by Liz of Inventing My Life
One of the documents I had to include in the adoption dossier was a letter explaining why I wanted to adopt a child from Ethiopia. Consider this post a rough draft of that letter. I didn’t include so much about the options I decided not to pursue, but writing it all here helped me sort through what to include and what not to include.
In some ways, I came to my decision through a process of elimination, but I don’t want you to think that means Ethiopia was somehow a last resort. It’s more accurate to say that every time I looked at the choices available to me from various angles and with various considerations in mind, Ethiopia was the choice that consistently rose to the top of the list.
I eliminated the idea of domestic infant adoption almost immediately, because I knew that I didn’t want to adopt a newborn infant, for several reasons. I didn’t think I would be able to handle a newborn as a single parent, especially because I am going to have to return to work fairly soon after adopting and infant daycare would be financially out of the question for me. But the other reason is that I’ve been around enough infants, babies, and kids in general to know that tiny little babies do absolutely nothing for me. I’ve got seven nieces and nephews, and I had absolutely no interest in them when they were first born – I just don’t see the appeal in babies when they’re little lumps of sleeping, eating, and pooping. But as soon as little kids start being able to interact with me and showing some personality, then I’m interested! So I knew almost from the beginning that I wanted to adopt a toddler, and that means domestic infant adoption was out.
I briefly considered adopting through the foster care system, and even spent some time looking at profiles of available children and learning about the process. But the kids available this way were mostly older than I wanted to adopt – at the time, I was considering adopting a child as old as five, but there didn’t seem to be any kids available through foster care who were in this age range. I was also a little nervous about the issues and baggage a foster child might come with, so I decided not to go that route for now (I haven’t ruled it out completely for the future, but I’d like to get some parenting experience under my belt before considering it again).
At that point, I turned to international adoption. I learned that not every country will allow single parents to adopt, which eliminated several countries from consideration right off the bat. At first, I looked at countries in Latin America, because that is a culture that I feel very comfortable with: I’ve dated a couple of men who were from Colombia, I have a sister-in-law from Brazil, I grew up Catholic, etc. But not many of those countries will adopt to single parents. Guatemala was an option for a little while, but then it closed to international adoptions; Colombia was also an option, but they will only allow singles to adopt children over seven years old and that was older than I wanted to consider.
My career is in the field of adult education, including teaching classes and supervising programs in English as a second language. I have a lot of experience with people from other countries and cultures, and this helped me in my process. It was why I first considered Latin American countries for adoption, because I have always been able to relate fairly well to students from those countries. It was also why I really never even considered adopting from any of the Asian countries, because I don’t feel drawn to students from those countries in the same way. It turned out to be a moot point, though, because after I had decided on Ethiopia for my adoption, Vietnam – the best option for singles among the Asian countries – also closed to international adoptions.
Some of the Eastern European countries, such as Russia and Kazakhstan, are also options for single parents, but they never appealed to me for many reasons. In some ways, adopting from those countries would be easier because my child would be the same race as me, but there is nothing about those cultures that appeals to me, and I couldn’t see myself incorporating anything from Russian or other Eastern European cultures into my own life. I was also concerned about the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in children from those countries, and after learning why many of the children come to be available for adoption it seemed like I might have to deal with some of the same baggage that a child from the US foster care system would come with. The process of adopting from those countries also seemed very difficult, especially as a single parent; for example, Russia requires that you travel there two or sometimes three times before you bring the child home. Financially and logistically, this just wasn’t a good option for me.
In a nutshell, after ruling out all of the other options, Ethiopia felt like the best fit for me. I could adopt a child in the age range I wanted; I ended up deciding to request a child up to three years old. I know that there is a fairly substantial Ethiopian population in the Boston area so I will be able to find resources for my child, and I have had co-workers from Ethiopia so I have a sense of the culture and the people. I absolutely love Ethiopian food – I love spicy food in general, and who doesn’t love to eat with their hands? – so I knew that I would have no problem incorporating that aspect of the culture into my life. The more I learned about the country and the culture, the more sure I became that I would be comfortable with bringing the culture into my life along with a child. The children in Ethiopia become available for adoption because of illness, poverty, and famine, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of outright abuse. And the adoption process itself is very manageable for me, with just one trip of seven to ten days required.
Finally, as odd as it sounds, I felt a connection to Ethiopia after looking at a series of photos from my adoption agency’s web site. Many of the pictures reminded me of photos from family trips to Ireland (where all of my grandparents were born) when I was a kid: green fields, cattle, donkey carts on dirt roads. On one hand, Ireland would seem about as far from Ethiopia as you can get in every possible way; on the other hand, the cultures seem to have a lot in common. Two generations ago, my family were famers and fishermen; they milked cows and raised chickens and tried to grow crops on land that didn’t always cooperate; they survived illness and poverty and famine, lived in one-room thatched cottages and sometimes had so many kids that they sent them to live with neighboring families. Adopting a child from a country that is currently experiencing many of the same circumstances just feels right to me, and gives me the feeling that I will be connected to my child by these similarities.