Hello
So we are a very international family with one child already (9 years old) thinking of expanding. Adopting from overseas is very important to us. We have lived around the world, my husband works for an NGO that does a lot of grassroots work in Africa as well as around the world. We speak a few languages and my husband himself is from Europe as is my mother's family (they were immigrants). So the desire to understand and foster a connection for a child to their motherland is something we feel passionate about and know we would maintain. But I have a few questions about the process.
1) In general, and I know many organizations are different, how are families matched with a child? Do they ever try and match children of like personalities with families? For example, do any organizations try and figure out a personality profile for the family and find a child that would mesh well with that family? A more quiet family with more quiet child, a more adventurous child with a more adventurous boisterous family etc? I'm just curious if anything goes into it beyond ticking boxes for age, gender and special needs.
2) We have another child currently. We live in a 2 bedroom house. In order to adopt, if the children are of the same sex, can they share a bedroom or do most like the adopted child to have their own room?
3) For this question I know people have a WIDE range of opinions about schooling. I don't want to enter into more hurtful banter here so if we could, please try and only answer my question without judgement. So, we already have our one child in private school. Private school is important to us. I have heard there is financial AID for adopted children. Is there ever any for grade school level? We would struggle to send two to private school.
4) For Ethiopia, how does the meeting the child usually go? Do you accept first then meet? Meet then accept? Do they ever do over skype (Please don't get me wrong, I would fly to Ethiopia in a heartbeat)? Just curious how most handle the meeting. If after the meeting, if they don't feel they would mesh with your family, will they let you meet another child while you are there? Or must you return home and wait again (again, I'm fine if that is the process, but just would like to know ahead of time what to expect).
5) What has the wait time been like for you? I would like a one or 2 year old if possible. I would also like a little girl.
Thanks so much for your time!
I forgot to add, if and when we were to pick up our child from Ethiopia, may our child come along with us?
Thanks!
We have just gotten pictures and Medical or Daily Reports. We have ' fallen in love ' with a picture...
As far as Personality it would depend alot on whether the child was or is ' Institutionalized in an Orphanage ' or in a ' loving Foster Family Environment. It's more of a process of checking boxes for age, gender and Health Advocacy...
We have never encountered a regulation with International Adoption. With how the child should sleep.
The ' only Financial Aid ' for Adopted Children is the State Schools pay for College Tuition for Emancipated Foster Youth.
Our Kids College Figure amount was or is $2,000,000.
Generally with International Adoption, you go through Immigration Processing and the Entire Court Processing first. Then meet the child and bring them home.
As Parents we make the decision with video, pictures, and Medical and Daily Reports. As Parents, we Hope and Pray the Medical Reports are somewhat accurate!!
If the child doesn't work out. The process is come home and wait again... Personally I would not take this route . Until the Child has been with you for 5 or more months... I would also ask your Agency what the Financial Involvement is as each Agency is Financially Different in what and how they Advocate Adoption!!
In sense ' It is like riding an Emotional Roller-Coaster Ride ..'
Last update on February 9, 10:07 pm by Juli Hawley.
Midori Tori:
I adopted from China, not Ethiopia. Still, I think that I can answer some of your questions.
1. In an ideal world, the person involved with matching a child would read a detailed profile of the child compiled by an orphanage or foster home, and then sift through dozens or hundreds of dossiers of prospective adoptive families, looking for the family that could best meet the child's needs.
Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. Orphanages caring for children are usually understaffed, and try to devote more time to direct service to the children than to filling out forms and profiles. The profiles that are submitted to the adoption authorities may not be super detailed, or even accurate. And the folks matching the children to prospective parents need to focus on very important matters, such as whether the children and prospective parents meet sending and receiving country requirements for adoption and immigration; whether the children should be considered relatively healthy or placed only with families open to special needs; and so on. They may not focus on finding a musical family for a child who claps her hands when music is played.
In countries like China, where the matching is done centrally, there may be hundreds of child dossiers and parent dossiers in the queue at any given time, and it would be unreasonable to expect an official to go through hundreds of parent dossiers to find the perfect family for a given child. In the past, when healthy children were available, all the dossiers of children in a given orphanage submitted in a given month would simply be matched against all the parents from a given agency submitted in a given month, with attempts made to match within that group on personality, requested ages, and such; sometimes, however, it seemed that matches were made based on appearance, or on orphanage statements that turned out to be far from accurate. And in countries where the matching is done locally, there may be only one set of prospective parents requesting a four year old boy, so as long as the family is qualified, the prospective parents may be matched with the only four year old boy who is paper ready at that time.
Moreover, you need to understand that a child in an orphanage or foster home may still be shell-shocked from the change in his/her circumstances, and may not show the personality that comes out once he/she has permanent loving parents. Many of the children will have received less than optimal nutrition and health care, and less than optimal cuddling and attention. They may not have had adequate time to play outdoors, to develop their imaginations by playing with toys, and to develop their language, motor, and other skills. As a result, even if someone attempted to match a child to prospective parents based on similar temperaments or interests, the results might be totally wrong.
Perhaps most importantly, the focus of adoption must always be on finding a family for a child, not a child for a family. It is assumed that a good parent for a child is one who is willing to learn about the child's needs and adjust his/her parenting style accordingly. So even if a Mom is very "girly" and looks forward to a female child who will study dance, love pink dresses, and want lots of dolls, she simply may have to "go with the flow" if the girl she adopts turns out to prefer baggy shorts, wants to learn karate, dreams of being an Air Force pilot, and collects stuffed dinosaurs. Interestingly, even if a family has biological children, one of those children may be temperamentally like his/her mother or father, but the other one might be a polar opposite. Good parents adjust, whether they are adoptive or Biological. And, surprisingly, no matter how the matching is done, the child you receive often turns out to be the child who is perfect for you. I know that my daughter, now 21, is the daughter I was meant to have.
2. Your state or province of residence, and the preferences of your adoption agency, will be the primary determinants of whether your new child will be allowed to share a bedroom with your current child of the same gender and roughly similar age (NOT a toddler and a teen). Most of the time, room sharing will not be a problem, though your homestudy will have to document that the room meets local requirements with regard to square footage for two occupants and their belongings. It is rare for a foreign country to specify bedroom requirements; you must remember that some of the children in countries from which Americans adopt have lived in one room, with parents, siblings, and even grandparents sharing the space. And certainly, most children in orphanages do not have their own bedrooms.
3. I used a Jewish private school for my daughter, from kindergarten through seventh grade. As a single working parent, private school was a huge stretch for me, and this particular school, with very superior academics and a dual language focus, was almost as costly as some of the most prestigious secular private schools in our area. Fortunately, given my income, we did qualify for the school’s financial aid program, as the school proved to be a perfect fit for my daughter. However, the availability of financial aid will vary considerably by school. Some will give financial aid to encourage racial and economic diversity. My daughter’s school set aside a major part of its financial aid for the children of Jewish immigrants from countries like Russia and Ethiopia, who fled persecution, war, and other social ills. And so on. Don’t expect to find any federal or state aid for private schools at the elementary and secondary levels. Aside from aid provided by the schools, there “may” be occasional scholarships offered by religious or other affinity groups, but don’t count on it. And do understand that, even if you qualify for reduced tuition, the scholarship from a school may not cover things like books, uniforms, athletic activities, bus transportation, field trips, and so on. Some of these fees may be surprisingly high.
4. I can’t speak specifically about Ethiopia, as I adopted from China, but the general feeling about accepting a referral, either while you are at home or when you actually meet the child in the foreign country, is that you should reject a child only for a very, very good reason, such as the presence of a serious medical issue that you did not request and that you would be unable to handle.
Normally, when you receive a referral of a child, via your adoption agency, you are sent a medical report and either pictures or a video. It is strongly suggested that you have the information reviewed by an adoption medicine specialist, as well as by your pediatrician of choice. There are a number of fine adoption medicine clinics in the U.S., such as Dr. Dana Johnson’s international adoption clinic at the University of Minnesota, which will review medical forms on referred children, for a modest fee. You don’t have to live near a given clinic; you can send the information by email, overnight carrier, etc., and get feedback from the physician by phone and email.
If a medical report says that a child is healthy, but the photos, lab values, and other information suggest to the doctor that the child probably has an issue such as cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, a form of thalassemia requiring frequent transfusions, deafness, severe fetal alcohol syndrome, or HIV, and you did not indicate a willingness to accept a child with such a condition, you can let the agency know the doctor’s opinion and reject the referral. In most cases of this sort, a foreign country will acknowledge its error and send another referral, though your adoption may be delayed slightly. There are, of course, no guarantees with such a review, as the physician is not seeing the child in person, and relying on information from a country where the medical system may be very different from the American system. A child may be suspected of having a serious disease, when he/she is fine, or he/she may wind up having a special need that was not noticed during the review. Still, the best jnternational adoption clinics have seen reports on. enough children from various countries to know what issues are common, what clues can be found in medical reports, and so on; their assessments are often quite helpful to families making a decision on whether to accept a referral.
On the other hand, if you look at the child’s photo and decide that he/she is “too dark”, or that his/her picture “does not resonate” with you, and you decide to reject the referral, your agency may decide not to work with you further, feeling that you are being unreasonably picky. And even if it does send your rejection to the foreign country, the foreign country may or may not send you another referral. The usual explanation is that adoption is not about adopting “designer babies”; it is about adopting children who need parents. And particularly if a child is turned down because of his/her racial or ethnic characteristics, a country is likely to take offense. If you adopt from Bulgaria, for example, your referral might show a blonde haired, blue eyed little boy – or it may show a handsome boy with tan skin and dark eyes, characteristic of the Roma (Gypsy) population. If you have a prejudice against the Roma, feeling that they are genetically programmed to become thieves, then you probably shouldn’t be adopting from Bulgaria, given that the Roma are about 4-5% of the general population, and a much larger percentage of the children available for adoption. (And, no, there is no gene for stealing.)
In general, the same situation applies when you are actually in the country. When you actually meet your child, if you see signs of a serious medical or psychiatric issue that you could not possibly handle, you should talk with your agency representative and the orphanage director. If there is agreement that your assessment is accurate, it might be possible to get another referral, but whether you could adopt him/her on that trip would depend on how long it would take for paperwork to be prepared and for government officials to be informed. If, on the other hand, the child seems “too active” or not smart enough, or “too small” or so shut down that you worry about his/her mental status, you probably won’t get another referral.
One thing you should understand is that the child you meet in a foreign orphanage will rarely look or act like the child of your dreams. He/she is likely to have a variety of minor illnesses, ranging from scabies to pinkeye to bronchitis to a sinus infection to roundworms to ringworm (a fungal infection), which will affect his/her appearance and behavior; remember that foreign orphanages don’t take children to doctors at the first sign of a cold, and that many conditions go untreated. He/she is likely to be underweight and have mild conditions like rickets, caused by poor nutrition. He/she may have rotten teeth, caused by poor prenatal nutrition and/or poor orphanage nutrition and dental hygiene. He/she may not be walking or talking at an age when your current child walked and talked, because he/she was never encouraged to do so. These problems and delays are NOT special needs, and should not be grounds for rejecting a child. But they may make a child look awful, act in ways that he/she would not if he/she was feeling well, and make you think that he/she will have permanent impairments. In fact, he/she may turn out to be as normal and healthy as your biological child – or not. You just won’t know for at least a year.
Your referred child may become terrified at the sight of you, having seen relatively few White people, assuming that you are White. In his/her mind, you and your spouse could well be monsters from outer space; you look different, you smell different, you talk funny. He/she may scream in panic and try to run away from you when placed in your arms. Even more worrisome to most adoptive parents, your referred child may shut down completely from shock and grief. He/she may not smile, cry, look at you, or show curiosity, and you may begin to wonder if he/she has autism or some other scary psychiatric diagnosis. The fact is that the child is probably reacting in a totally normal way, and will eventually do just fine. His/her whole world is about to change completely, and it is reasonable for him/her to want nothing to do with these changes. Rejecting a child because he/she reacts in such a fashion could be the worst decision of your life, and will suggest to your agency that you are not well prepared for adoption.
In fact, if you should happen to be presented with a child who runs up to you, hugs you, calls you Mama, and shows off a dance routine, that should raise far more red flags in your mind. Yes, that child may simply be a happy, social kid, who understands that he/she is about to get a forever family to call his/her own. But it is also possible that the child has a significant attachment disorder. Young children normally show fear of strangers and of unfamiliar situations. Children with moderate to severe attachment disorders have come to believe that adults are not to be trusted, but rather to be manipulated. They have learned to act charming, loving, and cute in order to get what they want, but they generally do not have authentic emotions behind their actions. Some fail to develop a conscience, and lie, hurt others, and so on. While many newly adopted children have a little difficulty bonding with their new parents, which subsides with time, love, and sometimes a little therapy, children with moderate to severe attachment disorders may have long term behavioral challenges.
The amazing thing is that, for many basically normal newly adopted children, their grief and shock lift after a few days with their new parents, and even children who have shown hostility or emotional withdrawal may begin to bond with their new parents. In fact, if you have to go to the orphanage or meet with staff at the adoption formalities, just a few days after taking custody of your child, you may discover that he/she refuses to go to his/her former caregivers and hangs on to you for dear life. That is not to say that he/she is firmly attached, or that there will be no further demonstrations of grief. Especially at bedtime, many newly adopted children will grieve for their birthparents or their favorite caregivers, no matter what their new families do; you will just have to hold your child during such episodes, if they happen, and acknowledge his/her feelings. And true attachment is something that happens over a long period of time.
Interestingly, you may go through a similar process, yourself. Initially, you may not feel particularly close to the child with the terrible haircut, raspy cough, drippy nose, and encrusted belly button. Within a week or two, however, you may decide that you wouldn’t want to give him/her up for anything in the world. And within a year, you might stop feeling like the babysitter and start rejoicing in being a parent. Yet, there will be tough times when you may still say to yourself, “Why did I think that adoption would be such a great thing?” During such times, parents are often advised to “fake it till you make it”. And if there are signs that you might have post-adoption depression, because negative feelings last too long, it is wise to get professional help. Some talk therapy and medication might be in order.
If you are going to go through with an adoption from Ethiopia or any other country, you are going to have to learn that parenting an adopted child is very different from parenting a homegrown one. I’d suggest that you link up with a group of internationally adoptive families, in person, so that you can meet the children and talk to the parents about the challenges – not just building attachment, but doing hair care and treating fungal infections, celebrating Ethiopian holidays, and learning to deal with personalities that may be very different from your own.
My daughter from China was one of those kids who was totally shut down on adoption day – no crying, no smiling, little curiosity. It was scary. But within three days, out popped glimpses of the huggy/kissy/smiley child she would become. And lo and behold, while I never heard her speak a word of Chinese or show any indication of understanding either Mandarin or her local Southern Min dialect, she began to say “hi” and “bye-bye” in English! Yes, she had a lot of minor bugs, but I had volunteered at a children’s hospital for four years, so I knew about dealing with some of them. And while she was pathetically tiny and underweight, I realized that she might be a bit ahead of the game cognitively. By the time we arrived home, about ten days after adoption, I was not alarmed when my pediatrician measured her, shook his head at her small head circumference, and gently counseled me that she might have learning issues. From what I had seen, I had a feeling that my daughter would prove him wrong. And in short order, she turned him into one very embarrassed doctor!
Becca had some feeding issues and an undiagnosed branchial cleft cyst, but she was certainly not deficient in intelligence.
Initially, Becca seemed more interested in being a social butterfly than a student. Although I had never been anywhere near that social, I learned to deal with endless sleepovers, birthday parties, and playdates. But then, surprisingly, she began to turn into an amazingly focused little scholar. By second grade, she was reading sixth grade books with good comprehension. Her Hebrew teacher, an Israeli lawyer, said that she had picked up the accent of a Sabra, a native born Israeli. By sixth grade, she wrote a research paper on depression. In high school, she qualified for an intense International Baccalaureate program. And in college, she made the Dean’s list every semester.
Today, at 21, she is about to get her Bachelor’s degree, and already has a surprisingly high paying job lined up for after graduation with an economic consulting firm. She hopes to go back for an MBA in a few years. But she is no nerd. She has had the same nice boyfriend for over three years. She loves fashionable clothing and walks well in four inch heels. She adores dogs, cats, and horses, and is quite a competent rider. She is self-supporting when not at school, where she has been granted almost a free ride. She has a wonderful sense of humor. She keeps in shape by running and by working out at a fitness center. And so on. She is NOT the emotionless robot who was placed into my arms in China or the party animal that she was in her early years. She is a fascinating, complex young woman who is amazingly like me in some ways, and totally different from me in others.
5. Wait times for a referral of a child from Ethiopia are likely to be much longer than in the past, because both the Ethiopian government and the U.S. government are investigating all adoption cases more thoroughly, to prevent situations in which birthmothers have been misinformed about the finality of adoption, children have been bought or stolen, or children have been misrepresented as “eligible orphans” when they were living with two-parent families. Check with the agency you choose with regard to how long they think it will take to get a referral from the time you submit a dossier, and with regard to how long you will have to stay in Ethiopia to complete the adoption formalities. I know that one highly respected agency is saying that it will take anywhere from 1 to 3 years from the time your dossier is sent to Ethiopia until you get a referral, and that it could take as long as another year or more until your child can come home. The agency recommends patience and flexibility.
As to the travel, yes, you do have to travel to Ethiopia. Some agencies may recommend a single trip of approximately three to four weeks, while others may recommend two shorter trips of one to two weeks each. Ask your agency at what point in the process you must go to the country.
Do be aware that most Americans want to adopt infants or young toddlers, and that most Americans want to adopt girls. You may find it quicker to adopt if you are willing to adopt an older child or a boy, or any child with special needs.
6. Regarding your question about bringing your current child with you when you travel to Ethiopia, every agency will have its own policy, but there is no official barrier to bringing children or other family members, such as grandparents. It would be wise for you to consider some issues, however:
• With adoptions from almost any country, you will have lots of paperwork to complete, lots of times when you must sit around in an office and wait to be called, and lots of times when you must focus your attention on people who are asking you questions. Children generally do not do well when they must sit around indoors, keeping quiet, not playing actively, and so on. If your child tends to have meltdowns when in boring situations, you might do best to leave her home, or to bring a relative who can stay with her back at the hotel while you and your spouse handle the formalities.
• Some children travel well and some don’t. If your child hates sleeping in strange beds, thinks there are monsters in strange closets, doesn’t eat anything that isn’t mac’n’cheese or PB & J, melts down if she misses a nap, or picks up minor illnesses easily, she probably should stay home with Grandma or another trustworthy adult. She is not going to do well on long airplane flights, and she certainly won’t do well if she gets hungry because she doesn’t like the food, cries to the point of vomiting when she is overtired, or freaks out when a strange woman wants to pat her beautiful blonde hair. (Not every country shares the American concept of personal space.)
• If your child has any long term medical issues that may flare up and require professional attention, such as asthma, a seizure disorder, or diabetes, consider leaving her home. If you want to bring her, learn as much as you can about the availability of emergency medical services in the parts of Ethiopia to which you will be going. Remember that many countries do not have a 911 service. Also remember that hospitals and doctors, especially outside the capital, may not meet Western standards or have English-speaking staff. In addition, remember that your medical insurance probably won’t be accepted and that you will need to pay cash for services. Look into getting travel medical insurance that can link you to qualified doctors in Ethiopia or fly you and your daughter elsewhere, if her needs require it, and that can arrange payment for services you receive.
• Be aware that it is easy for anyone to get sick when traveling to a foreign country, simply because he/she is not immune to the most prevalent viruses and bacteria there. Children who catch every bug that goes around here in the U.S. may be particularly vulnerable to illnesses overseas. Also, it is hard to keep children from doing things that might be OK at home, such as drinking tap water, but that could cause serious illness overseas, where the water supply may be contaminated with sewage. In addition, your newly adopted child is likely to have minor skin, respiratory, or gastrointestinal problems that are easily transmitted through the air or through personal contact, and your current child is likely to catch them. (You may well catch them too!) If you think that managing a sick current child while dealing with a frightened , upset new child who also may be ill will be too difficult for you, consider leaving your current child at home.
On the positive side, many parents report that bringing a sibling on their adoption trip helps the new child to adjust. Your new child may be scared of you, but may decide that if your current child is happy with you, then she will be OK. Of course, there are no guarantees. You may wind up with two children, each of whom wants 100% of your time and gets insanely jealous when the other receives attention from you. Sometimes, having another family member along to keep the children separate for a while, when things get crazy, may be a good idea.
If you do plan on traveling with your current child, make sure that she is up to date with all vaccines routinely given in the U.S. And check with an international adoption medical specialist to see if there are any additional vaccines that are recommended for adoption travel to Ethiopia. Depending on where you will be in Ethiopia, there are some vaccines you will want your child AND you to get, as well as vaccines you may choose not to get because of potential side effects or the fact that adoption travelers are unlikely to be exposed.
I know this note has been long, and doesn’t actually address the specifics of the Ethiopia process. But I hope I’ve convinced you that international adoption involves a great leap of faith, but that worrying about whether your child’s personality will mesh with yours is probably unrealistic, because you simply won’t really have a good understanding of your child’s true personality until quite a while after you bring the child home. Your responsibility is simply to accept the child’s personality, whatever it is, and to help her achieve her full potential, whatever that is. What you should be thinking about is broadening your exposure to internationally adoptive families, so that you can learn about what to expect as you go through the process of getting and evaluating a referral, traveling and meeting your child for the first time, and helping her adjust in her new home.
You should also focus your efforts on learning what to look for as you choose an agency and on becoming an “expert” on Ethiopian adoption so that you can determine whether an agency is being honest with you and ethical in its dealings with orphanages, birth families, and the Ethiopian government. In addition, you should be looking at your community and the resources that are available to assist you if your child turns out to need medical, psychological, or academic support, as well as to help your child to learn about her birth culture and meet positive Ethiopian role models.
In addition, although you may be “color blind” with regard to raising a child who is of a different race from you, I’d recommend that you give serious thought to how you will teach your child to deal with prejudice in our race-conscious society. Sadly, Ethiopian children often face prejudice from both Whites and American Blacks. The latter often do not regard Ethiopians as “Black enough”, because the facial features of some ethnic groups within Ethiopia suggest Arab heritage, and some Ethiopians actually reject being considered as Black, calling themselves Arab. It should also be noted that, until recent years, when most emigrated to the U.S. or Israel, there was a large Jewish community in Ethiopia; many Jewish Ethiopians who now reside in this country do not feel racially or socially connected with the African American community, which is predominantly Christian and Muslim. My daughter’s school actually had several students whose parents were Ethiopian and Eritrean Jews.
I wish you well with your adoption, and hope that you will keep in touch as you go through the process.
Sharon
In regards to your second question..
It would totally be up to you??
I appreciated the getting to know my child ( ren) . Without getting ' Octopussed ' in other directions with other kids.
I also appreciated being able to sleep when I could. Without getting ' Octopussed ' in other directions with other kids.
My Best Friend or our Friend ended up getting sick and needing to come home early or ahead of husband and children.
They did take their ' Nanny ' , but even with the ' Nanny ' her husband was ' very frazzled ' with both Kids.