You know our story. You know how many hurdles we had to get over before we could bring Little Dude home. You also know that there is a happy ending. Our wee little boy is growing and developing so fast that even S can’t capture it all on film. Others, though, are not so lucky.
We met another adoptive mother through our agency last year. Her family was anticipating the arrival of twin babies. Her son died shortly after referral and her daughter died 5 months later. The story is way more heart-wrenching than that. They were not able to get a court appearance before rainy season like we did, so they didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. They had to sit here in the US while the events in Ethiopia unfolded.
The southern regional government is doing all sorts of things. They continue to close orphanages and move kids to secret “temporary” locations. They take kids from these “temporary” locations after 7 months and move them to another temporary location. There are no biological families, yet the adoptive families in the US have no legal claim and can do nothing. They can’t even send formula and diapers to the orphanages.
The government in that region is also pushing reunification. Don’t get me wrong – if a family gave up their child under pressure they have every right to take him or her back. If they relinquished their child due to poverty or illness and their situation has changed, and the child has not legally been adopted, they should be able to take their child back. However, children should only be returned to parents who are willing and able to raise them to adulthood.
Check out this article on the Huffington Post. Forcing a parent to take back their child, knowing that they cannot care for them, is irresponsible. This is not an isolated situation. This has been happening for months. Our friends were adopting girls who were relinquished by their father who could obviously not take care of them. Our friends met the father, assured him that they would take good care of his girls, and were deemed to be their legal parents. Months later the regional government went to him and told him he had to take his girls back. He reiterated to the representative that he could not care for them due to health reasons. He relayed that he was very confused, and almost signed the contract they put in front of them – a contract which said he would take the girls back, raise them, and never try to send them to an orphanage again.
I can understand the spirit of what is being done. There are truly cases where kids are taken from their families under less than pure circumstances. Those parents want their children back AND can provide them with their basic needs, and maybe a little more. In those cases reunification is a viable solution. Had someone come to us and told us that Little Dude’s family was found, that they wanted him back and that they could care for him, we would have been absolutely heart-broken, but we would have understood. Whenever possible a child should be able to stay with their parents. However, if a parent knowingly and willingly (even if it breaks their heart) relinquishes their child, a government should not force them to take the child back and raise them. The sums of money the government is giving these families is not enough to provide for these children. The money will run out quickly. Then what will happen?
It all comes back to adoption reform – reform here and reform there. Agencies in the US need to be certain that they are referring true orphans. They should be performing investigations to verify children’s orphan status. They should be taking the time to ensure the proper paperwork is in order. Orphanages in Ethiopia need to be sure that they receive proper documentation from the individuals who are bringing children to them. They need to provide adequate (at a minimum) care to the children they house. Officials need to ensure that the paperwork they receive and approve is valid. There is a lot of work to be done. It makes me tired just thinking about it. But it needs done.