Today, November 30th, Aksum hosts one of the Ethiopia's largest festivals, the Festival of Maryam Zion. The festival is held in Aksum, where thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians make the pilgrimage to the Church of our Lady Mary of Zion. Why is the festival held in Aksum? Aksum is a city in northern Ethiopia which was the original capital of the eponymous kingdom of Axum. Axum is considered to be the holiest city in Ethiopia and is an important destination of pilgrimages and significant religious festivals. The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion is referred to as the oldest, and most significant church in Ethiopia. This was the traditional place where Ethiopian Emperors were crowned. It also is the only church in the world to claim possession of the original Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments Tablets.
To be honest, one post can't fully address all the issues that are related to trans-racial adoption. Although race doesn't impact the amount of love that you have for your child, it is a part of your child's identity. We as adoptive parents should not only acknowledge this aspect appropriately but also celebrate their race. So instead of addressing the ambundance of variables in trans-racial adoption, we would like to acknowledge some excellent books which provide education and awareness about transracial issues.
As stated by the author, Marquerite Wringt, "Part of my motivtaion for writing, I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla, is to show that most young black children are not ashamed of their race. Indeed, like young children of other races, they are incapable of feeling shame about their color or race unless they have been unduly sensitized about the issue or somehow traumatized. As a black clinical psychologist and mother of four school-age children. I am bothered that black children are routinely portrayed as disliking themselves and facing bleak futures simply because of their race. In my research and practice, I've observed just the contrary. Young black children are no different from youngsters of any other race." She continues to mention the book "offers a guide to parents, educators, and others who work with black and biracial children. It shows how an understanding of the child's perspective can help nurture and support the healthy self-images children bring to the world despite centuries of oppression and the enduring effects of racism in society today."
Jaiya John, Ph.D., an African-American adult adoptee was raised along with his younger adopted brother in a Caucasian family which lived in a predominantly Caucasian community. In his autobiography: Black Baby White Handshe writes about his personal experiences as well as providing education "to parents raising adopted children of a different race who face the important challenge of ensuring that their children grow up with knowledge and pride in their racial/cultural heritage -- keys to a cohesive, positive identity and self-esteem. This involves commitment to open communication -often initiated by parents, around..."
the adoption story
the reactions of others to their visibly "different" family
the racism that exists in our society
Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall emphasize in Inside Transracial Adoption, "that parents must make it a priority to ensure that their children have regular and comfortable connection to the cultures with which society will identify them. Living in a diverse community certainly can help make this easier, but only if effort is made to make real, close connections with families of the child's birth heritage. If parents seek out experiences where they are the minority, they will also understand what it feels like to be in their children's shoes. Steinberg and Hall list the following suggestions to connect children with members of their racial culture."
Do everything in your power to make friends with at least one family who shares your child's racial heritage, hang out in their neighborhood, giving your child a chance to make friends with kids who share her racial experiences.
Join in recreational, religious, or educational groups or activities with members of your child's racial or ethnic group.
Shop; go to restaurants, movies, and beauty/barber shops with people of your child's heritage.
Seek out special events such as museum exhibits, street fairs, musical productions that are likely to be attended by people of your child's heritage.
Choose professionals of color: doctors, dentists, and teachers, etc.
Choose schools with diversity in mind.
Join adoptive parent groups with other transracially adopted families, esp. families with children of the same racial heritage as your children.
“Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
Of course in an ideal world the beautiful children of Ethiopia wouldn't have to leave their homeland in search of opportunities...in a perfect world there would be no adoption...but unfortunately we are faced with this reality. The ideal situation would be that our daughter would never have to leave her birth country, her culture, her family. No one can replace any of this, however we can do our best to keep her ties to Ethiopia, to encourage her to be proud of her homeland and culture.
We will honor Ethiopia in our home through an attempt to intertwine this rich culture through regular family activities. Just to name a few we plan to....
Reading her Ethiopian children books
Having scrapbooks and dvds of Ethiopia (hopefully of the area where she was born)
Attending Ethiopian festivals and celebrating the holidays in our home
Cooking Ethiopian food in the home as well as eating at Ethiopian restaurants
Listening to Ethiopian music (which already is playing in the house)
Encouraging and maintaining relationships with other adoptive families
Talking openly and regularly about her birth heritage
Planning to sponsor a child so he/she can attend school
Continued involvement in EOR to continue to give back to her country
Participating in Ethiopian Cultural Camp in the summer
We will purchase 18 little gifts for her in Ethiopia, one to open for each birthday
Planning to return to Ethiopia, not as often as we would like, about every 5 or so years
Land Mass: 1,119,683 sq km
Covered by Water: 7,444 sq km
Lowest point: Denakil Depression -125 m
Highest point: Ras Dejen 4,620 m
There is an estimated population of approximately 70 million people in Ethiopia, with 80 ethnic groups and a wide diversity of languages. More than 80% of the population live in rural areas.
Ethiopia was never colonised, even though from 1935-1941 it was occupied by Mussolini’s Fascists it has remained untainted by colonial powers. Ethnic groups: Oromo 40%, Amhara and Tigre 32%, Sidamo 9%, Shankella 6%, Somali 6%, Afar 4%, Gurage 2% , and 1% other.
The major religions are Christianity (mainly Orthodox Church) and Islam. It has been estimated that there are Muslim 40%, Orthodox Christian 40%, Animist 15%, and 5% other.
Ethiopia is an independent Federal Democratic Republic, with a President as head of state, and a Prime Minister as the head of government. The constitution was established in 1994, following the over-throw of the Mengistu military dictatorship in 1991. A federation comprising nine-states with considerable autonomy were established and the first multiparty elections were held in 1995. The distinct regional states are – Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, Southern Nations (SNNPS), Gambella and Harari.
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although outside the larger cities and towns, there are over 80 different languages and 200 indigenous dialects. The most common of these are Oromo, Tigrinya and Somali. In the northern and central parts Ethiopia different Semitic languages are spoken. Namely Tigre, Tiginrya, Guraginya and the official national language Amharic. The Sidama languages are spoken in the east and south-east. Parts parts of the south include the Cushitic-speaking peoples of the Oromos, the Afars and the Somalis. In the west and south-west are the Nilotic peoples who have their own distinctive language and culture.
Currency and Money
The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr, which is made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in five denominations - 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 birr and there are five different coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents. One US Dollar is about 9 Ethiopian Birr.
Clocks and Time
There is a six-hour difference between Ethiopian and Western time. This means Western 6:00am is 12:00am Ethiopian time and 6pm Western time is 12 noon Ethiopian time. There is no adjustment of clocks for Winter or Summer Time, so there is daylight savings time. Being close to the Equator there is almost twelve hours of constant daylight. In Addis Ababa, sunrise begins at around 06.30 and sunset is about 6:45.
“In this bright future you can't forget your past.”
Our incredible families for their unconditional love & support
Our wonderful friends, old & new
Our cozy home and beautiful city
Our country which give us freedom & opportunity
Our devoted furryfriends
Our Journey of Love
( for how it has touched our lives and hearts already)
“Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~Oprah Winfrey
One of the things we are very grateful for in the Portland area is the large Adoption Community! Not only have we met some incredible families, but they are ongoing opportunities and gatherings for adoptive families throughout the year. Just to name a few....
Waiting parents support groups
Toukoul Orphanage annual reunions in Portland
Ethiopian kids play groups
Amharic lessons for kids
Annual adoption agency events
and of course.....Fabulous Ethiopian restaurants
We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~Author Unknown
Here is a little history lesson. Have you heard about the Orphan Train?
In the 1850's, there were an estimated 30,000 children who were either homeless or neglected, living in the streets of New York City. The children ranged in age from about six to 18 and had little hope towards their future. Charles Loring Brace, a minister and the founder of The Children's Aid Society, felt that there must be a way to provide a home and future to these children. He had a dream of removing these children from the slums and harsh poverty they faced, and placing them in homes across the country, where he thought they would be given opportunities and hope. These children were sent by train to live and work on farms out west. They would live in homes for free but they would work on the farm and help with chores. Older children placed by The Children's Aid Society were to be paid for their labors. The Orphan Train Movement lasted from 1853 to the early 1900s with more than 120,000 children being placed. Although this was an unusual and even controversial plan of action, it has been now recognized as the beginning of the foster care concept in the United States.
The Orphan Trains stopped at more than 45 states across the country as well as Canada and Mexico. There were numerous agencies nationwide that placed children on trains to go to foster homes. The Orphan Train Movement and the success of other Children's Aid initiatives started various programs of child welfare reforms, including child labor laws, adoption and the establishment of foster care services, public education, the provision of health care and nutrition and vocational training.
“Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future”
Paper Pregnancy? What does that mean? Traditionally, this adoptive term is used to describe the wait time that the adoptive families experience, which usually begins when the family received their application approval. For us, we felt that our paper pregnancy started when we submitted our dossier to Ethiopia. That is when everything became real for us, our focus is not about the paperwork anymore instead it is about the wait to see our daughter. Therefore, according to OUR time line we are just over two months "paper pregnant" with the hope that we will be kissing her beautiful face for the first time in about seven months. Just like a biological pregnancy this wait time is about preparation...preparing her room, preparing ourselves with as much "parenting" and "adoption" knowledge as possible, etc.
Although we understand that these two paths to motherhood are different, the amount of love that we feel for this child is the same. Both journeys....focus on the importance of education, force parents to deal with patience, and bring joy and anticipation to the family. We found a great blog entry about how to take care of yourself during your paper pregnancy and would encourage all adoptive families to take a look.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope.” ~ Maya Angelo
There is a misconception out there that you must have a large bank account to start the journey of adoption. Although adoption, at times, can require a large amount of money up front there are financial resources available.
Adoption myths that may prevent a family from continuing to pursue their dream of adoption:
All adoptions are expensive
The family must be wealthy
The family must own their own home
There are no financial assistance programs available
Federal Tax credits:
Recently, the federal Adoption Tax Credit has been improved and extended until Dec. 2011. This law was included in the Health Care Reform bill which became law on March 22, 2010. There were a few changes. First, the maximum credit will increase from $12,150 to $13,170 per eligible child. Second, now the Adoption Tax Credit is refundable, if your credit is greater than the taxes you owe, the difference will be refunded to you as cash. In the past, if your adoption credit was greater than the amount you owed in taxes you had to carry it over for up to five years in order to take full advantage of the credit. Here is the IRS news release
Adoption Fundraising: Be creative! We know several families who have contributed to their adoption fund through making and selling items. Also, here are some organizations that will allow adoptive families to use their product in fundraising, with the family given some of the proceeds. Just Love Coffee Roasters Adoption Bug
And yes, there is even a Blog dedicated to providing information and products that contribute towards financial resources for adoption! You can just shop...or you can sign up as an adoptive family!
In our family we have always taken the mindset that once in a while you have to take that leap of faith to reach your dreams. We hope that other families will follow their heart and see where it leads them.
“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
We can't pretend to know what the birth mother or birth family is feeling or going through during the decision to place their child for adoption. We DO know how much respect we have for the birth mother and the birth family for identifying what is in the best interest of the child. We have known women who have had to make that difficult choice of placing their child for adoption, and we have known the mothers who have humbly accepted this blessing...seeing the abundance of love given to this child from both sides.
If given the opportunity we hope that we can express our deepest gratitude and respect that we feel for the birth mother. Whether or not we are able to meet our child's birth mother or her birth family we will always honor these people in our home and consider them family. We might be a world apart physically but we do have one thing in common...the same abundance of love for this child.
As famously stated, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Pictures capture the moment, the person and the ambiance that words can't describe. Pictures speak to your heart and your soul.
As a way to support adoption and bring visual awareness to foster children who are available for adoption, eight years ago the Heart Gallery of America was created. As stated on their website, "The Heart Gallery is a traveling photographic and audio exhibit created to find forever families for children in foster care.The Heart Gallery of America is a collaborative project of over 120 Heart Galleries across the United States (and growing) designed to increase the number of adoptive families for children needing homes in our community."
“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” ~ Aaron Siskind
For us, Ethiopia has spoken to our hearts and we have become emotionally connected to this rich country. We were thrilled to hear about this 20 year old photographer, Joey Lawrence, who traveled throughout Ethiopia capturing images of the country and people of Ethiopia. As stated, his mission and passion was to "capture images of tribes on the verge of extinction."
Whether your child grows in your stomach or in your heart, it is important to document the journey of love to meeting your child. Everyone cherishes their baby book. Viv has her mother and grandmother's baby book and we can't wait to add our child's baby book to the shelf. For our daughter we have a journal,which discusses our desires and emotions during this process, our blog documenting our journey, and of course a scrapbook to place all the photos of happiness along the way. Eventually she will have a scrapbook of our travels in Ethiopia as well as a Lifebook containing all the information that we have of her life before she became our daughter. This information includes any history regarding her birth parents or birth family, as well as her time in the orphanage.
Just as everyone's journey to parenthood is different, there are different ways to journal or document this journey for your child. The most common or traditional method is the "baby book", although these traditional books are beautiful, the topics in the book sometimes don't apply to adoptive families. However, adoptive families can be very creative and find a way to not only acknowledge but celebrate the part of their child's life before he/she is united with his/her forever family. The goal of the baby book is to express the joy and excitement about bringing this child into the family. Most often adoptive families refer to this book as the child's "life book".
For adoptees the information they have about their life before they join their "forever family" is invaluable. Every little piece of information is precious, whether it's a photo or quote from the orphanage staff. Lifebooks allows parents to put all the pieces of information together in a way that helps your child make sense of, and ultimately feel good, about his/her history.
Here are some different ideas/books to get someone started:
Concluded on May 29, 1993 in The Hague, the Netherlands, the Convention establishes international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions.The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States in April 2008.Hague Adoption Convention governs adoptions between the United States and approximately75 other nations. Here are some facts about the Hague Convention according to the Depart of State:
The Department of State is the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Convention, and oversees compliance with both the Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA). In this role, the Department of State also serves as U.S. liaison with other adoption Central Authorities around the world.
The Hague Adoption Convention protects children and their families against the risks of unregulated adoptions abroad, and ensures that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of the children involved. The Convention also serves to prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children.
Although not every country involved in international adoption is a part of the Hague Convention, the goal is for every country to eventually adhere to the Hague convention regulations.
Here are the lists of various countries that are frequently identified with international adoption. To find out more about that countries program simply click on the name of the country and you will be taken to the Department of State website to learn more information about that program.
Although 99% of adoptive parents have good intentions in adoption and are putting forth the interest of the child first, it is important for both countries involved to thoroughly investigate the adoption parents to assure this is the bet placement for the child.
One of the inspiring facets of this journey is meeting other adoptive families and organizations who place great importance on continuing to give back to the children of Ethiopia. As a family we feel this is very important. We became familiar with EOR last year and were immediately impressed with their mission and dedication. EOR was started by a few adoptive mothers who felt a need to help the orphans in Ethiopia, which is a continuous effort. Last year, their annual benefit Lights of Hope 2010, was very successful and we felt fortunate to be a part of such an inspiring event (our blog entry from that event).
At Lights of Hope 2010, the generous guests gave enough money for 100 girls at Children’s Heaven to be fed for 500 days. Here are the pictures of the beautiful and happy children. We hope that Lights of Hope 2011 will be even more successful. The need in Ethiopia only grows bigger...and so do our hearts.
n.pl.ser·en·dip·i·ties 1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
Post by Viv:
I had a case of Serendipidy this week! I have been so fortunate to work in the adoption field and to meet so many amazing families. I knew little about international adoption before I worked in this field, but I was eager to work with children and families. At the time I was given the opportunity to work with adoptive families I felt it was by chance, but now I see that it wasn't by chance, it was by fate.
I was lucky enough to provide a homestudy for a couple from Ethiopia, who is adopting from Ethiopia. It was a wonderful experience from start to finish. After we completed their homestudy interview, we talked about the incredible people and beautiful country of Ethiopia. I just couldn't stop smiling, it was music to my eyes, to actually speak to someone from Ethiopia about their country and their adoption plans. I just hope that I was able to convey accurately the deep respect that I had for their journey and their country. To my delight and surprise the wife prepared delicious beef wat and injera, only to be following up with...yes you guessed it popcorn and roasting of coffee beans, it was a beautiful home coffee ceremony. I felt very honored to be in their home and to be a part of their process. It is moments like these that leave you speechless and with peace in your heart.
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
Today is Veterans day! We give thanks to all the men and women who have served this country today and in the past. These brave individuals fought so that we may have the freedoms that we have today.
Did you know that Ethiopian Veterans helped the United States in the Korean War? Six thousand Ethiopian soldiers served in this war to help the United States defeat North Korea. Here is part of an informative article that I found, "In 1951, the United Nations formed a coalition to fight against communist North Korean and Chinese forces on the Korean peninsula. The Kagnew Battalion was comprised of then-Emperor Haile Selassie’s personal bodyguards. During three years in combat, three Kagnew battalions served in Korea; another arrived following the cease fire. Ethiopian troops fought alongside the U.S. Army’s 32nd Infantry Regiment, under the 7th Infantry Division, participating in hundreds of battles that included action in the Iron Triangle and the fight for Pork Chop Hill. During the war, 122 Ethiopian troops died and 526 were wounded in action."
As of today our dossier has been in Ethiopia for two months! We are anticipating that we are about 1/3 of the way to our referral (looking at the current average wait). However, with that being said we always have to be prepared for delays. We have plenty of projects to keep us busy!
“There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”
"Dossier", "Home study", "Referral"....In adoption blogs sometimes various terms are mentioned without an explanation or definition. “Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.” ~ Benjamin Lee Whorf Few words in the Adoption Dictionary: Adoption Plan – Refers to the birthparents’ decision to allow their child to grow up in an adoptive family. Adoption Social Worker – A trained professional who counsels birth and adoptive parents regarding adoption and parenting. At-Risk Placement or Legal-Risk Placement – The placement of a child into a family when birthparents’ rights have not yet been legally ended or when rights have been ended, but the appeal period has not expired. Disrupted Adoption – An adoption that fails before or after finalization. Finalization – The legal process which makes the adoption permanent and binding. Home Study or Family Assessment – A series of interviews, both joint and individual, and a home visit(s) that are part of the pre-adoption process for adoptive families. Interstate Compact – A law that requires written notice of the intention to place a child for adoption or foster care from one state with a family in another state. Post-Placement Reports – After the child is placed with an adoptive family, a social worker must visit the family and submit a report to the courts. The number of visits and reports varies from state to state. Waiting families – Families waiting to adopt a child.
Do you know what "positive adoption language" means? (PAL), positive adoption language, was created in the 1970's by Marietta Spencer. As Marietta states, "Positive or negative messages can be conveyed through language. Sometimes language is purely descriptive and explanatory without seeming to carry any emotional baggage; however, words are symbols that often carry a deeper meaning and are instrumental in creating feelings and attitudes. The constructive use of language requires discernment, thoughtfulness and skill." Therefore, as adoptive parents we feel it is important to provide education around (PLA) to our child, extended family and important people in our child's life. There are some issues that an adoptive parent has to deal with that a family with biological children might not. For example, it is not uncommon for strangers to come up and want to ask questions about your adoption, unfortunately sometimes the questions aren't always the most appropriate. Because your child will be with you during these interactions it is even more important to be aware of your response. So it is easier to deal with these questions, usually being caught off guard, by already understanding and consistently using positive adoption language when talking about your child. As we have discussed, instead of taking offense we plan to just respond (depending upon the importance of the person will depend upon the length of our response, the stranger versus grandma) with a "reframe" or education around the question. A child picks up on tones and references made in language by their parents and people around them, and will be aware of these tones and references when hearing about their adoption. It has been stated by multiple references that, "When we use positive adoption language, we say that adoption is a way to build a family just as birth is. Both are important but one is not more important than the other." This means that we choose to use words that show respect for all involved in adoption (birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents). Here are some examples of how certain words could reflect a negative implication.
Positive Adoption Language:
Made an adoption plan
vs Negative Adoption Language:
For us, being aware of the subtle or unintentional connotations associated with some words, and avoiding them, will consistently convey and reinforce a positive message of adoption to not only that stranger in the grocery store but more importantly your child.
“There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.” ~Unknown Author
We have a fairly active lifestyle because we believe we should embrace the experiences and opportunities given in life. Whether that be traveling, experiencing nature, or getting together with family and friends. Life passes us by so quickly that we feel it is important to enjoy the moment and to take time to see the world around us!
When people hear that we are waiting parents we occasionally will hear something similar to, "enjoy it while it lasts because it changes when you have a child." Yes, we understand that we will have more responsibility, less free time for ourselves, and the dynamics of the family will change. Yes, we will no longer have as many romantic weekend getaways to the coast where we can have leisure walks on the beach. However, we are looking forward to showing our daughter the ocean for the first time and taking her tide pooling when she gets older. It is looking at the same situation through a different lens, a different perspective. We feel is is vital for a child to experience the world around her and we are eager to see the world through the eyes of a child. We feel that our lives will be enriched by these experiences! We look forward to our regular trips and adventures as a family.
Our family structure might change but one thing will never change....We will always life live to the fullest!
"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." ~ Abraham Lincoln
Did you know there are more than 40 millions orphans in the world? The number hasn't been confirmed, but it is estimated that there up to 140 million orphans or children living on the streets in the world.
We came across this video and once again felt our hearts moved by this powerful message. One of the themes mentioned in this video is something that resinated with us from the beginning, in places where despair should thrive you still see joy in the faces of the people.
Again, whether you consider yourself Christian, Muslim, Jewish, another religion, or just Spiritual you can respect and admire this Christian movement to help those children in the world who do not have a voice.
We recently received our referral/travel packet in the mail and had our "Referral and Travel Preparation" meeting with our agency. We still get giddy saying those words, "referral" and "travel". It was almost like getting a gift in the mail! As we were looking it over we couldn't read it fast enough. Although most of the information was already discussed with us, having the actual meeting to go over to the details of the referral and travel reminded us WE ARE GETTING CLOSER! Some of the topics that were covered included: what to expect with the referral (the call, the paperwork), understanding the Ethiopian court process, how to deal with the wait, being aware of our child's journey before she comes into our arms, various medical tests provided to our child, medical conditions common in Ethiopia, a couple pages listing words in Amharic, information on traveling in Ethiopia, the orphanage our long awaited meeting. Although we know that we will most likely not travel before May we couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement of envisioning us in Ethiopia. As we discussed all the variables, including the court proceedings and embassy appointments, we reminded ourselves of the importance of continuing to have the mindset to go with the flow during this adoption process. With the exception of CIS we have been pleased with the progress of our adoption time line, and hope that the process continues to go smoothly, however with adoption you must prepare yourself to deal with the unexpected. The destination is Ethiopia and being united with our daughter, however we must be prepared to accept possible detours on the journey.
We have been together since 1994 and have a wonderful life together! We enjoy activities in nature, being with family and traveling. We have a beautiful daughter who we adore and marvel at the sight of her everyday!