weeks old. Already he is 5 months and has lived two-third of his little life passed around in several orphanages. He needs a mommy. I have been feeling so lonely for him.

So once again, I ask you to pray that we pass court the first time. I want to go get my boy!