Adoption Reality: "Why You Take Me?"

Now that Abel is completely fluent in English, we have been talking a lot about his life in Ethiopia, especially his life at the Care Center. Abel was there for almost 20 months. He was never abused there in any way. He says he never saw any abuse there. Other families say their kids were abused either physically or sexually while they were there. I am sad for them. I know dealing with your child being abused ANYWHERE is very hard and painful.

But what I am having the hardest time working through is that NONE of the kids at the Care Center were told by ANYONE at the agency or by the nannies working at the Care Center that they are being adopted.

Abel said that when we got him, he had no idea that he was not returning to his grandmother. Not until he got here to America, to our house did he figure it out. And even then he was confused as to why we took him.

I remember the day, about a month after being home with him. He was starting to learn how to communicate with us in English.

He looked at me and asked "Why you take me?"

I was shocked and saddened. I answered "We didn't take you Abel. You didn't have a family anymore. You were staying at the Care Center waiting for a family. We are now your family. We were waiting for you too"

Then he said to me, very puzzled and confused, "But I do have family. Cousins, Uncle, Grandma. I miss them. I want to go back to them"

We have had several hard discussions like that and in them he has told me many times that his grandmother never said she would not see him again. The nannies never told them they would be getting new families. The Adoption Agency person in Ethiopia never told the kids either. And when he received gifts from us and pictures, he just thought we were someone sending him stuff.

He said he loved being at the Care Center. He ate regularly, unlike when he was with his grandmother and he played all the time he said.

I really do believe he has come to terms with it all and he embraces us as his family now. But my heart breaks for what he has gone through, needlessly, in my opinion. I think he should have been told what was going on, as best they could for someone his age. They should have at least not lied to him, not deceived him...or us.

I would have been fine if our agency had said "look, we don't tell the kids what adoption is, who you people are that send them stuff, why your sending it. We don't tell them they wont be returning to their Ethiopian families. We just don't tell them anything so your kid may be a little freaked out until he understands."

I would have even been fine with "look, these kids have all been sexually or physically abused more then likely. We do our best to hire good nannies but there is no police abuse clearance in Ethiopia, there is no way to know until something happens. They also can't watch all 23 kids all the time, kids touch each other, especially kids that may have been abused before coming into the care center. So be ready to deal with these things."

Problem is our agency didn't tell us any such thing. Instead they said sexual abuse is non existent in Ethiopia pretty much. The nannies love the kids so much and are always tender and caring and these kids are anxiously awaiting new parents. All not true.

SO, my advise to anyone adopting, ask your agency how they inform the children they are getting a new family. Do the kids understand they are not just at day care until their Ethiopian family can get them back? Do they understand what getting a new family means?

What does the agency do, if anything, to ensure safety at the Care Center? Do they have cameras? If not, why? Do they allow corporal punishment? If so, do they have guidelines? Again, all this could be bizarre and impossible to implement in a third world country, but if so, the agency needs to level with you about that reality so you can be ready to help your child when they get to your home.

I think every parent I am talking to these days would have much rather the truth then the lies.

Check out this story elleia-of-samoa-and-spanish-fork-and-samoa sad and all to familiar.


Ron & Maria said…
While going through our HS our SW told us that some of the bigger kids are mean to the smaller kids and start telling them lies about white families taking them away and hurting them... I thought they might do this out of jealousy, but now after hearing your story it's possible that the older children might really believe that the younger kids are taken away - b/c they don't know that people (white, black or other) come from other countries to adopt into their family FOREVER! Your Abel must have been so confused by what was happening - you're showing him love and taking him from what he knows, and not realizing that you're doing this out of love...

heavy sigh.... there needs to be better education b/c there is already enough baggage that comes with lose and adoption.
Anonymous said…
What agency did you go through? I'm researching & trying to find the best one. Thanks.
Grace said…
The thing that bothers me is not even the "not telling" - but the blatant LYING that happens. Ava KNEW she was being adopted. She lived with her sisters until a few months before I came to get her and still the nannies at the care-centers told her she had to leave all her stuff there because they were going to "keep it for her to have when she comes back."

That was SO confusing to her. One one hand she had her sisters telling her that she would be going to live with her new family in America and on the other hand there were the nannies telling her that she would be going, but that she'd be back and have all of her *stuff* there waiting for her.

It's not cultural. It's not "the norm" - I share these stories with other people working AT (not with, AT) other agencies and they are sickened. I worked at 5 other orphanages during my month in Ethiopia and I NEVER saw this at other care-centers. The children who had families KNEW what that meant. They knew where they were going, they understood what "forever family" meant...
Unknown said…
Carole, I went thru the same agency as you did about the same time and had the same experience. I find this even more sad because I used the same agency a year a half prior and the experience was completely different. My first son was told what was going to happen and understood where he was going and was totally prepared. My second son had no idea who I was or why he was leaving with me.
Carey said…
Carole, so sorry Abel didn't know. We adopted from China as well and that, unfortunately is more common with older kids. In China, our friends son (7) wasn't told he was being adopted because they thought the adopted parents wouldn't actually want him when they saw him (cleft pallete). So ridiculous.

However, with our kids from Ethiopia, from the same agency as yours, they knew exactly what was going on. They knew we were coming to be their forever family. Our oldest from ET was 8 (at least)when adopted and she has made it clear to us that she knew and knows. When they received our photos, they knew we were their family and they were going home with us. I don't know who was involved in misleading Abel, and I'm so sad for him. I am very grateful that we haven't had the same experience.
Anonymous said…
By reading your blog it makes me feel Abel was sold into the ophanage. This maybe farthest from the truth, but knowing what you know now, do you feel you should bring him back? He has a family, that is what he feels everyday. The first English words he spoke to you was "Why did you take me".
He wasn't an orphan (in his present understanding), as he becomes more educated and understands what happened to him, he may become more resentful to why he is here in the US.
The sad part about the adoption process is it's all about money! There should only be court costs, and expenses to get them home. Instead it is a multi-billion dollar industry. When there is thousands of dollars to be made (even by families who have kids they feel they can't take care of..) you will continue to see issues like you experienced, as well as corruption.
Carole Turner said…
No, I don't believe he was sold. I know that both his parents died of AIDS when he was a baby, we have several court and Ministry of Women's affairs documents stating this. His grandfather beat him and his grandmother was old, too old to take care of Abel and all the cousins that sometimes lived with them. His grandmother came to Addis (which was a 5 hour plane ride from where she was from) on December 10th 2007, she went to court and swore before a judge that she new she was giving him up for adoption. She then went to visit him in the Care Center but told him nothing. He said she seemed happy.

If you are familiar with international adoption you will know that these children are leaving their culture, their language, everything, so it is normal for him to ask "why you take me?" he also enjoyed playing all the time at the care center, like any child would. A family prepares children for adulthood, a Care Center does not.

Also, older kids are not sold like babies are to adoption agencies. Abel was 6.

It's not ALL about money, that's too easy and condemning of Adoption as a whole. Yes, it's corrupt, yes, reform needs to happen. But I KNOW many kids do languish in orphanages, eventually they are out and hit the streets, and there family is no where to be found. This is a fact.

Adoption is a small part of a solution. Orphan care, sponsorship, etc all have to work together to help kids stay with existing families if they have them. BUT even here, in wealthy America, I know of MANY children in foster care, up for adoption, that have LOTS of living relatives. Bottom line is just because there is family alive doesn't mean the family can or will raise these kids.
Erin Moore said…
I almost choked when someone asked you if you thought you should take your son back?! Um...yeah..if I can find the receipt for him on the bottom of my purse. I also got a few necklaces from Africa that I'm thinking about returning as well.

Wow. You answered that question with so much more grace than I would have.

God weaves families together, Abel is right where he's suppose to be and I am so glad he is here, with you forever.

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