Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adoption Update: Not what we'd hoped for

I have not written much about our adoption situation since we returned from Ethiopia in July.  Here's a run down of what has happened over the last few months:
  1. Our agency did investigations on two of the children that we had been able to meet while we were in Ethiopia. 
  2. After receiving the results of the investigations, we accepted a referral for one of the children, an eight mo. old girl.
  3. We had to re-do our dossier. Our first one was about to expire. (Dossiers are good for 2 yrs in Ethiopia.) This took about 6 weeks.
  4. We found out in early September that we had been assigned a court date of Nov. 15th.  In early October, we booked our flights.
  5. We told our parents about our travel plans on 10/30, but those plans were going to unravel 5 days later.
  6. Last Friday while I was at work, James called me and said our social worker wanted to have a conference call with us.  I was tied up and could not talk, so I asked James to talk with her. I expected that the news would not be good, and feared that it had something to do with the birthmom's court appearance, which had taken place earlier that day.
  7. I called James when I was able to, and my fears were correct. The birthmom testified that she wished to parent the child who had been referred to us. Our fourth failed referral.
  8. Yesterday we informed our agency that we want to withdraw from the Ethiopia program. We are considering pursuing domestic adoption, but we have not made any firm decisions in that regard yet.
James and I have been put through an emotional hell this past year. I did not want to go to church on Sunday. It was Orphan Sunday, and I was not up to hearing people sing the praises of adoption. So, we stayed home. I feel like God has been playing a game with us. There have been so many things that have happened along the way that made us feel encouraged to adopt from Ethiopia. Such us:
  • Learning that James and my birthdays both fall on Ethiopian holidays.
  • Our original dossier got hung up at our agency's office and was sent to Ethiopia about a month later than it should have been sent. It was sent on March 5, 2010 - which was the birthdate of the first baby who was referred to us. (She passed away less than three months after we received the referral for her.)
  • Learning that we have a neighbor who does works in Ethiopia and travels there once or twice a year.
I don't know why God put the desire to adopt from Ethiopia in our heart if He knew that He had no plans to fulfill that desire. All I can say about that are that His ways are not our ways.

We learned several things along the way about the adoption process that I wish we'd known before we got heavily involved with the program:
  •  Most of the children available for adoption are not orphans in the way that we think. Most of them have one birth parent living. I know this is not true of every child, but it is true of most. All four children who were referred to us had a living mother, and I know of many families who have been able to meet their child's birthparent while they were in Ethiopia.
  • The birthparent has the right to claim custody of the child up until their appearance in court in Addis.  This is not just a formality, and the judge will honor in the birthparent's wish to parent. The birthparent's court date is typically 1-2 weeks before the adoptive families' court date, so your travel/adoption plans may get thrown out the window a week before you were planning on leaving for court.
  • There is probably no way to know your child's HIV status for sure if they are under the age of 18 months. Yes, the little babies will be tested for HIV, but the tests that are commonly used in Ethiopia for HIV are not 100% accurate in children under the age of 18 months.
  • Children under the age of two year will not be screened for TB. TB is one of the most common causes of death in Ethiopia, and I was baffled to learn that kids under the age of two will not be screened for it. They will be given a chest x-ray, if they exhibit signs of respiratory illness, but in our experience TB is not accurately diagnosed. The first child we were referred died from TB, after she had been treated for pneumonia for several weeks. 
  • Ethiopia does not have a good system in place to keep track of records regarding previous relinquishments by families. Let's say that a mom relinquishes a child for adoption and that child is adopted by a family in the US. Same mom gets pregnant a year later and wants to relinquish that child as well. The family in the US who has the first child has to be contacted to given the option to adopt the new sibling.  This is how we lost our third referral.
 I don't know if we would have changed our minds about adopting from Ethiopia had we known all those things, but it still would have been nice to know these things before we had spent over a year in the program.

Thank you for your prayers, condolences, and encouragement. We are not sure what our next steps will be at this time. We ask that you give us the same courtesy that you'd give someone who had four miscarriages in less than a year's time. We are not up for a lot of questions about adoption/children right now.


  1. I am absolutely at a loss for words for you and your family. My heart is broken for you and cannot even begin to imagine the pain you are going through. You have been on my mind quite often the past couple of months and am continuing to pray for you as you move forward in whatever direction you are led.


  2. I am so sorry for all the loss ya'll have been through! I know that God has a good plan for ya'll even in the midst of the pain.

  3. Steph~

    There are no words.....I am truly sorry for your loss.

    Stacey Klein

  4. I am so sorry Steph..... my hear is breaking for you and I will continue to lift you to the Lord.

  5. Hi Stephanie,
    My heart breaks for you, I am so sorry! My husband in is Addis now, not adoption related, and just texted from FMCGH he said Birtukan is hurting badly for you and really wants to communicate with you. If you e-mail me your contact info I'll text it to him stephaniesund@gmail.com or you could e-mail Birtukan and Nesibu directly.

    We lost one referral and I can not imagine multiplying that pain and loss x2 never mind 4. Praying for God to comfort you in your mourning.

  6. Hi Stephanie, I am really really sorry for this fourth loss; what a blow. I do want to say that perhaps all those "signs" really were confirmation that Ethiopia is still the country for you. It must be hard to even think that way anymore but for whatever reason, sometimes the road God has laid before us is filled with roadblock after roadblock but we are still supposed to be on the journey. However, if you really feel like God is simply closing the door on Ethiopia and you have peace about moving elsewhere, that is different. I will pray for you; my heart hurts for all you have endured. :(

  7. Steph, I don't know you, but I have experienced some of that pain, and its awful. I don't know if you are numb or angry or sad or all of them all of the time. Please have grace with yourself... Allow yourself to grieve or not grieve or be angry (dare I say it- even towards Him)... He can take it. I found that it was only once I let myself truly face my emotions ( you don't have to "set up camp" in the angry or sad emotions, but I hope you will let yourself go through them... my sense of trust slowly started to return... that He actually does have good plans for me, to give you a HOPE and a future (that does not involve being constantly disappointed or in pain!)... so saddened by your news. May you be filled with supernatural understanding, and peace. Rachel

  8. Steph,

    Thank you for your support. My heart breaks for your family, too. I would love to speak with you more. Can you e-mail me privately?

  9. Just wanted to stop by and tell you that you came across my mind today. Praying that you are having a good week.