I've been thinking a lot about how to write about my experience with the US Embassy while I was in Ethiopia. It wasn't a good experience but I am glad I've had some space between now and then to reflect. I can think a little more objectively now than when I was in Ethiopia.
I definitely think the Embassy should be involved. It is always tricky to adopt from a different country. Different cultures and different governments have different priorities. What happens in Ethiopia is that you get approval from the Ethiopian government first via your favorable opinion from MOWA and then the judge's decree making you the child's legal parent. But the tricky part is that I was only Amani's legal parent in Ethiopia. As far as the US government was concerned, the adoption was not at all final. But they don't become involved in the process until after we became his legal parents in Ethiopia.
That makes things tricky if the US government decides it's not a legal/ethical adoption.
And I was faced with this very problem while we were there. I hinted at the Embassy's unreasonable requests while I was in-country. One of those requests involved doing something that might have completely jeopardized our adoption of Amani. To be fair, what the Embassy wanted was completely reasonable... it was the timing that was not. It just doesn't make sense for the Embassy to become involved in the process so late in the game. I am hoping some changes may be made so that the US does their investigation at the same time as MOWA. That would be acting in the best interest of the children and families involved.
Because that is what we need to do. We need to act in the best interest of the children, THEN the families involved. I confess that when the Embassy first made their request, I balked. I wanted to fight it, to find a way around it. But I realized that while their timing really was inappropriate, the request itself was in Amani's best interest. Not necessarily mine. I didn't want to do something that could result in me not bringing him home. We had already grown to love him, he was already living with me. It would have been devastating.
But I absolutely did not want to adopt a child if there had been any kind of corruption involved in his becoming an orphan. And I needed to do everything possible to be sure that's not what had happened. We complied with what the Embassy requested. And I had nightmares. I imagined what it would be like to return home without him; what it would be like to discover that there had been corruption in his case and that he was not in fact an orphan. It was a scary time.
Thank goodness for us everything was in order. I had done my own research when we traveled to Gondar so I really believed everything would work out okay but it was scary nonetheless.
But my point is this: adoption is not for the parents. It is not for the families. Yes, we benefit greatly because we get the honor of raising these incredible children. But we need to protect children (and their families) from those who wish to use them or benefit from their suffering. It would be easy to lose sight of this; to pretend there is no corruption; to stick our heads in the sand because we desperately want these children.
There is corruption in adoption. Not in all adoptions, but it exists where adoption exists. And we need to always act in the best interest of the children even when it's not in the best interest of the waiting families.
That's easy for me to say to say now that I have my son home. But I promise you I had to act in his best interest in order to bring him home at all. I had to do something that could have turned EVERYTHING upside down and I would have come home without Amani after almost 2 years of waiting and praying for him. And while I still wish the Embassy had asked for it months ago, before I became his legal parent, I am glad we did it. Because while it was not at all in my best interest as the mom who wanted to bring him home, it was completely in his best interest as a child needing a family. And in all honesty, I'm more interested in what's best for him, not me.
I am praying lots for Ethiopia. Being in-country for three weeks allowed me to see and hear about some of the negative things that are going on over there. There is a great need for change in the adoption process. I am praying for that change and for all who are still in-process.
Most of all, I pray for the children. They are the ones with the most at stake here.