By Tiffany Abera
Today was my first interview with two of the foster care families. Meb, Teshe and I climbed in to the hired bagjudge, a tiny glorified three wheeled scooter imported from India, and headed off to our destinations. Everyday there are interviews scheduled with families who wish to share their experiences about the foster care process. Later I will be able to talk with government officials who work in the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, church clergy and KVI’s main sponsor for the foster care project, Bethany Christian Services. All of these groups are directly involved within the pilot project and each has their own experiences, opinions, and lessons that should be shared to improve the process for families, children and other important organizations and stakeholders. I of course have the pleasure to write all of these things down for people everywhere to read.
After lunch Teshe and I decided to go over the project and questions while sitting under the shade of a large tree. There weather was perfect, a little too perfect. I noticed that there were some bird droppings on the ground where my chair was and I thought to myself “what if a bird poops on me while I sit here?” Surely that wouldn’t happen! Well I should have listened to my conscience and moved the chair because sure enough the bird pooped right on my pant leg. I was disgusted but I laughed about it. After all I did tell myself it was going to happen. At least it wasn’t in my hair! It was even funnier because I absolutely hate birds. HATE. HATE. HATE birds. I think that they were conspiring against me all the way across the ocean just to find and get me here. Ha!
Our second interview for today really struck me. The parents were married for 16 years and were not able to have a child of their own. They prayed and asked God why He did not give them a child. In church one day they talked about foster care and what that means for Christians. They found out about the foster care program, signed up, attended the numerous trainings and almost a year later they received their “first” child. There was so much joy and love in their hearts for the child; it was beautiful. The father became emotional and tears flowed down his face when he began to talk about his son. People told him that he shouldn’t be so emotional, but he told them that he didn’t care. He was so happy that he couldn’t keep his joy to himself and wanted to let everyone know how blessed they have been with the child.
The process was not all flowers and roses though. The family faced social pressures and cultural stigmas about taking an orphan in to their home. Many believe that the family of the child will come back and try to take the child away. Others do not understand why they would want to adopt a child that is not a relative’s child. If the parents were to die, then the adopted child would get all of the property and money of the parents, and not the rest of the relatives. Not only did the family face cultural stigmas but they also faced many legal hurdles as they are in the process of officially adopting their foster child. It may take up to two months if not more for the court to reach a decision about the adoption process. I was told by Teshe that in reality the decision should take no longer than a week.
Although foster care and domestic adoption are stated by the government to be more preferable than inter-country adoption, in reality this is not always the case. They believe that it is better to keep the child in their own cultural environment so that the child may be raised as an Ethiopian. However, inter-country adoption brings a lot of money to both the government and the orphanages that keep the children. This in previous years has led to many corrupt organizations and officials. Many orphanages were closed after they were found to have illegal obtained the children and falsifying paperwork. Those children that were in the closed homes were then dispersed to other orphanages along with their shoddy paperwork.
There is so much more information about the foster care process and adoption here that I will have to tell it to you later. I will say that the main concern should always be for the children. Yet many times they are the last to receive help. Donors and sponsors of such organizations that claim to aid children should heed caution about how they send money. From the things that I have seen here, it is better to bring the money and buy what they NEED in the country rather than to blindly donate. You may never know how the funds are being used. There are good things that happen all over the world and there are maybe twice as many bad things. Corruption is everywhere lying to people with a smile and a hand reached out. It will never propel the country forward. It will only hold it back from thriving and succeeding.