Thursday, January 24, 2008

A change for the worse

One of the reasons we chose to adopt from Ethiopia was that it's one of the few countries that has open international adoption, in which the birth family is known and you have the option of staying in contact. There are various levels of open adoption--what we really wanted was the ability to write back and forth with the birth family, to send pictures to them so that they would know that their son was being cared for and was loved and happy, and to hear about their life so that our son would retain that connection. Through our research in adoption, we've learned that the complete "blank slate" of the past for adoptees is one of the hardest things for them, and we wanted to avoid that if possible. Therefore, we chose a country that allows open adoption and an agency that actively facilitates that process. CHS.FS makes the children placed for adoption a lifebook and DVD of their village, and it often includes the birth family. They have a trip to the south in which there is the opportunity to meet with the birth family. And, from what we understand, if the birth family is known, you're expected to meet them. It's one of the things we were most hoping to be able to do.

Unfortunately, adoptive families with our agency received an e-mail yesterday saying that they are suspending meetings AND continued contact with birth families, effective immediately. There is some question about the true definition of an orphan associated with it, and some pressure from the US Embassy. The e-mail stated that CHS.FS believes that having to suspend these meetings and the contact is doing a disservice to adoptees and their birth families, and that they're actively working to reverse that right now.

To say that I'm disappointed is an understatement. This was one of the major factors in choosing Ethiopia, and in choosing CHS.FS--the ability to meet our son's family (if known) and to keep in touch with them. I'd already thought about the meeting. The things I wanted to ask. The things I wanted to say. The pictures that we would treasure forever. And, unless things change soon (which they never do when international politics is involved), we won't have that opportunity.

I am saddened and angry, and especially hurt for all the birth families who were promised contact by the people who adopted their children--and may now never know that the family had no choice but to break off contact. All they may know is that they met the adoptive family, the adoptive family promised to keep in touch, and now they've broken that promise. What a huge betrayal of trust, and what a devastating thought for the birth families. The post-adoption placement reports will still be available to them, but they have to actively go for them. It's not anything like being able to send a personal letter and pictures to the family. These families will likely go from eagerly anticipating word of their children to baffled confusion, disappointment, and anger that the promises of contact are not being fulfilled. It makes me so sad on so many levels.

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