Looking Forward, Looking Back
We are staring down the final two weeks before departure to bring our darling baby home. And, as is the ever changing face of international adoption, times are a-changin'. Much publicity has been given to this article, written last week which challenges adoption as the best solution to the orphan crisis in Ethiopia.
Speaking for myself, and perhaps other adoptive parents (from Ethiopia or otherwise), let me say this: No adoptive parent in their right mind believes that adoption is a cure-all for the world's plethora of problems. Any adoptive parent worth his or her salt will tell you that adoption is simply a Mickey Mouse band-aid on a massive hemorrhage. And any reputable adoption agency will ask, no, require of its adoptive parents, a commitment to the country and its waiting orphan children. Our agency offers several ways for adoptive families to become invested in the country of their adopted children's birth. One way is through sponsorship programs. From our agency's website:
There are many orphan children in Ethiopia. Years of terrible events, including war, famine and disease – particularly HIV/AIDS – have produced a society where many children have no parents. Often elderly grandparents or other relatives try to raise the children, but many are too old or in such deprived circumstances that they simply cannot provide even basic needs. As a result, there are many children being relinquished to orphanages or fending for themselves in the streets. AAI recognizes that international adoption cannot meet the needs of all the orphaned children in Ethiopia and therefore has developed sponsorship programs to serve those children who are able to live with extended family members or neighbors while they continue their schooling. One program focuses on the older siblings or family members of children adopted through AAI (the Orphan Student Project) and the other is a sponsorship of students in Nazret, Mukatore & Sheshamone (Orphan Student Education Fund).
And its not just the children who are able to be sponsored. In an ongoing effort to provide the best childcare possible and keep staff turnover low, there are sponsorship programs aimed at staff education. In Ethiopia, where higher education is not the norm for women, this is a tremendous blessing to the women who work in the orphanage.
They have an active volunteer program, which allows for Americans over the age of 18, who meet certain criteria, to give of their time and talent as a volunteer working with orphan children in their orphanage, Layla House. This program has even included young adults who once lived, as orphans, at Layla House themselves, who return to volunteer to help.
If these programs don't speak for themselves in AAI's willingness to give back to the country that has shared their children, their most precious resource, with the world, read this:
Dessie is a town of 100,000 people nestled in the hills approximately 200 miles north of Addis Ababa, on the road to Djibouti. It is a town – like many in Ethiopia – which is mired in poverty and has been devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Over the past few years, the town leaders have invested time and money beginning to build a much needed school building. When they ran out of funds, they sought the assistance of the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, which recommended that they submit a proposal to AAI for financial support. AAI has agreed to assist in raising funds to finish the school and to help build another school building so that all the children in the town would be able to fulfill their dream of finishing their education. Read more here.
It is difficult in the last few weeks of adoption, no matter how big the blessing, to ruminate on the reality of what is about to happen. What the future holds for our family, for our adopted children and for the orphans in the country of Ethiopia remains to be seen. But we must constantly remind ourselves that there is more to adoption than money. Behind all of the numbers are real people each with a story to tell. And many are in need of something more than donated parcels of food, shelter and clothing. You may have all the riches of the world, but if you have not love...