After two months of no referrals being given out by Imagine Adoption, three have been given out in the past week: an almost-two-year-old girl; an almost-three-year-old girl; and a 33-month old boy. That's fantastic news given the past few months' history.
A few months ago, the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) in Ethiopia began to require new documentation for every child in orphanage care who was to be referred to a waiting family. The new requirements were applied to every child in the system, even if the child had met all of the old documentation requirements and was about to be referred - ie. there was no grandparenting allowed for children already in the system. The decision to implement new standards was made, I believe, with the best interests of the children at heart and, as hard as the (further) delay has been, I can't fault MOWA for doing what they've done. For example, in order to provide greater assurance that a child has been relinquished legitimately (because we all know that illegitimate things happen), MOWA now requires the orphanage to collect a birth certificate for the child from his/her village of origin, photos of the biological family, and so on. These things can be challenging to obtain in a country where many births take place in the most remote of areas where women give birth at home and birth certificates are not routinely (if ever) issued. One can imagine that for a birth family (or the orphanage as the family's representative) to apply for a government- or hospital- issued birth certificate can be a time-consuming and cumbersome affair...not to mention obtaining photos of a child's birth family in a village that might be hours' drive (or days' walk) from an orphanage. The end result for all of us waiting families has been, of course, further delays. There have been no referrals from Imagine in two months...until last week.
These referrals mark a shift in momentum - at least, that's my belief. They are the first children to pass through the new scrutiny and found acceptable for referral. They also mark another first. These are the first children referred whose adoptive families will travel to Ethiopia for the federal court hearing (remember the whole new two-trip thing that was introduced a few months ago?). These families, for better or for worse, will be the guinea pig families - the ones who will try out the new system. They will have to (or get to, depending on how you look at it) travel to Addis Ababa for court at some point in the coming couple of months. Prior to appearing before the federal court judge to commit to parenting the child they have been referred, they will actually meet their child, so that they will be able to make their court commitment somewhat meaningfully (at least, from the court's perspective). I can't even imagine how that parent-child meeting will take place without the parents wanting to lunge across the room to embrace their new child, but the rules governing that process will likely be fairly strict; there's no way that our agency will want the child to begin to attach to these new parents yet, only to be left by them when they travel back to Canada after court to await the completion of immigration processes (which takes 10-12 further weeks). It's going to be awkward...that first meeting between parent and child and I sure am looking forward to hearing how those first meetings go for other families.
More than that, I must say that I sure am looking forward to the day it's Geoff and me, meeting our child(ren) for the first time. My worry already is how on earth I'll be able to leave him/them.
Note: within a couple of days of writing this post, two other families received referrals. Things are definitely looking up!