Ethiopian Adoption- Preparing to Know Your Child

A social worker shares things she's learned about preparing to meet your adopted Ethiopian child.

Crystal Perkins January 27, 2014
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Ethiopia is one of the top countries for American adoptions. This attraction is heightened by the beauty and appeal of the children, their ethnic diversity, and country’s religions, which encompass the Judaic, Christian, and Muslim traditions. However as one of the highest-ranking countries in the world for maternal mortality, malnutrition, poverty, AIDS, and child abandonment, a medical review of your child’s referral packet is essential. Thus when you receive your youngster’s photo, medical report, and developmental history, be sure to consult with a pediatrician knowledgeable about and experienced in international adoption. This is the professional who can provide you with the guidance and peace of mind to proceed with this referral, or request another, and who will be on-call to you when you are in Ethiopia with pressing questions. He or she will also provide you with traveling suggestions and prescriptions for the long trip home to the States. It is this physician with whom you and your child will meet as soon as you return home.

Americans adopting from Ethiopia have the unique privilege of meeting and visiting with the biological family, if they are known, in their villages. It is an opportunity which should be eagerly accepted because in years to come, it will give your child tangible information about his or her ancestry, photographs for your child’s lifebook, and yield important medical and psychological information about family genetics. This meeting will give a window into the circumstances for the adoption and provide the chance to obtain medical information from the birth family and officials and to take family pictures. These materials, as well as a few strands of hair from the birthmother, should be sent to your pediatrician while you are in Ethiopia or maintained for future genetic testing. In years to come, DNA will provide a wealth of information to adoptive families, and your doctor will be the repository of these materials and alert you to the latest findings.

When in Ethiopia, your child will be cared for in the orphanage by nannies, nurses, and doctors. Your youngster will also receive check-ups from an outside physician in his or her office. If you have questions and are uncomfortable with the answers, feel free to ask for a team consultation, as I did, with all the professionals involved with your child. If you continue to be concerned, contact your physician in America for clarification before bringing your child home. Most importantly, know that your child will receive inoculations in Ethiopia and must be in good health to qualify for the American visa. Your child will receive a final check-up in Ethiopia to certify these requirements have been met. In addition to knowing your child’s health and birth family, you will meet the youngster you only “knew” from a photo within hours of your arrival in Ethiopia.

Be aware that when you land in Addis Ababa you will be jet-lagged from the long, exhausting trip. Therefore, take the opportunity to get some rest, eat lightly, and be refreshed when you meet your child. You want to feel your very best and be ready for one of the most joyous occasions you will experience. As you prepare to meet for the first time, remember that your little one is not accustomed to many visitors or being held by newcomers. It will take both of you time to get acquainted. Enlist the assistance of the nannies who, although you may find them possessive in the beginning, will be a well of information and helpful tips once you are assertive and they understand your good intentions. Spend as much time as you can during the first days in your child’s care center, observing your child’s feeding schedule, appetite, sleep pattern, and temperament.

Get accustomed to feeding and bathing your child, because in a few days the child you have been visiting daily will be placed in your custody. It will then be your decision to stay in the orphanage’s guest house or a hotel of your choosing while you await completion of your paperwork. And in a few more days, you and your child will journey home to America to start a new life. One of the great advantages of Ethiopian adoption is the streamlined procedures and the abbreviated schedule, which is usually completed within 5-7 days of your arrival in Ethiopia.

A few words of wisdom when you return home: minimize the number of visitors during the first weeks. This is a major life change for your youngster and time is needed to rest from the long flight. Your youngster also will need to adjust to new formula/food and the immediate family. You and all those who love you and your new child will have a lifetime to celebrate.

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Crystal Perkins

Crystal is the content manager for Adoption.com. In her free time, she enjoys honing her outdoor photography skills, going on hikes, and hanging out with her husband.


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