Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Always Loved, Always Wanted, Never Truly an Orphan...

When we began the adoption process in 2009, we were naively unaware that the term "orphan" was rather broad. The words 147 million orphans in the world, rang in our ears, severely tugging at our wide open, eager to serve heart strings. For some reason, and I blame no one but ourselves, it never occurred to us to realize, that of the 147 million, many of them had a living parent who had chosen - or devastatingly been coerced - to relinquish their child.

Having heard and read about the AIDS crisis in parts of Africa leaving scores of children parentless, and educating ourselves concerning the relatively simple daily care of a child with HIV, we were insistent that we wanted to adopt waiting, HIV+ kids, who were not babies. We filled out the paperwork, completed our home study, peered at the institutionalized children awaiting families on our computer screen, and asked to be matched with a remarkably sad looking girl we knew by photo only, Masso, a 4 year old (who actually turned out to be more like 6) who tested positive for HIV. We were elated to discover our request had been accepted. We had a referral. It was that easy.

It was when we received the referral paperwork that a knot in the pit of my stomach developed, one I've had a difficult time letting go of ever since. Masso had a living father.

Reading those words my eyes misted over, my jaw dropped open, my head suddenly ached. Everything I was so certain about, all that was crystal clear, all my kindness and benevolence and desire to do something truly, unequivocally good with my life and time and money and heart, instantly, from that moment forward, became a murky, dark, clouded process filled with doubt.

If I were really a good, charitable person, wouldn't I do more for family preservation so that Masso's father could raise his baby girl rather than taking another man's child from him? It was a question that plagued me, haunted me, burrowed deep inside my mind, an uninvited guest I could not escape. I felt like a horrible, privileged, rich, entitled, white kidnapper. Often, I still do.

During that time our agency was also deliberating whether or not they were willing to make an exception to their policy that they do not allow the simultaneous adoption of 2 unrelated children. There was a boy, Tamene, also HIV+ (as well as HEP B+) who lived with Masso in the same orphanage that we wanted to adopt as well. Our original home study was for a pair of siblings, but our agency had no sibling sets of special needs kids waiting at that time. It turned out they did decide to allow us to adopt them both. We received another referral. Signed the paperwork.

Tamene also had a living father.

In fact, when we traveled to Ethiopia, we discovered that the situation surrounding his relinquishment was questionable. There was a concern he was "harvested" and his VISA was initially denied until all essential questions were resolved.

I've spent hours and hours in thought and prayer over this issue that has torn me up inside. In my mind, all of our best intention to do a truly good, worthwhile deed in opening our hearts, lives, and our family to children "in need" were called into question. My husband and I discussed it, time and again. We prayed. I cried. Lord, please, please, above all else, let your will be done.

Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that there was nothing we could do to reunite Masso and Tamene with their fathers. Parental rights were already terminated. Under whatever circumstances, for whatever reason, they had chosen to place their children up for adoption. There was not a single thing we could do to undo what had already been done. All we could do was offer them what we had to give - a life here - with us.

Just before we went to Ethiopia to meet the kids and bring them here, a team went to find their fathers, with video cameras in hand, to interview them, then present us with "Lifebooks" that would shed some light on our children's histories. Tamene's father had gone to look for work and could not be located. Masso's father granted the interview.

He talked of his overwhelming sadness at the loss of his wife and how he "lost his strength" when she died. He spoke of his baby Masso, and his other children. He shared his struggle to feed his family and he cried tears and his voice was thick with grief and hardship and burden and pain and loss.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him.

Only recently, as she has matured and begun to open up, ever so slightly, has it become known to us that Meadow remembers him.

I have contacted our agency, and they are willing to (for a fee) send a couple of staff members to his village, in southern Ethiopia, to search for him. With a photo album in hand, carrying a hand written letter from his precious daughter Masso, whom he named, which means blessed, they will look for our little girl's father.

We earnestly pray he can be located.

We may not be able to undo the hurt that has taken place or the pain of permanent separation, but we might have the ability to restore a bit of relationship, to grant a measure of peace, for one man, his beloved, beautiful, wonderful daughter whom we have the privilege to raise, and for her adoptive parents.

She is ours to share...
* It turned out neither Meadow nor Flint were in fact, HIV+ despite the reality they were placed in the special needs home for kids with HIV and Hepatitis.


Kami said...

Wow. I don't know what else to say. This is quite remarkable journey that you and your husband are on. I am in awe.

Anonymous said...

Adoption agencies really need to start encouraging these relationships upfront when all parties are on board and encouraging adoptive families at the very first meeting with the social worker to consider that this may very well be a possibility. my thoughts on the field of adoption have changed dramatically over the past 10 years by being a social worker, the sister of an internationally adopted person, and an adoptive parent myself and seeing this from many sides. I don't think it's ethical for adoptive parents to expect a completely "closed" adoption anymore. That is outdated thinking and we know that now thanks to the voices of adult adoptees. There may be cases where that's warranted, but those are very few and far between. Closed adoptions are for the convenience of the adopted parents, they are never for the child. I applaud these parents for what they are doing, which unfortunately very few would do in their circumstance.

Tisha said...

Thank you, for reading and for your kind response!

Tisha said...

I so appreciate your point of view, coming from a variety of angles. I read your comment to my husband too. It was an encouragement to us. We wholeheartedly agree with you! Thank you for reading and responding!

Kate Zimmerman said...

Oh Tisha! I LOVE this post :) Love love love it. I just went to an adoption meeting tonight and memories of our Ethiopia experiences came flooding back to me. Praying for you guys in the search for Masso's father...its such a strange thing to all of a sudden have a man in a faraway African country as a part of your extended family. We still think and pray for Tem and Tessa's mom a lot too. We miss you guys!

Lisa Stucky said...

Thank you.
Praying for you.

Dawn said...

Just found this blog. This is beautiful. I have a similar post just waiting to come out. I am struggling to put it into words.


Erika said...

I've too struggled with feeling like the rich white lady who stole another mother's children. It feels unfair that she continues to live in poverty with no hope of a future. I NEVER occurred to me that my adopted children would have a living parent when we went into this! We also concluded that we could not change the system but only help these children that we've been given.

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