Five Ethiopian orphans dive into American culture: Maryland families host the East African children

Hmm, "a international orphan hosting program?"


Five Ethiopian orphans dive into American culture
Maryland families host the East African children

Photo: Carrie Bourne (right) helps Ethiopian orphan, "Isaac" with making a basket at Greater Community Church in Kingsville. She and her family have been hosting him in their home. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / May 9, 2011)

By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun
May 15, 2011

Marni loves her sparkly pink flip-flops and the daily school lessons with her host family. Soon after he arrived on a flight from Ethiopia, Sammy switched his dress shoes for a pair of trendy Nikes that he wears everywhere. Isaac has accessorized with cool sunglasses and is teaching his hosts dance moves. After dental and eye check-ups, Betty is sporting a brighter smile and a new pair of glasses.

Five young children, ages 6 to 9, are the first visitors to participate in Welcoming Angels, a new international orphan hosting program, organized by America World Adoption to assist Ethiopian children. The faith-based adoption agency, established 15 years ago, is dedicated to connecting orphaned children around the world to American families willing to give them a home.

"Our idea is to step up care for orphans everywhere," said Melissa Corkum, a volunteer with the adoption association. "Our faith mandates we care for these children, but it is not our role to proselytize. Our commitment comes out of a genuine care for these children."

Welcoming Angels is designed to raise awareness of the plight of older orphaned children, who are frequently overlooked for adoption.

America World Adoption paid the transportation costs and the children left their homeland in East Africa on April 18 for a one-month visit to Maryland. Three different orphanages in Addis Ababa, the nation's capital, chose adaptable children who were willing to make the trip, and also provided a chaperone for the children during the visit, Corkum said. Volunteers here provided a translator, who has been available to families throughout the visit.

"These children are all well-adjusted, resilient and really wanted to come here," Corkum said. "After the first week, they all knew basic English phrases. This really is like a vacation for them."

The Ethiopian government has required the host families to guard the children's identities, and organizers requested that the visitors be referred to using only anglicized names.

The children speak Amharic, but their five Maryland families say they are easily overcoming language barriers. Sammy, 9, has already taught the four boys in his host family several Amharic words. On his left wrist, he wears a woven bracelet with the colors of his homeland and on his left, he shows off the numerous red, white and blue "silly bands" that he said "my mom bought for me."

"They are all learning to share space and their things," said Tracy Smith of Bel Air of her sons and Sammy. "We don't speak the same language, but we are learning to communicate. Sammy loves gadgets. As soon as he gets a camera or an iPod in hand, he figures out how to use it."

Stephen Smith, 13, is sharing his room with his guest.

"I know 'rabish' means hungry," Stephen said. "Sammy really likes peanut butter and jelly, my computer and my scooter."

During their stay, the children have gone on outings, like to the Maryland Zoo, and participated in child-oriented activities, including their first Easter egg hunt, picnic and birthday party — Ethiopia does not mark birthdays with the fanfare of Americans.

Guenet Meshesha, the Amharic interpreter, has readily assisted with language, but admitted she was not always needed.

"Children don't take long to learn a language, especially in a home where there is love," Meshesha said.

The children came with one change of clothing, but the host families, their home churches and neighbors have given them clothing and toys. Each child will return with two suitcases, one filled with their own items and the other packed with formula, diapers and clothing for other children at the orphanages.

Some host families have scheduled eye and dental appointments.

"Our Betty had to have a few teeth pulled," said Tracey Sutkaytis of Taneytown, referring to her 6-year-old guest. "So, then she had her first experience with the tooth fairy."

Grace Community Church in Kingsville organized an art night for the children Monday and filled one room with craft supplies, colorful balloons and a table laden with snacks and sodas. Participants tie-dyed shirts, wove baskets and sampled American fare.

The children leave for Addis Ababa on Monday. Once they have returned, families here who are willing can pursue adoption options, organizers said.

When Betty found Sutkaytis teary about the impending departure, she said, "It's OK, Mama" and promised to send letters to her Taneytown family. The Sutkaytises adopted their 10-year-old son from Russia after such a visit.

"It is hard not to welcome these children into your home," she said. "If you have the space and the means, this is an eye-opening experience."



If the kids are so willing to go to the US, and if they are so well adjusted, they obviously are aware of the chance to win the potential adoptive family's heart.

What happens if they are returned to their orphanage without being further considered? Who is taking care of them? To me, this sounds more like a TV casting show.

I remember an adoptive mother once telling me how the views of the older children in an orphanage have kept on haunting her. When she came there to pick up her little child, some of the older children had hoped it would be their turn now, finally. When they realized it wasn't them who were "chosen", again not them, their disillusioned looks spoke volumes of how they took the situation of feeling rejected. How do the organizers of this imagine their clients will cope?


The "orphan" POV

A while back, I posted an article describing the orphan-expererience, after a fellow-friend gets shuttled away....

From his bed in the orphanage, Yared Wolde witnessed international adoptions unfold first-hand.

Many times, he watched as other orphans left with new foreign parents for futures much better than the one he faced.

"They were always there for me and when they got adopted, it was hard," he says. "I would rather die in front of them than (keep on) living," says Wolde, his voice trailing off.

No one wanted to adopt the boy, a sickly orphan with a life-threatening heart defect.

His heart is fixed. But more than a decade later, the wound of being left behind still hasn't healed.

[From:  The orphans left behind, 2008 ]

One might want to conclude this surving 'orphan' wanted to be adopted, too.  However, in my mind, the last sentences from that article speak volumes:

In Wolde's case, his birth family -- both his parents, a younger brother and an older sister -- all died before he was six. For a time he lived on the street, before landing in an orphanage.

He was passed over for adoption, while his friends, other orphans, left with families for new lives overseas.

"All adopted parents don't care about the (birth) family, they just want to have children," says Wolde, "but it's not right."

Indeed, taking away the only "family" a child has bonded with (in an orphanage) is cruel.... and more entering Adoptionland need to consider this, as they ponder what it means to provide better orphan-care.

Orphans Left Behind

Indeed, taking away the only "family" a child has bonded with (in an orphanage) is cruel....

In an orphanage?  I've seen this same argument used by adoptive parents when it is suggested that they return their adopted children to their original families.  The comments that Julia Rollings faced on this forum comes to mind.  Why is the same argument invalid for adoptive families but seems to be just fine when applied to orphanages?

The "orphan left behind" POV also applies to the domestic adoption of children in foster care.  Indeed, it was front and center during the many times we visited our son in foster care before he was placed for adoption.  His foster sister asked us more than once to take her home with us.

There are ways to ease the pain of separation when adopting domestically that are next to impossible with ICA.  Cards, letters, phone calls, and perhaps most importantly, return visits over the years.  We were able to do all those things fairly easily because we adopted locally.  The same goes for the positive role adoptive parents can play to help reconnect their adopted children to their biological roots.  It's so much easier when all that separates you is a two hour drive.

and more entering Adoptionland need to consider this, as they ponder what it means to provide better orphan-care.

Tell me, how would you eliminate the pain of the "orphan left behind" in domestic or ICA adoption.  Adopting ALL the children in the orphanage isn't the answer.

Perhaps none of them?




"Dad"... good to see you back on the attack.

Yes, in some cases, tis better to be in a good decent orphanage than in an abusive adoptive home.  Surely even you would agree to that fact, "Dad"?  [The post from Kimette comes to mind: Living in an Orphanage ]

If everyone was really thinking of the best interest of a child, there would be no international adoption since long time:  by sending $35 per month to sponsor a child instead of spending $300000 to buy a child or by helping to build orphanages of high quality.  

Yes, I also said by building orphanages. Living in a good orphanage can also be another alternative. What you believe to be not in the interest of a child can be the best interest for the child and for its family. If you believed that living in a tiny house means necessarily “unhappiness”, then you don’t really know what happiness really means. I was happy when I was living with my family in a house of one bedroom. I was also happy at my 2nd orphanage.

Kimette also helps answer the second question:  Tell me, how would you eliminate the pain of the "orphan left behind" in domestic or ICA adoption

Providing better "orphan" care, in an orphanage/foster situation should not require an adoption-plan.  PAP's need to get that, so the theoretical "best interest of all children put in care" can become a reality.

Sheet Music

Providing better "orphan" care, in an orphanage/foster situation should not require an adoption-plan.

Nor should it preclude an adoption plan. They're not mutually exclusive of one another, by any means.

I'm a PAP.  I experienced the "orphan left behind" as you described it - the domestic foster child version.  If I were to adopt a foster child again, what is it exactly that you would have me consider?  Again, how can a PAP avoid the foster child left behind short of adopting ALL the foster children in a foster home? Or none of them?

Attack?  I have different opinions and sometimes disagree with you.  Call it what you want -   I'm sorry I forgot my sheet music.

BTW, where is Kimette?


Left behind...

"Dad", you sure remind me of my own Dad!

Thinking of "The orphans left behind" surely appeals to the emotional self in each one of us.

I bet you don’t seriously imply to create the all-or-nothing choice for all children, to be either in foster care/orphanages vs. to become a member of a family through adoption.

So give me a chance to comment on the serious concern that must undoubtedly be the motive behind your emotional statement.

To begin with the most simple and basic truths, neither is every family adopting a kid from an orphanage fit for becoming a good parent, nor is every child in a children‘s home capable of ever becoming a member of a functioning family.

If this wasn’t true, there would be no doubts whatsoever concerning the love will cure anything- approach to adoption. What can be observed, however, is that disruption and re-homing are being dicussed more and more widely, even in public. So obviously, some settings work out a lot worse than others.

I wouldn’t even look at cases of abuse in adoptive families in order to conclude that there are certain adopted kids who would have been better off, had they not been adopted by  certain families.

Before getting at me for saying so, let me assure you I don‘t intend to generalize, I just mean to make one thing very clear: When placing a child into a forever family, lots of individual evaluation has to be done to ensure his or her well being.

And I would like to ask you: How often are things done that way? Are applicants being screened and tested carefully, are children being diagnosed, are future family-members being introduced to each other in order to get to know one another before they are expected to live together as a functioning family? In international adoption?

Which leads back to the alternative international adoption vs. adopting from foster-care.

I assume when you were in the process of adopting from foster care, you and your circumstances were evaluated, and you and your child-to-be had something like a probation time.

Why do not more people go through this procedure in order to adopt from foster care? Ask them, and most of them will tell you quite frankly that they are not interested in spending their lives correcting the mistakes other people made, picking up the pieces that are left from a sick, disfunctional family.

Some turn to international adoption instead, and I bet we wouldn’t disagree that there are quite a few who do so because they are hoping to adopt a very young and healthy child with negible attatchment issues.

Now in that setting, leaving behind the older and needy ones in an orphanage is cruel – provided they are resident in an orphanage that aims at placing children for adoption. The "visit an orphan is en vogue"-thing, or the "invite an orphan to your house"-program, are other examples of such cruelty. They all imply that there is a group of children who are left behind and need to be offered with a special bonus to go along. A bonus like, for example: Adopt two unrelated kids. Take an infant and a five year old at the same time. And pay half the fees for the older one. I bet you’d call that a made up story; but it used to be quite common for some agencies in some countries. That takes an older kid’s dignity.

Which leads us back to the beginning: A majority of PAPs are neither ready to adopt a child from foster care, nor a waiting child in international adoption. There might be a billion of reasons for that, but currently no need to get into them, since I don‘ t believe there is any dissent between you and me.

I bet by now you’ll say I must have forgot your question "Should I adopt all of them? Or none?". I have not.

The first step ought to be to intellectually seperate child care and child adoption as two completely different institutions. One is a way of taking care of a child without parental care, the other is about building a family. Only by common belief, because we have so often heard and read it, adoption is seen as an alternative means of child care. This belief system makes it is easy to justify the individual decision to adopt. But if the majority of people really believed in what they are saying, there would be no older, special needs or waiting kids on the list of any agency, and no waiting sibling groups and no HIV+ kid, either.

So child care and adoption are two things that you just cannot look at as belonging to the same category. Let me stress that this statement is not judicial on whether adoption is good or bad in itself, I am just claiming that it is a very special construction with its focus not primarily on the child, but on a potential (and yet to be created) family.

As a consequence, no child in this whole wide world should ever be a permanent resident in an orphanage that is open for “traffic in adoption“ at the same time. If that was the case, you would not feel the personal responsibility, guilt or pain of having left others behind.




Emotional appeal via false dilemmas

Thinking of "The orphans left behind" surely appeals to the emotional self in each one of us.

I find it to be a very self-serving shut-up. The way I see it, it's connected to that overarching myth of our Messiahs coming to take the children to the new heaven and new earth of a socially-sanctioned family. The more taken up, the better, in that scenario.

As we well know, that could well turn into a personalized, private hell. And as we're so often told, the private hell of the nuclear family is so much more desirable than the one of orphanage (I'm using the word as both an adjective and a noun.)

It also allows our Heroes to once again wallow in indignant victimhood and accuse their critics of hating children. SHUT UP! HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST A CHILD STAY IN AN ORPHANAGE THAN COME LIVE WITH....ME!?!?!?!

So child care and adoption are two things that you just cannot look at as belonging to the same category.

Well stated. This entire orphanage vs adoption line of argument is a false dilemma. You have just exposed why.

Pound Pup Legacy