“When Beteseb Felega (EAC) found my daughter in Canada, I was so happy. I stayed up until midnight crying with happiness. The day she was found, I couldn’t tell my husband because he was travelling out of Addis and I couldn’t reach him on the phone. I was very excited to tell him. I was so happy and relieved that she was found and, after so many years of worry, we knew finally where she was.“
Beteseb Felega / Ethiopian Adoption Connection has established direct contact for over 50 adoptees, adoptive families, and original/birth families in Ethiopia who were searching for each other. Tigist, a young woman in Addis Ababa, is one of the mothers who has used the services of EAC.
Even though EAC succeeded in locating Tigist’s now 13-year-old daughter, her happiness was very short-lived. The adoptive family communicated to EAC that the child was well but would not provide a picture or any other information for the grieving mother and father. Then they cut off all contact. In cases like this, EAC offers to act as a mediator between the parties, however the adoptive family refused that as well.
“When I heard that the adoptive family had refused all contact, I was so sad all over again,” says Tigist. “I believe they love my daughter and that is why they blocked contact. I understand that they were shocked. The orphanage and adoption agency in Canada told them we were dead.”
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in Ethiopian adoptions. Adoption workers frequently process children as full orphans in order to receive a visa more quickly. A large, well known orphanage in Addis Ababa, working closely with a Canadian adoption agency, did this to Tigist and her now husband 12 years ago.
“The adoption process is sad. The orphanage said we are dead,” says Tigist. “Her father and I are both alive. We are together. We are married. Why did they say we are dead? Many children’s stories are the same as our daughter’s.”
Tigist and her husband, Tamirat, were in high school when she became pregnant. They were young and scared and they had no money to support the baby. They took their baby girl to an orphanage in Addis Ababa as — what they were told and thought was — a temporary measure while they made preparations to parent the baby they both loved.
“Tamirat and I were very young when we had our daughter,” says Tigist. “I was still a student when I was pregnant. We had no money because we were so young. The orphanage cheated us. We trusted the man there. He told us we could visit our daughter every six months. They promised us. But they cheated us and sent her to Canada.
“The man at the orphanage never mentioned adoption. We knew nothing about adoption. We never consented to adoption. We never went before the judge. The orphanage lied to both my husband and I and the adoptive family.”
When Tigist found out that her baby was gone, she was utterly devastated.
“After we found that our daughter had been adopted and sent to Canada, my life was very bad. I couldn’t even work. My mind was in such pain. I was crying all the time. Sometimes I wanted to kill myself. Oh, it was such a hard time,” says Tigist. “The adoption changed my life; it made it empty. Hopeless. Adoption changed my life in a bad way. Oh, the pain, because I am a mother with no child. The adoption happened 12 years ago and there is no end. Adoption has left me with a sad life.”
When Tigist and Tamirat heard about Beteseb Felega (EAC) and signed up with the search registry, they were very hopeful that their daughter could be found.
The vast majority of adoptive families Ethiopian Adoption Connection is able to find do want contact in some form. In most cases, the adoptive family is overjoyed to be found and want their child to have a connection to their history and family in Ethiopia too. Reconnected families communicate in many forms, from an annual update letter to actual visits to Ethiopia.
“Before I knew where my daughter was, I was in the dark,” says Tigist. “I thought about my daughter all day. Before I knew where she was, I thought maybe she was having a bad life. Maybe she was dead. I had many terrible ideas about what might have happened to her. So I was crying all the time.”
Tigist and Tamirat hope that, over time, their daughter’s adoptive family will welcome a connection too. But for now, they wait, grieving yet hopeful for news about their daughter’s well-being.
“I hope that the adoptive family will accept my daughter’s true history,” she says. “I want a good relationship with the whole family. I think they love her so much. I want them to know that she has both an adoptive family and a birth family. I wish – I hope – that they will accept me. I wish all the best to the adoptive family. I have to say thank you as well. Because they love her so much.”
A few weeks ago, it was Fasika, which is Ethiopian Orthodox Easter. As always, her daughter in Canada was on Tigist’s mind. “Every holiday is hard and sad for me. Every holiday, I remember my daughter. Because I am still a mother – a birth mother. I never forget my daughter.”
Asked about her wishes for her daughter, Tigist says, “I wish all good things possible for our daughter. I hope that she will be a good student. I miss her so much and would love to hear her voice. I wish for my sweet daughter a happy life.”