Wow - another adoption shocker threatens further complications...
Apparently (to be confirmed today, we believe), some time in the past day or two, the Ethiopian federal courts implemented a new requirement that adopting families must appear in court to verify their intentions to adopt a child - what's uncertain is whether this applies only to U.S.-based agencies, or to agencies worldwide. The likelihood is that this requirement will extend to all agencies/families in all countries...if accurate, it means that Geoff and I will have to travel twice to Ethiopia: once to attend court, and again a few months later (after immigration processes are complete) to pick up our children. What a hit that will be if it's true...we should know more tomorrow, but it's looking pretty definite.
You may recall from previous posts that after a family receives and accepts the referral of a child, the family goes through a federal court process in Ethiopia to finalize the adoption. Up until now, the adoption agency (in our case, Imagine Adoption) carried the adopting family's power of attorney and appeared in the Ethiopian federal court as the legal representative of the adopting family. Once the court process is complete, the child is legally (and irrevocably, in Ethiopia) the child of the adoptive family, even though many weeks or months may yet pass before immigration processes are complete and the families can travel to pick up their children. What may now be a requirement is for the adopting family to appear in person before the federal judge...and then return to Ethiopia at a later date to pick up their child.
It is thought that one of the reasons for this change in procedure in Ethiopia is because in the past year or two, up to four dozen families from one country alone have refused to take their legally adopted children home with them, after completing the court and immigration processes; either these families failed to go to Ethiopia at all to bring their children home, or, more commonly, they decided after meeting their children that they would not take the children home with them. I cannot imagine the circumstances that would lead these families to refuse to bring their legally adopted children home with them, but the consequence of it is that the child who has been left behind in Ethiopia is unable to be adopted by any other family, ever. Since they are the legal child of an international family, they cannot be placed for adoption again, and they therefore spend their remaining childhood in a state of perpetual limbo. It's very, very sad. Because this has apparently happened on so many occasions, the Ethiopian courts have decided to take drastic measures as a means of ensuring that parents meet their child(ren) before the court finalizes the adoption, and then commit to the court that they will proceed to take them home at a later date when immigration processes have been completed.
You know, here's the kicker for me: I can totally understand this rationale. I hate saying that, but it's how I feel. I get it. It's part of ensuring the integrity of the system, part of protecting the children.
But there are a couple of things really troubling me about the implications of the decision. First, and least important in the grand scheme of things: the monetary aspect. Flights to Ethiopia, depending entirely on the time of year, range from $1,600 - $3,000 per adult, averaging $2,500 per person (plus the cost of accommodation, etc); thus, the cost of another trip will add thousands of dollars to our already hefty investment into this process. Though having a family is clearly not a financial matter for us - if we think of the mortgage we have literally invested into having and completing our family, between fertility costs and the cost of attempting adoptions from three different countries - it is nonetheless a big hard swallow to think of adding another several thousand dollars to our total costs.
Second, and what is by far more difficult for me to contemplate: if we're required to go to Ethiopia prior to court, we would likely meet our children...only to have to have to leave them again for another few months while immigration processes are completed. How on earth would I be able to leave my children after meeting them? I can't even imagine that. Knowing what I know about myself, I will find this impossible...and yet, what choice will I have? And what further impact do these children have to suffer? They have already been left by their biological family, will have to leave their orphanage caretakers at some point to move to Imagine's transition house, and will have to leave their caretakers from the transition house when we travel to bring them home. Now, with the added requirement, they will get to meet their parents for the first time, only to be 'abandoned' by them shortly thereafter and somehow believe that we are coming back for them. How do kids overcome so much loss and transition? These costs are the ones that seem overwhelming.
I need to pull myself together. I can't think yet about having to leave my children after meeting them. We're not even 100% that this new requirement will apply to us...98%, to be sure, but there's still a 2% chance (some reports in the U.S. suggest that this may not be a final ruling of the courts yet; others say that it's something that will apply in the future, but not to current cases - who knows?). As Geoff rightly pointed out last night, this situation, while very significant in its impact, is not even a tenth as serious as last summer's bankruptcy was, when we thought our dream was simply dead. Even the change that we learned of last week (see The Ups and Downs of International Adoption) threatens only to delay everything again, not to kill the deal. So I need to keep things in this perspective. So what if I'm turning forty-four this year - lots and lots of people adopt who are much older than we are. So what if we've spent years and many tens of thousands of dollars trying to create and complete our family - who wanted all of those fancy vacations and cottages anyway? The reality is that I believe to the core of my being that God placed the desire to adopt these children into my heart many years ago, when I was a teenager - certainly loooong before I met Geoff and before we knew that we would struggle with fertility issues. I must, therefore, believe (and I do) that God's got this whole thing worked out and that, in the end, his plan for our lives will prevail...whatever happens. That's the bottom line for me. The rest of this stuff? Just details, really.