Everyone in the adoption world has a dream. Most dream of adopting a child to create a special family. My adoption dream is different in that I want to help create families (plural)! As the Director of Social Services for Oregon and Washington, I get to repeat this dream over and over. Adoption has always been a part of my life because my two oldest siblings were adopted and I began working in the field of adoption in 1994. After joining America World five years ago, my adoption dream began to expand. I discovered a deep desire to travel and give back to the countries from where my AW families have adopted children. I am extremely interested in the overseas process- what did these families see and do, what was their experience like while in their adopted country. God knows this is one of my heart’s desires and Psalm 37:4 says “Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”. I do delight in the Lord!
In 2008 I met Andrew and Wendy Palau right after they brought their daughter home from Ethiopia. The Palaus travel the world spreading the Good News through festivals and humanitarian work. Even after their adoption commitment was completed, we remained in contact through a summer picnic and at seminars. When Wendy asked if I would be interested in attending a festival I was immediately interested. This was God opening a door to my new expanded adoption dream. They were headed to Haiti which is a newer AWAA country at the time, but I did not have the peace in my heart that I thought God would give me about this dream. I passed on Haiti and then Wendy told me about the “Love Ethiopia” festival set for November 2013 and I knew this was the trip I was meant for. I have a deep love for Africa, having already been to the western coast, so to travel to the other side of the country, work in orphanages, and visit our Transition Home was my dream come true. I was able to visit and work in one government orphanage, several AWAA partner orphanages and our Transition Home just three short weeks ago. I held, loved on, kissed, and hugged children at every one. I got to rock babies, feed toddlers, sing songs and play soccer with the older children. We also taught them about Jesus and how He loves us so much. I observed through the eyes of a mom, a social worker and an American- that is tough scrutiny for such a poor country. MY HEART SWELLED WITH WHAT I SAW!! I am so proud of what America World is doing in Ethiopia. The partner orphanages that we support financially are taking good care of their children (perhaps your future children). I saw nannies singing, rocking and loving on the children. I saw children go to them for comfort and comfort was given (this is wonderful bonding and important for the child’s future bonding with a parent). I saw staff teaching the children about God, manners, sharing and even some English. The Directors I met were very proud of their orphanages and one told me she prays every night for the children to receive families. Even in the government orphanage (which has no faith basis), the nannies taught their children to pray before meals. Watching two nannies organize 35 toddlers to sit and wait to eat was amazing. They all bowed their heads and sang their prayer.
While in Ethiopia I thought of many of my families. Families that have completed their adoption and especially those still waiting. I can now say I have been where you will one day stand. Our Transition Home is wonderful! We have an amazing staff who I can tell really care for our children. My group was given a tour by Adey, the Director. She is intelligent and kind. During our walk a new boy (who had been there less than two days) looked sad. Adey went to him, placed her hands on his shoulders, dropped to his eye level and talked with him. He then smiled and ran off to play. When I inquired about their conversation, she said he told her he did not want to return to his previous orphanage as he liked the Transition Home much better. He was fearful he would be sent back but Adey assured him he would be staying with them. Later while in the psychologist’s office (Zerithun), I watched multiple children come to her to talk or receive comfort. To have this resource for our children is HUGE! This is what your program fees help to support- direct, quality care for these children. The actual Transition Home space is great. There are large photos of post adoption families on the walls, a nanny sleeps in every room with the children and the two schools have good supplies to the teach the children. There is a shaded grassy area for the children to play on. After visiting multiple orphanages, I can honestly say we should be very proud of the home we give these children and the staff that care for them.
My heart also ached while there because I saw so many children in need of families. I asked questions about the wait time and Adey agreed the wait is long and hard. They feel this struggle too but there are reasons Ethiopia has slowed down. There are protections and checks, and security measure that are taken to make sure a child who is adopted is truly an orphan. Isn’t that what we all truly want? Know that those in Ethiopia wait with you so you are not alone. They pray as you pray for unification for these children with families. One thing I learned about Ethiopians was that they love deeply and feel a kinsmanship with each other. It is a country with deep culture and traditions. So many times I heard “we take care of each other” from my translators, orphanage workers, people I met in Addis and even a large group of street kids I interacted with. Ethiopians care about each other! This is something I hope you teach your Ethiopian children. I encourage you to learn about this country and teach your children about it. They will become an American when you land on US soil, but Ethiopia will always be a part of them. After what I saw, this is a good thing!
Our God is good!! He knows your heart’s desire. If you are still waiting, know that He waits with you and His plan is always so much better than anything we can come up with. Now, I will be waiting with you too (whether you are one of my families or not, you are an AWAA family) and I hope to see some now familiar faces come home to Oregon and Washington in the near future. If you bring a child home from a partner orphanage or the Transition Home in the near future, know your child was loved on by me- someone who cares so much about them. I was purposeful to touch, hug, high five or do the handshake the older kids taught me with every child I met so that I could say deep in my heart this child was touched by love. I was even able to pray over two soon-to-be Washington boys as their adoption was granted the day before I met them.
As I settle back home, my heart has grown larger as part of it remains on the Eastern side of Africa. I think of what country I might get to go to in the future. AWAA works in many countries so my options are plenty. During your wait, your options are plenty as well through our ACT mission trips. Go on one and it will change your life. Africa changes me each time I go. I trust God will care for my adoption dream just as He cares for yours. If you would like to see more about what I experienced, watch the Love Ethiopia festival video.
Thank you for letting me share my love for Ethiopia,
Director of Social Services for OR and WA