Adoption: love in action
In a country like Ethiopia where there are so many orphans, we claim that domestic adoption exists and many may even argue saying “we bring extended families (from rural areas) for better education and life opportunities to cities like Addis Ababa.” But true adoption does not isolate those “adopted” extended family members from joining dinner tables. It does not automatically default them into a night shift school even when there is financial capacity for day schooling just to use their labor during daytime. True adoption does not treat the adoptee differently. It shows no partiality. But isn’t that the case in many households? Aren’t these extended families mostly brought just to be housemaids and guards?
Of course, this is not to undermine the exemplar Ethiopian families that share love and support to the extended families they bring to town to raise them as their own children. I celebrate you wholeheartedly. I also want to celebrate those who have adopted domestically. I can only imagine the criticism and hardship you may have faced, the overbearing comments and dehumanizing proverbs thrown at you — “Better to raise a dog than somebody else’s child” (“የሰው ልጅ ከማሳደግ ውሻ ማሳደግ ይሻላል”). But you and I can challenge these proverbs and stereotypes. We can share stories of adopting families and show that orphans and abandoned children are to be loved and valued. They are not to be dehumanized or to be treated as last resort.
I’m presenting you with the following story of a good friend of mine whom I call a brother, Wondemagegn Begashaw. Wondemagegn was adopted from Kidane Mihret Children’s home by an American family at the age of 12. Even though this is an example of an international adoption, it is my hope that his story will provoke you to think about domestic adoption.
Interviewing Wonde’s uncle, Geremew, was a very emotional time. I asked how he felt when he found out that Wonde was going to be adopted. He walked out of the house and lit his cigarette. He couldn’t stop crying even though he tried so hard. He said, “Had I known you would ask me this question, I would have refused to join this conversation because it still hurts me when I think about it.”
Wondemagegn’s story is one of the many international adoption stories. I have read that Ethiopia has suspended international adoption to all countries as of April 21, 2017. So, who is adopting the orphans in the orphanage centers now? Or better yet, what is being done to prevent the orphan crisis in our country? As a society, are we progressing towards being more accepting of and practicing domestic adoption?
I believe in domestic adoption because we will have orphaned and abandoned children among us that deserve a loving and caring family. I hope to see more domestic adoption stories and orphan prevention efforts. I hope to see more recognition of locally adopting parents who are challenging wrong societal perceptions of domestic adoption. But most importantly, I so hope to see every one of us with positive attitude toward orphans and those who adopt, because change starts from changing wrong perceptions within.