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« A rare situation where we export new rules back toward the UK | Main | The outlook for Obama's trip to China »
2:01AM

Next international adoption is finally--completely--in the works

After we adopted Vonne Mei from China, we wanted to provide her with 1 or more siblings who are also non-Caucasian. When the rules changed in China (which we saw coming even back in 2004 on our adoption trip), we explored Taiwan (getting nowhere), then switching to Kyrgyzstan for a while (also nowhere), and then going through the whole application for a third time in Kazakhstan. When the last one finally started moving, we found ourselves facing the high probability of getting a Russian child, which wasn't our goal.

So over the summer we pulled the plug on Kazakhstan and went with the Option B we had long nurtured as the child-after-next approach--Ethiopia. We will hardly be the first to do China and then Ethiopia. In fact, there's a growing subculture of families in the U.S. who have made this choice for all the same reasons (wanted to adopt internationally again, and found themselves ruled out on China).

We spent August and September doing the whole laborious and invasive application effort for a fifth time (if you count the original effort on China). I'm talking criminal background checks for everybody teenage and above, the whole fingerprinting drill, the financials, etc. Frankly, you get checked out a whole lot more for international adoptions than you do for a security clearance--and arguably you should.

Well, the dossier is finally complete and we're in the queue as of 10/5. We went, after much investigation, with a very solid secular agency that performs a full range of humanitarian work throughout the country, to include things like helping unwed mothers keep their kids with job-training, etc. The normal case is an extended family putting children in Ethiopian orphanages after one or both parents perish (HIV is a big cause, creating as many as 50m orphans in sub-Saharan Africa today and upwards of 100m in coming years). Our agency only works with local orphanages approved by the state and only with kids who've been thoroughly cleared in terms of abandonment via the court system, which is obviously biased toward trying to keep kids with families wherever possible.

Vonne and I will make two trips to Ethiopia: one to meet any proposed child(ren) and accept the match, then, following the final court procedures in Ethiopia (where familial relinquishment is confirmed and our adoption is made legal), a second, longer trip to spend plenty of time with the child(ren) and hopefully meet the first family (a crucial bond if you can get it). Our little immigrant(s) would then become Americans upon hitting ground here. We'd then re-do the adoption in U.S. courts in order to get U.S. birth certificates (seems a small matter, but it ain't).

We put in for any female child up to 6 years old, as we can't break birth order (a rule of our local agency that will supervise us for years following the adoption, as we are required to maintain written contact with the Ethiopian government--and hopefully the first family) until the child reaches 18. That's a solid rule, as breaking birth order can be very destabilizing to the family structure.

We've also said we'd take a second younger sibling if that possibility existed.

Along those lines, our agency has two families in line before us. Odds are each will take 2-3 months to happen, so our far window is May-July 2010.

But it could happen much earlier.

It is a big step to add one-to-two African kids to a family with 3 European "biologicals" and 1 adopted Chinese, and we've already gone through a lot of sensitivity training and counseling from professionals on the subject, but we couldn't be more excited at the prospect of globalizing our family further.

No,it is not a noble endeavor, but the same sort of selfish desire that any parents have for additional children. Not everybody is cut out for the "rainbow" route, but it feels very much our family's destiny for reasons completely orthogonal to my professional work--and yet wonderfully in synch with it (e.g., an Old Core-New Core-Gap bond).

Me? I just see the opportunity to help one or two little immigrants make their way. Plus, I greatly prefer obsessing over my kids versus myself or my career. It just feels healthier for my thinking, and I wouldn't be me if I couldn't pursue the thinking.

Reader Comments (6)

Best of luck to the Barnett family and the plans to enlarge the group. Closing the gap one adoption at a time.
October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Sutton
congratulations and godspeed...
October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteromar ali
Exactly. Godspeed and God Bless
October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick O'Connor
When I accepted a teaching job at WuYi Unversity in Jiangmen, Guangdong back in 1994 I told my niece not to cry ~ I would bring her back a beautiful China doll. Little did I know how prophetic those words would be and that, not only would I bring back one China doll, but TWO ... and they would be alive!

Shannon Fumin and Shay Simin are now 13 and 14 years old and are the light of my life. They have experienced first hand (albeit unaware) more contemporary Chinese history than most senior Americans: the passing of Deng Xiaoping and the return of Hong Kong in 1997, the return of Macau to Chinese soveriegnty in 1999, the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in the same year which put us under house-arrest while government-led protests took place outside the American and German embassies in Guangzhou, and the beginning of the end of the iron rice bowl ... to name a few. Oddly enough, we all grew to love both China and the U.S., and hope and pray that these two great nations can become allies in every sense of the word.

Dr. Barnett, I'd like to thank you not only as an adoptive parent of 2 Chinese daughters, but also as a new International Relations student (new ~ not young!), for sharing your great knowledge, logic and quick wit in THE PENTAGON'S NEW MAP books. What a great gift to those of us trying to understand this amazing age in which we live.

Congratulations on becoming forever parents again!!
October 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLinell
As a person whose MOM was adopted, and only sibling (a sister) was adopted strongly support your willingness to augment your family by adoption. Because my family was very very open about the adoption of my sister (being told that my MOM was informed by medical profession she could not have children and three years after adopting my sister I showed up) I thought ALL GIRLS were adopted. What I could not figure out was where boys came from? Live and learn.
October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam R. Cumming
As a long time reader was so thrilled to read this - we recently accepted the referral of our daughter from Ethiopia. She is 3 1/2 and will be doted on by our two older sons without a doubt. The wait was much longer than anticipated. Many say how lucky she is, but as you can most likely attest, we are the lucky ones. I look forward to hearing of your progress!
October 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRosanna Seabold

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