In August I had the pleasure of traveling to Ethiopia to check on EAC’s programs and meet with staff and some of the Ethiopian families we serve. All together I was able to visit with nearly one hundred families. Enjoy -Andrea
At the beginning of my visit, Kalkidan and I met up at the Capitol Hotel in Addis with a few moms and sisters who have challenging cases. These are situations involving rehoming among other things. We chatted for several hours over lunch. There were hugs and tears. For three of the moms and sisters, we have already found their children but the adoptive families are unresponsive to our communication. I have spent many hours talking and texting with these women. I’m invested, Kalkidan too, and it was a pleasure to meet them in person.
Later, my family and I flew to Arba Minch on an Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Bombadier. It was a great flight and very affordable if you fly Ethiopian for the international portion of your trip. From Arba Minch we drove to Wolayta Sodo to meet with EAC’s social worker and the people who run our partner organization, Wolaitta Development Association. I was thrilled with WODA and their work with us for the sake of parents in Wolaitta Sodo, and ultimately adoptees. These are dedicated people who know their community, care about their community, grew up in the community, and want the best for it.
Emotional and Social Support Discussion Groups for Ethiopian Parents
We spent a few days attending some of the emotional and social support discussion groups EAC sponsors for Ethiopian parents who lost children to adoption. They were in the following areas: Damot Weyde Woreda, Bedessa Town; Boloso Sore Woreda, Matala Hembecho; and Offa Woreda, Busha Kebele.
The parents all had one big question: “Where are our children?” Let me just put it right out there: these families did not understand what was happening when they gave their children for adoption. They trusted that they would continue to be part of their kids’ lives and that they would receive updates on their well-being. Adoption as we know it in the West simply didn’t exist for them. And no one told them. Most families who gave children for adoption do not even know if their kids are alive or dead.
It’s sometimes said in adoption circles that Ethiopian families place children for monetary gain or “just for an education.” While there are people everywhere in the world who will try to game the system, most of these folks are living in conditions of extreme poverty and simply wanted more for their kids. What they didn’t realize is that they’d likely never see them again.
My goal in attending these sessions was to answer any questions they had about what EAC is and what we can and can’t do for them. And they had many questions! They spoke a lot about their frustrations with trying to find out about their kids. Some received one or two post placement reports prior to 2011-12, but since the agencies closed shop, they have heard nothing more.
Reunion in international adoption is complex and and poses many challenges such as language, culture, and economic differences. EAC is working with Ethiopian parents to give them the facts, listen to their stories, support them emotionally, and prepare them for successful reunions with their children in the future. Everyone gains from the work we are doing, including adoptees.
All They Have Left….
At one of the discussion groups I took pictures of mothers and fathers holding photos of their kids. These are just a few of the families from one support group, and they are the lucky ones who received a post placement report prior to 2012. The photos they are holding are all they have left of their children. Do you recognize anyone here?
During this trip I learned how important it is for Ethiopian families to have direct, independent contact with their children (or the adoptive families in the case of minors). Due to the false promises made at the time of adoption and the sudden halt of post placement reports, these folks are reluctant to trust a hired searcher or an organization with their relationship to their beloved children. After all – what if they leave too, or the hired searcher stops coming around?
I could see in their faces how demoralizing it is to rely on others for something as natural as communicating with their own child. It has always been EAC’s policy to provide full contact information of birth family up front to adoptees and adoptive families. After all, adoptees deserve this information. We have been more lax with adoptive parents, giving them time to process the new relationship. From now on we will insist that they also provide contact information to their child’s Ethiopian family, assisting them with methods of communication they can manage such as a dedicated Facebook profile or email address.
A highlight of the trip was a visit with Heran Tadesse, member of our Adoptee Advisory Board. Heran was instrumental in the beginnings of EAC. My kids and I spent time with her and Betty Demoze. Meeting Betty was a pleasure. I enjoyed seeing my kids bond easily with these two older adoptees. And of course we dabbed (see below).
Some travel tips: I already mentioned the flight to Arba Minch – excellent. In Wolaitta we stayed at the Nega Hotel. It was pretty good! In Debre Ziet we spent several days at the Kuriftu which was excellent. We also spent time at the Leisak – great food! Here are some photos I took in and around Wolayta.
I’m proud of what our small group of determined people has accomplished with Beteseb Felega (EAC). We are the only organization committed to giving a voice to Ethiopian families while providing services focused on their well being post adoption. Regardless of the reasons for adoption, relinquishment is traumatic for parents. Some never recover. As true advocates for them, we are pleased to offer our services completely independently of the services we provide to adoptive parents and adoptees. And we have well over 40 reconnections to date – reason to celebrate!