We legally welcomed Jones into our family on July 5, 2011 and now over 8 months later, we are hopefully on the verge of bringing him home. It has been a journey like no other in our lives. What was supposed to take 6-8 weeks will have taken nearly 9 months. I know some people would say it’s like being pregnant, 9 months and all, yet if you count how long we have been going through this maze of adoption, it’s more like a 2 year pregnancy. I won’t say it’s been easy but I can and will say it’s been worth every second of the fear and uncertainty. I do believe holding his hand again and gazing into those beautiful brown eyes will erase the hell we’ve been through to get him here.
To back up and do the story justice, I now feel comfortable sharing this phase of the journey. After a child is legally adopted in an Ethiopian court, the case is passed to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa. The staff at the embassy is required to review the child’s file and issue him a visa, after verifying that he does in fact qualify as an “orphan” under US guidelines. When our case was submitted to the embassy, a new and supposedly more competent staff was just entering the scene. This new staff looked at each case with a more critical eye, to hopefully crack down on fraudulent adoption cases that tried to sneak under the radar, and we completely respect their efforts to do so. What I do not support is their “guilty until proven innocent” approach to every case.
To make a very long and detailed story short, the embassy doubted Jones’ orphan status, specifically doubting that his mother was in fact deceased. Our case was the first in our agency’s history to be denied a visa at this level and sent to US Customs and Immigration’s hub in Nairobi, Kenya for adjudication. We were told that Jones was “recruited” for adoption under “nefarious means” and that the embassy had “proven” his mother was alive. Talk about a bomb being dropped on you. We were in shock and beside ourselves with grief for him. We didn’t know if his mother had ever really intended for him to be adopted and if she never meant to lose her baby boy.
Our job now was to find out where she was and why he was relinquished. We wanted to reunite her with her son, if that was her wish, and if she did mean for him to be adopted, we needed her to go through the proper legal channels to relinquish her rights to him. It was a tall order and a difficult one to fill, given his family lives in an area of Ethiopia that is only accessible by motorcycle or foot. Our agency, who sets the bar for an agency you want in a crisis like this, quickly hired a third party investigator to find his mother and discover her intentions.
Fast forward two months: Through thorough research, multiple interviews and affidavits, we have discovered that Jones’ parents are in fact deceased, as we had originally been told, and the “evidence” that the US Embassy had that his mother was alive was shaky, at best. It’s a little ironic to me that they would question his orphan status based on what they thought wasn’t credible evidence, yet would turn around and only add to this ridiculously fragile stack of “evidence” and deny his visa.
So do we have clearance to go scoop him up and get him on a jet heading East? Not yet; however, today was a monumental today because we sent our evidence to Nairobi where it will be reviewed upon arrival and a “verdict” given. We have proven that his parents are deceased and his uncle was his legal guardian who relinquished him for adoption, and we should receive clearance.
I have learned through this journey not to hold my breath, that there are obstacles at every turn that require more of my oxygen to get me through. This time though, I’m holding it. I am hoping that this time next week, I am writing with tears of joy instead of tears of frustration and disbelief, to tell you that we are finally returning to Ethiopia to bring our sweet son home. What a cleansing exhale it will be.