Feb 18, 2010

Sadness in Ethiopian adoptions

The video I linked to has now aired on CBS.

I feel divided on this.

On the one hand, I'm very glad this particular agency was exposed to be doing unethical things in gaining orphans for adoption. A lot of the problems mentioned are not uncommon in adoptions: The kids are misrepresented as younger than they are; kids are told they're not being adopted but "going on a trip" etc... these things absolutely and positively DO happen and I personally know families who have dealt with these issues.

The thing is, an agency isn't always the one responsbile for the problems. Parents who are in desperate circumstances and feel that adoption is the only option for their children, will say a child is younger so that they have a "better chance." They will sometimes tell their kids they're just leaving them for a while, simply because they can't handle telling them they're being given up forever. One little girl I know had this happen... both of these things. She came to the family thinking she was going on a trip. The family was told she was three, she ended up being much older; around 6 at the time she came home. When she (the girl) realized what had happened, that this was her "new" family and she was going to stay in America forever, there were huge problems of course. Everything mentioned in this video--heartbreak, etc.

The thing is, the agency (in this case, Dove) had nothing to do with the Deception. Dove, like our agency, Adoption Avenues, works with a large, respected orphanage in Ethiopia. Both these agencies (dove and adoption avenues) do not go out recruiting orphans, orphans are brought to the main orphanage and this is where the kids are found. This orphanage is called Le Toukoul, and it is very well respected, well established, has been in operation for a long time and is a big organization with satelite organizations all over the country. They are very careful not only in their ethics of how the children are acquired, but how they are placed with families as well. When I went over there, I was impressed (and a bit annoyed) at how incredibly protecive of their kids and the facility they were. The process is very carefully regulated, checked, and re-checked with each child and each family and every piece of paperwork that goes through the court process in order to make sure all is in order.

Still, this happened-- this little girl ended up coming to America thinking she was going on a trip. And somehow all the orphan dr's at the orphanage decided to go ahead and pass her off as 3 instead of 6, though they must have suspected... but the suriving parent, in the end, was the one who said she was three. So what do they do? Put in the medical report that, because of how many teeth she had and how long her arms and legs were, they thought the father was likely lying about her age?

This process is a difficult one, fraught with emotion and possible Ethical dilemmas. The idea of adoption itself is a dilemma. Who am I to take two children away from their home culture and country and bring them here? What makes America so much better? My kids miss Ethiopia. They miss their Grandmother, who was taking care of them before they came to the orphanage, until she could no longer afford to. They speak longingly about their brown mom who died. Ethiopia, for them, is a kind of fairy-tale place where everything is amazing and sparkly and full of food and friends.

They love us, too. They love America. They love thier new sisters and brother. But who am I to have caused this huge disruption in their lives?

Honestly, we can't forget the fact that these kids (a lot of them, at least) have absolutely no future. They mention this in the video in a kind of a passing, dismissive way but actually, a lot of these kids do end up on the street as child prostitutes.

Are we saying that it's better to live a life of prostitution, starvation and disease in Ethiopia than live in a family in America? I'm sorry but, we can't ignore the facts, which are that there ARE millions of orphans in Ethiopia with nowhere to go. And only a miniscule percentage of these kids actually come to America, so we can't even say that adoption is a solution to orphanhood in general.

The fractional amount of kids who end up adopted are incredibly, incredibly fortunate. My kids ended up at Toukoul, instead of in the streets. Instead of starving or dying of a wasting type of illness related to lack of food and water. When MayMay first got here, she could barely walk a block. She needed help in and out of the van. She couldn't skip, jump, or run. She was physically delayed, she was malnourished.

The first time I saw my girls I gave them each a bottle of juice--I was told that attachment is fostered if, on your first meeting, you give them something sweet, something they can drink. It's like the nursing bond.

They took those bottles and did not stop until they were empty. Then MayMay pointed at my water bottle, I gave it to her and she did not stop until that was gone too. We went to the hotel room; any water bottle in sight was confiscated, and emptied.

Food and water were all they thought about those first few days and weeks. I could see it in their faces; that grim, intense concentration on food and water. Hugging came after... it wasn't as important, as vital to their little bodies as the nutrients they had been missing.

THey have come here, and their hair has grown several inches, and they both skip, run laugh, jump now. MayMay is even starting to write letters; before she could barely draw a circle. I'd say her fine motor skills were about on the level of a 2-year old's. Sorry if that makes me sound prejudiced or dismissive of Ethiopia. I don't mean it that way.... Ethiopia is a beautiful country. A wonderful culture. I wish with all my heart that kids born in Ethiopia could stay and live that culture and live in their country, live full lives with viable options and access to enough food and health care. But the fact is, this is not the case for millions of children.

My fear at this point is that this news story will cause a fall-out that will make everyone view Ethiopian adoptions as inherrently unethical. I really hope that doesn't happen. I'm glad CWA has been exposed and hope they get kicked out of the country. What happened was really unacceptable. Tragic. In a way, the most horrible form of exploitation possible; in my mind not just because these kids were bought, stolen; but because it meant someone who really NEEDED adoption did not get that chance. A double tragedy.

Anyway, I just had to vent... I'm so glad my kids are here. They are a piece of my heart, a part of my family now.

I'm also very sad that they came here because their mom died. Their dad left. Their grandmother was living in such a state of poverty she knew she couldn't afford to keep them alive. But... the miracle is there was another option than letting them starve or abandoning them to live on the teeming streets of Addis Ababa where there would be a big chance that they would be cruelly exploited until they died from exposure or disease. The lady who ran the guest house we stayed with was helping a woman out who gave a home to "street boys," boys who lived on the street either trying to sell things or who were, yes, prostituting themselves. It is an ugly truth, something I don't like to talk about when talking about my girls' home country, but it is undeniable and it doesn't do anyone any good to gloss over the issue and dismiss it as propoganda, as CBS did in this presentation.

Yes, I'm glad that there was another option for my girls... and so very glad that I have them, as a result of that option.

Adoption is a bittersweet thing. And always will be. But it doesn't have to be unethical. Just so everyone knows... the 70 adoption agencies currently in the country were reviewed, many of them quite rigorously, in the wake of this scandal (the investigation in this report took place several months ago, and stalled the court and legal processes for many of the cases pending in the system... caused huge disruptions, actually.) And only this one agency mentioned in the report came up lacking in huge ways. There were a few other agencies that were told to change things, and when relicensure time came around, some licenses were not renewed because agencies weren't following protocol as strictly as they could. But no other agency, that they could discover after these rigourous investigations by both the Ethiopian government and the Joint Counsel on International children's Services, was actually out Buying Children. There ARE ethical adoptions out there. Most agencies follow the rules, most agencies are not out to exploit children and get money from rich Americans. But yes, if you're thinking adoption... do your research. Do a lot of it. Don't let yourself get desperate enough to be told something that seems too good to be true... as with marriage, you need to keep your eyes wide open before the process.

And then, afterwards, like marriage, I have found it's best to keep my eyes half-shut. For better or for worse, my kids are here. I'm pretty dang sure my adoption was ethical, but you can't ever know 100%. What I do know: My family was lead to this. A series of small miracles made this possible.

In the end, I trust Heavenly Father far more than any joint counsel or government agency... my girls are meant to be here. And I can allow my heart to rejoice fully in the fact that they are, and enjoy the miracle of my family. Because it is truly a miracle, having every single one of my kids here for me to love and teach. I couldn't ask for anything I want more in this life.


David L said...

Knowing your girls as little as I do, they're a treat and a joy.

Hopefully my ribs start feeling better soon, because I really miss tickling Maeza. No one laughs quite like she does.

Putz said...

tickling is a torture for no surf sahra and a joy for no surf's children, what is it 4 girls amd one boy????????and another on the way>>>i would like to know from, you out of all the women who could raise children in these other than third world countries, how many actually go through the process percenntage wise, less than 1% or what, i have no idea

Anonymous said...

Meaza says "E-topia". And I always think "utopia", which is what it seems like to them, that fanciful place they came from, where any sad/bad things happened young enough that they don't register, or are fast fading into fuzzy memory.

As an adoptive mom, and as an adopted adult, I am so sorry that adoption has to happen anytime, for any reason. Of course in a perfect world with no death, disease, sin, poverty, etc all children would be raised by their own parents. We know it would be best if it could be that way.

Other side of the coin: as an adoptive mom and an adopted adult, I'm so grateful for adoption. I wouldn't be the person I am if it hadn't been for a wonderful woman who took me on when I was a scared, sad five year old.

And my family wouldn't be the same without our 11 year old daughter who left everything she knew to come to the US to be our kid.

There are NO words for how much anger I feel about those who exploit children,those who exploit families in need, and those who exploit families wanting to adopt.

I am so glad to have a chance to be one of the pink grandmas Meaza and Woinishet have here in the US, and hope that I can be what their brown grandma in Ethiopia would want me to be. I think of her and hope she knows her little girls are OK and much loved.

Putz said...

good ole anon below me on the comments is the california grandma who has turned out to not be very good blogger, i started with you untill you comeplely gave out and here you are again wit your two cents worth, sarha please answer my above question

Putz said...

i mean the anon is above me, i dion't know directiikons very well do i?????????what my question is nsg is how much of a minority world wide are you and your mom in adopting ethopian utopian girls or boys??????

NoSurfGirl said...

I don't know, Putz. I think the number of kids adopted internationally last year was something like 12,500. Domestically, I"m not sure how many kids are adopted, but I'd guess far more than are adopted internationally, when you consider step-parent adoption, foster-care adoption and american agencies providing adoption services all over the country.