Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Ethiopia?

So a number of friends have asked me, "why Ethiopia?" when I tell them about our adoption journey. This is an easy question to answer, as Peter and I have many reasons for choosing Ethiopia. One reason is because we have had a long standing interest in the country, its people, history, culture, cuisine, and art. Starting with our years at Augsburg College where Peter, in particular, had several friends who were from Ethiopia, to his work with Ethiopian refugees in Minneapolis, to our enjoyment of Ethiopian culture and cuisine in the Twin Cities area (did any of you know that the Twin Cities hosts the second largest Ethiopian immigrant population in the US?), to the friends we've had from Ethiopia in Philadelphia and even Rostock, we've long had connections with the country and are committed to maintaining our future child's connections to his/her ethnic origins.

Another reason we chose Ethiopia is because of the possibility of maintaining connections to our child's birth family and relatives. It is common for those of us adopting from Ethiopia to meet birth family relatives while in Ethiopia to pick up our child. Compared with children needing adoptive families from other countries, children placed for adoption in Ethiopia are more commonly orphans due to parental death from childbirth (women's lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is 1 in 14), from the AIDS epidemic, or from simpler things like diarhea and malnutrition. While extended family members or the surviving parent typically try to care for children as long as possible, increasingly children are placed in Kebeles, or community orphanages, when the family no longer has the resources to provide care. Ethiopians treasure their children and often wish to maintain connections with children even after placing them in Kebeles for adoption. Thus, it is very common for families to request meetings with adoptive parents whenever possible. We think the high potential of maintaining these ties is wonderful and important for the healthy development of our future son/daughter. Most international adoptions do not allow for these connections, and this led us to favor Ethiopia.

Another set of reasons for choosing Ethiopia have to do with our adoption agency, Wide Horizons for Children (WHFC). Our agency maintains its own private orphanage in Addis Ababa where children receive excellent care and our agency works hard to place children who are less likely to be adopted due to their age or health issues. More importantly, our agency has extensive humanitarian projects in multiple regions of Ethiopia to work to improve the lives of children and families and their communities. They are involved in public health projects, water supply/irrigation projects, school building/education projects, and more. It is important to us that our agency channels monies that we contribute (and that they raise through charity programs) to impact Ethiopia in a positive way. We believe that in a better world, Ethiopians would not need to place their children with foreign families, but would have the resources to adopt children within country. We aren't living in that world yet, but through strong humanitarian efforts (and different American foreign policies), we can work for that world. Thus, the fact that our agency is in line with our values in their work in Ethiopia contributed to our choosing them and Ethiopia as our pathway to building our family.

Children from Ethiopia, like children everywhere, are simply beautiful. The children in orphanages deserve families to love and nuture them, and Peter and I want to raise a child. Some day in the future the stars will align (and the bureaucracies of two countries will agree) and a child from Ethiopia will find her/his new home with us. And we will gladly embrace that child and Ethiopia as a forever part of our family.


  1. Greetings Michelle and Pete,
    Your favorite Indian sociologist tipped me off about your blog. I'm eager to read about your experiences during this important process. You're going to make outstanding parents so the impending adoption is a particularly exciting prospect. Why Ethiopia? Why not Ethiopia! Children in need are all citizens of the same country, in a sense. I'll be pleased to welcome (name tba) upon arrival.
    Your pal, Kate Wellspring

    P.S. I'm partial to "Ibrahim" and "Desdemona". Or how about the old Puritan standby, "Patience"?

  2. Thank you Kate, those are kind and generous comments. Ibrahim and Desdemona are both beautiful. But God forbid a poor child of mine be named Patience..... :-)

  3. There must be a lot of African immigrants in Minnesota regardless of which African country. We also host the largest group of Somali immigrants.

    I don't know too many Ethiopians, but I do have some of their music. I'll make my name suggestions at another time. Are you looking for an ethnic name?

  4. Good question, Susan... we will likely keep the child's given Ethiopian name as part of his/her American name (either as a first or middle name). The other name (first or middle) will be a name from the Budig family tree, and we're going to use Landstrom as the last name. So, our kid will have an Ethiopian name, a Budig name, and a Landstrom name.