Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It is a Question of Honor

The first time CrazyMom and I adopted, we debated about making a trip down to Sodo to meet any surviving family.  The agency we were using at the time discouraged us from doing so.  They said that is was a long and difficult trip and we would be on our own since they did not have the time or resources to help us with it.  They said the children have already said their goodbyes and it would be hard for them to go back.  They said the family members might ask us for money and complications could arise.  Our time in Ethiopia was short and so we acquiesced and did not go to Sodo.


Over the last year we were a little disappointed we had not gone to Sodo and wanted to try to make it happen this time.  In talking with people about the trip, someone asked us to think about what we would have to gain by going.  In reflecting on this question, I decided that I did not have much to gain although I was highly interested in going.  But when I thought about the birth family members in Sodo and my adopted children, I knew that they had a lot to gain.  If I were in a position where I and those around me could not care for my children and I had to give them up for adoption, I knew I would not be satisfied with a photo of the adoptive family.  I would want to see them with my own eyes.  I would want to see how they interacted with my children so I could know that everything would be all right.  And so I knew we should go to Sodo.


 The agency we are using this time is philosophically at the other extreme about visiting family.  They say it should be done.  They say that it is good for everybody, especially the children.  They say that when the children see a surviving family member give their blessing to the new parents, it is significant for the children.  And they are not all talk.  The agency brings the adoptive parents to Addis or takes the adoptive parents to the family.  They also send a social worker to the meeting to translate and provide expert care – even if it is an overnight trip to Sodo.  They find the time and resources to make family visits happen even though their fees are less.  It is a priority for them.


When we were in Sodo a family member asked me who came to pick up the children a year ago.  I said that it was CrazyMom and I and as I said it, I became angry.  I was not angry with them; I was angry with myself.  I could see in the body language that the real question was, "Why did you not come last year?  Why have I had to wonder about you for a whole year?" but they were too polite to ask the question that way.  And so I was angry with myself that I had not listened to what I thought was right and made the trip to Sodo a year ago.


A different family member told us, "Thank you for honoring us and honoring the children by coming to see us."  The statement brought into sharp focus for me the issue at stake.  It was a question of honor.  I can hear the birth family asking, "Will the rich American family that can provide for our children care enough to take the time to come and meet us?  Will they honor our family with a visit?"  It is very satisfying for me to know that I was able to honor the family on this trip to Ethiopia.  While I did not think that I had much to gain on the trip and it was more for the children and the family, I now agree with AAI - it is good for everybody.


(Disclaimer – I am not an expert in the field and every child/family is different.  There may very well be good reasons for you not to visit the birth family.  This is simply what I experienced.)


Anonymous said...

I had a fairly traumatic meeting in Addis with my son's birth family, and I still tell people to do it. You may never get the chance again, and it's a lot more likely that you will regret *not* doing it than regret doing it. I definitely regret not travelling to their home village, but I too was discouraged from doing it at the time. Glad you were able to make the trip to Sodo.


Jim & Laurel said...

I absolutely agree. Just this past month, my husband and I traveled to Ghana to adopt 3 children (to add to our 10 bio. at home). While in Ghana, we took a long and expensive trip all the way across the country (12 hr. drive) to see the children's village and to meet their extended family. We knew when we began the adoption process, that this was something we wanted to do. We do not regret that decision.

You may be interested to read the story (and see pics) of this meeting on our blog:


Sherry said...

We also plan to travel to visit any remaining family and our childrens village. It is just something I personally need to do. I want to assure the family that the children will be loved and cared for and someday will be able to return. I want to see where they came from. :)

Diane G said...

As you said, CrazyD, it is respect. It is honoring the family. These people may not be able to provide for the children, but they still love them and care deeply for them. Though there may be bitterness and shame you are treating them with the dignity and respect that they truly deserve. Thank you.

KG said...

Thank you for taking the time to say this and for saying it so well. Oftentimes I think that those who shy away from these opportunities do so for reasons that are about them, rather than focusing on who it is really about (their children and the birth families).

As the sibling of adult adoptees, I wish my own family could have had any contact, interaction, or even information about the birth family. I've always wanted to tell them how often they are thought of and how highly they are revered in our home.

And as far as my siblings, oh what a difference it could have made!

CrazyD said...


Thanks for your comment. I feel that sometimes I am just conjecturing about things and hearing your perspective reassures me that meeting the birth family is important stuff.