13 Essential Pictures to Take in Your Child’s Birth Country

A list of the most important pictures you should take before leaving to go home.

Tiffany Castleberry January 27, 2015

Traveling overseas to adopt is more than just a chance to meet your new child. It’s a rare opportunity to enter into your child’s culture. Even if you are adopting a baby, the memories you will be able to share as he grows are priceless.

So in addition to the packing lists, gift lists, and myriad of other lists you’ll make for the trip, here is a list of essential pictures to take while in child’s country. It’s an emotional time and you might forget something if you don’t have a plan. Remember this–pictures worth a thousand words. Pictures capture moments and allow us to reflect years down the road on beautiful memories. Pictures help create memory and preserve the things that matter. Pictures are wonderful things.

Your First Meeting
1. Your First Meeting

This goes without saying, but in the chaos you might forget to have someone snap a pic.

The day you pass court
2. The day you pass court

He is officially yours now! Even if you can’t bring him home immediately, this is a huge moment.

The orphanage(s) or foster home(s)
3. The orphanage(s) or foster home(s)

Our son lived in three different homes while he was in care and we were fortunate to be able to visit each one. If possible, you should also take a picture of the place where your child was relinquished or found. I’m not suggesting that every photograph needs to be on display, but it is nice to have them available when your child is old enough to handle the more difficult parts of his story.

Your Child's Bed
4. Your Child's Bed

Sleeping arrangements may be far different from what we are used to, or quite similar, but his bed is an intimate part of his early life.

A Typical Day at the Orphanage
5. A Typical Day at the Orphanage

What do they eat? Do they have a schedule? Do they go to school? Not only are these things meaningful to document, they are super helpful to know when you bring your child home.

6. Friends

We are fortunate that families we know adopted many of our son’s friends, and we are able to keep in touch. There were a few children who were not adoptable, and they remain in our hearts through photographs.

7. Caregivers

These people loved on our child before he knew us. They tucked him in, kissed boo-boos, and wiped endless runny noses. In addition to the photographs, we interviewed the caregivers to gain more information about our son’s personality.

Birth Family
9. Birth Family

If you have the opportunity to meet you child’s birth family, do it. Make the time. Of all the pictures of your trip, these will be the ones you cherish the most. We traveled five hours outside the city to meet our son’s mother, and we are so glad we did.

Culture and Artwork
10. Culture and Artwork

One night we ate at a restaurant that features native dancers. Another time we came across a throng of people in richly decorated clothing heading to a religious ceremony. We also visited an old church with beautifully painted murals inside. Yes, you could look these things up on the internet, but they mean so much more if you have experienced them yourself.

11. Food

We try to eat Ethiopian food whenever we can, but it just doesn’t compare to what we had in country. Also, everyone in Ethiopia, regardless of age, economics, or location, pauses in the afternoon for a coffee ceremony. Even today, a cup of strong Ethiopian coffee brings me back to that sweet afternoon ritual.

City Scenes and Country Scenes
12. City Scenes and Country Scenes

Rooftops, signs, landscapes, and transportation are all fascinating. Make sure to also include markets, churches, and schools.

Workers or Craftsmen Who Are Unique to the Area
13. Workers or Craftsmen Who Are Unique to the Area

We asked this fuel carrier woman if we could photograph her and she obliged. We also had permission to photograph the fishermen. Please be discreet. People are not exhibits. Ask permission whenever possible.

Typical Dwellings
14. Typical Dwellings

The city houses, especially when compared to the huts in the countryside, fascinated us. Our son lived in a small village as well as a large city before we met him. He can remember details about both experiences, and I’m glad we have photographs to refer to.

These images are only a small sampling of the hundreds we took while in our son’s birth country. We also took all of the typical “tourist” photos and countless pictures of our new child. But these 13 essential photographs are for him, to help tell his story and piece together the parts of his past that are too easily forgotten.

author image

Tiffany Castleberry

Tiffany and her high school sweetheart husband live in the country near Tulsa, OK, with their six children (so far!). They are allowing God to grow their family as He sees fit through birth, international adoption, foster care adoption, and private domestic adoption. Tiffany is a homeschooling mom who loves Jesus, adoption, and cupcakes (usually in that order). You can find more of her writing on her blog, Stuff and Things.

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