My husband and I began our second Ethiopian adoption back in 2008. We had brought home our beautiful son in 2006. We wanted children so badly and fell in love with the country, the people, and of course our son. We knew our daughter was also ‘waiting’ for us there. Our story causes us heartbreak not only because of what happened to our child and her family but how selfish and naïve we were in hindsight, we genuinely didn’t know—we hadn’t found the forums.
We started with one of the bigger agencies in Ethiopia to wait for our little one.
We received our referral September 2008 before our dossier was even complete. We saw a picture of a beautiful, healthy 10-month-old. She sat sitting upright in a chair looking curiously at the camera. Her cheeks were full, eyes were bright, it was the face of a well-loved child. She instructed us that if we didn’t turn our dossier in right away she would give our daughter to someone else. She had to be moved to the orphanage right away and could only do so with a paper ready family. We were told that her mother had been raped and she wished to place the child, so she could move on with her life. We moved quickly and got all our paperwork turned in. We were given a court date and January 2, 2009.
By middle February, we were exhausted and just praying that the adoption would work out. We passed court on February 13, 2009 and prepared to travel to Ethiopia
We went to Kidane Mihret nearly immediately after leaving our hotel the following day. We stopped at the guest house to drop our things off and pick up the other families. When we arrived we were greeted by a couple of the sisters who run the orphanage. The head sister asked if we were there for “Feven”. I said “no” and repeated my daughter’s name all the while
the staff were video taping with our camcorder the interaction. Sister said she did not have a child by that name. She thought we were there for Feven. They began speaking in Amharic and stated they would be right back. I could feel the anger building. I wasn’t sure even at that moment I would return with my daughter. They reappeared after what seemed like an eternity with a sweet baby girl in their arms. They called her by the name
we knew and all the distress melted away. It was her, she was real. She matched the referral picture.
The next days seemed like a blur, my travel partner and I vowed to get the hell out of Ethiopia ASAP. It was not what I had felt before at all, the magic was gone and I was suddenly faced with a horrible reality of what was going on.
“I was in a state of emotional shock.”
At the care center run by the agency, pregnant woman roamed the grounds, they nursed their children, and they cared for the others. The director gloated about how she “saved” these women and in exchange for their children got them work and housing. When we met our daughter’s birth mom, we did so only with the translation help of the director.
As the mom began to tell her story she cried and I cried along with her.
The director remarked to me, “don’t cry for her.” She was so cold and treated her mother as if she meant nothing. Her mom came back everyday requesting to spend time with her daughter, she even offered to take her while we went sightseeing. I said, “no”. I thought she would steal from me…
During one visit, in which we had no interpreter, we hadn’t had one since the first night, she looked at me and said in broken English, “I don’t trust her…she promised me transportation money.”
Not really understanding what she meant, I must have given her maybe $25.00. She smiled and took it.
The last night in Ethiopia, her mother came again. She planned to stay until we went to the airport.
We began to eat dinner and she did not join us at the table. I demanded that she eat with us and the director agreed. Toward the end of the dinner, the director said something to her in another language and she began to cry, stood up, and walked out. I sat there confused about what happened.
We boarded the plane that night relieved that we were finally out of what we had dubbed, “the Twilight Zone.”
Back in the United States
We arrived back in the US on March 8th, 2009. I had never felt so happy to touch America soil. A squeezed my daughter tightly thankful we had made it out and I vowed to never look back. Our next days at home were overwhelmed with doctor’s appointments, settling in, and sharing pictures with other adoptive parents. About three days after arriving home, my dear little on could not stop vomiting. She was, in my doctor’s words, “the most ill adopted child I ever seen.”
She was admitted to a medical center. They ran tests to check for common infectious diseases. It was on that Saturday we received the most devastating news.
She was testing positive for HIV antibodies.
That coupled with enlarged nodes on her neck and in her groin, the vomiting and the diarrhea, the thrush in her mouth—the doctors feared the worse, that she was HIV positive an we were horribly unprepared.
I called the agency and posted on the agency forum what we were faced with. I demanded answers. I learned that the Mother tested negative three times to the AIDS virus and the daughter got AIDS from being breast fed by a “wet nurse”, a women hired by the care center to feed the babies, despite the fact that we sent over formula to the orphanage.
Then we were faced by a new blow. our agency director posted on their agency forum a horrible letter.
I still read this and feel as though I might vomit.
She had no food and no money. She was given some money and turned back to the streets.
This, from the agency, was a reported, “women’s empowerment program.”
We hired a talented Ethiopian man to compile a life book video with the true story of our daughter’s relinquishment.
I learned her mother had a relationship with the father, there was no rape. she even hoped our daughter would meet her father one day.
The biggest blow came however, when we received a letter form the adoption agency’s attorney accusing us of defamation.
They were threatening to take us to court.
I continued to tell the truth. I am terrified. We do not have the money to fight. The agency demanded $75,000 from us for their troubles and their loss of clients.
I still hurt for the other families
I still hurt for my child’s mother.
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