Saturday, October 24, 2009

"I brought children into this dark world because it needed the light that only a child can bring." ~Liz Armbruste

Yesterday, I had the most enjoyable experience at my internship. I finally got to meet a family that adopted internationally. This family, who I will call the Jones, adopted a sibling group of 3 from Ethiopia. Before I met the family, I was able to watch a documentary that they were in regarding adopting from another country. It was so beautiful to see this family (The Jones and 2 of their adult bio sons) meet their new children/siblings. (Mr. Jones actually made the trip prior to this and had already met the children.) The Jones went through a reputable agency and even met Birth mom (B.M.) when they went to the country to pick up their children. She is very ill and can no longer care for them. B.M. was featured in the documentary and let me tell you, I was amazed at the strength of this woman. She was so composed and strong. However, a smile never crossed her face, and her eyes showed the depth of her pain. Supervir was crying and I had a few tears drip down my face. That type of thing is never easy to witness, no matter what situation the B.M. is in. B.M. and Mrs. Jones hugged one another and it was the most powerful thing to watch. B.M. is ever grateful that her children are being cared for and will likely live to old age, but it was the epitome of a bitter-sweet moment, if that even describes it at all. :(

Now, on to the FUN PART! I got to meet the children! I shall call them Amare (boy), age 3; Desta (girl), age 5; and big brother Bekele, age 6. The Jones kept their ethnic names (which are REALLY cool/cute, I wish I could tell you) and gave them American middle names. They were obviously already used to their names so changing them would have made the transition more difficult. However, I must first say that I was AMAZED at how quickly these children have transitioned into their new life. They've only been here 3 months and I would never be able to tell that they weren't born here. They only thing that gives it away is their cute little accent. :)

Bekele is only 6 but he was practically the parent of his 2 siblings since he was 4. He had to feed and bathe them as their mother could not. Needless to say, this young man is a leader in ever since of the word. The Jones described his transition from a parental figure to a sibling as wondrous. To see him roll around on the floor with little Amare was quite surprising (especially to Amare!) because these things did not happen back in Ethiopia. He had a sort of emotional breakdown at some point and they let him cry, so he knows it is ok to cry. I assume he had to keep all of these emotions inside in Ethiopia. Bekele is in first grade, is very outgoing, talks really fast (his English is great but if he gets going, he starts to blur it with Amharic, his native tongue), and loves soccer. :)

Desta is SO CUTE! She barely said 2 words but she is such a pretty little thing. (She and Amare look so much a like, and a lot like B.M. but I think Bekele looks very different from them.) Desta has adjusted well but she is still very sensitive to her parents leaving. When were done with the visit, the Jones walked us to the door and Desta said "Mommy, no go!" and ran to her and threw her arms around her legs. It was very touching and shows the trauma these children have experienced in their life. Mrs. Jones said she had a meltdown at the dinner table one night when she would not eat her vegetables. Typical toddler. She was also given a princess dress (Cinderella, of course) which she wore to a princess birthday party. Well, her birthday just passed and she got up that morning and immediately put on her princess dress. I think she associates birthdays with having to wear that dress. Too cute. She goes to Pre-K 4 mornings a week.

Amare is the youngest and so adorable! He has picked up the language the fastest, since he is the youngest. He seems very good natured and easy going, and they said he doesn't have tantrums (yet). He's social and has a great sense of humor. He didn't say much while we were there but he did show me his wonderful smile many times.

The Jones family were given MANY things - children's clothes, toys, money - by their church and community. When the children first sat down with these toys, they looked at them like "what the heck am I supposed to do with this?" They didn't have toys in Ethiopia. You know what they wanted to play with? The rocks and dirt in the backyard. That was familiar to them and they had a blast. The Jones say the children are very industrious and hardworking. The like to be productive, probably because they are used to it. Bekele likes to help Mr. Jones bag up leaves in the yard. Amare cleaned up after himself after he ate without being told.

I told the Jones that I hope they don't mind if I call them in 20 years when I'm ready to adopt from Rwanda. They asked why I would wait so long, and I told them my husband and I are incurring serious debt from school, so it will definitely have to wait. I had a side conversation with Mrs. Jones about my anti-genocide advocacy days and how I mostly want to work with refugees. That got us discussing the Lost Boys of Sudan and Human Aid workers and all of the things that I can only dream of being a part of. However, at least I can help those who resettle here. They need it too.

All in all, it was the best field experience I've had thus far, and I am very happy for this family. Those kids are very, very lucky to have this new life. They will not forget where they came from though, and have pictures of their B.M. and share stories about her. B.M. has pictures of them, as well, and will receive updates. Hopefully B.M. doesn't suffer for a long time, and I hope she is at peace with her decision.


The documentary also showed the dark side to adoption in a lot of countries: Human Trafficking. I was sickened to see some of the practices that these FAKE agencies do to obtain children to SELL to Americans who are completely clueless. And let me just put this out there RIGHT NOW, Christian World Adoption was shown in this video in a village, coercing parents to hand over their children. Now, I do not know anything else about this agency, other than what I witnessed on this video, but what I saw was enough. These children were FINE! Obviously, Ethiopia is not the best country in the world to live in, and the people that live here struggle in ways we can't even imagine, but these children and their families were living the typical Ethiopian life. These agencies come to these villages and persuade these people to hand over their children by telling them of the beautiful, healthy, safe lives they will live in America, never going hungry, blah blah. Ok, that IS great. I wish ALL of those people could live the way we do. The entire WORLD should be able too, but let's get realistic. The entire world can't move to the U.S., and children should remain with their families unless they are being neglected, abused, etc. These children were FINE!

Supervisor was telling me how they have discontinued international adoptions from Guatemala because women were being found dead with their stomachs cut open. PEOPLE WERE KILLING PREGNANT WOMEN WHO WERE NEAR TERM TO CUT OUT THE INFANT SO THEY COULD MAKE A PROFIT OFF THE ADOPTION OF THE BABY. Honestly, I don't think humanity can sink any lower into evil.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

"I want to provide a safe, stable home for a child that needs one."

This was a quote spoken by a prospective adoptive parent that I met yesterday, when I experienced a different piece of my internship. I went on a home visit with a worker who finds families for the older children in foster care. This is far different from the work I do with supervisor, who handles private infant and international adoptions.

The prospective mother and father have already raised some pretty solid children, and are looking to adopt one or 2. The husband wants a son, but there is a sibling duo (older sister and younger brother) that they have their eye on. They met the duo when they went through the 10-week MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) training, which is required of all foster parents. I do not know if it is required of all adoptive parents (I don't think it is) but some take it anyway.

Anyway, we interviewed the prospective mother for 2.5 hours! We had to explore spanking with the father a little, since it is obviously not the approach this class teaches when disciplining children, and I was very impressed with his honest answers. He seemed very genuine. We did have to reschedule with him because of the time it took just interview his wife.

After the interview, we looked around the house to ensure there were smoke alarms, fire extinguisher, enough space, etc. It was a very interesting experience, and I hope these 2 parents end up welcoming a child (or 2!) into their home.

P.S. I found it quite interesting that they actually film these older children for commercials called Thursday's Child that are aired on local news stations. It reminds me of the Humane Society commercials where they showcase a cat or dog in need of a home. Hmmm. Not sure how I feel about that...

Back to work!