Q: Why adopt?
A: (Jillian) The simple answer is that it was just a calling for us - and while there is a definite outward resemblance between us and Brangelina (don't laugh), I promise you, keeping up with Hollywood trends was not a driving factor for us. I knew I would adopt at least a decade before I ever even heard of Angelina Jolie. Zeke is not an accessory to make us feel like the "cool kids".
A: (David) Jillian and I started dating when we were 17 - and even then she talked about how one day she was going to marry me and adopt - lofty aspirations but she is persistent! For quite some time it scared me and I postponed the conversation. With each of our biological children we discussed adoption and the more "traditional" method of building our family . . . the 4th time, it just felt right. It was a calling, it was a desire to serve, it was a need to reach out. For me, it started as a bit of charitable motivation. With more education and reflection it simply became the next natural step.
Q: "Why Ethiopia?"
A: After years of discussion, it became clear that Ethiopia was the right fit for us. Trust me, a whole lot of thought went into this decision. Let me just start by saying that private adoption domestically was never an option to us. There is a waiting list of people who cannot conceive who would die to adopt a newborn. We were able to conceive, so taking a spot in the long line of waiting parents was not something we felt right about. So, private adoption out of the picture, you're talking about adopting through the system. Warning - I'm about to paint a broad brush here. The majority of children in the system (approximately 100,000) are there because they had to be taken away from their family. There was neglect or sexual abuse or physical abuse, etc. This is not a happy situation. These situations do not lead to happy behavior. Yes, it would feel good to show one of these children how wonderful a family can be and teach them to love and trust others. I ache to do just that. HOWEVER, after taking courses and talking to our social worker, the risks involved with adopting one of these children was just too high for us with the three young children already in the house. I have worked in a pediatric psych ward. I've seen the behaviors first hand. It can be a violent and scary situation and it just wasn't something that was right for us to take on - at least at this point in our lives. My grandmother grew up in foster care so it is something that is near to my heart. She is an example of a child in the system that did not get taken away from her family. Her mother passed away and her father couldn't take care of her (it's actually pretty much the same story as Zeke's). Unfortunately, that is the exception and not the rule. We had to find something that was a better fit for us. Once we ruled domestic adoption out, we set our sites on international. The earthquake hit Haiti and so, obviously, we were drawn there. Well, they were in no shape to begin adoption processes. The agencies we talked to directed us to Ethiopia instead. The very second I researched it, I knew that is where our child was. To be clear, by no means do we value a life or needs of a child in another country more than one domestically - for our family Ethiopia was the right fit. And so it began.
Just to satisfy your curiosity, here are just a few of the reasons we were drawn to Ethiopia...
- There are over 5 million orphans in Ethiopia. Statistically more than 1 in 10 children will not reach age 5.
- The Ethiopian people are a warm and caring people. I've never experienced anything like it. We were excited to embrace their culture and we also knew it meant that our child would be well cared for before he came home.
- There are fewer occurrences of severe behavioral issues with kids adopted from Ethiopia.
It took us months to find an adoption agency that we trusted, which was absolutely painful for me. David, of course, had to nit pick at every detail. This may come as a shock to many of you, but I really suck at delayed gratification! It was killing me that we decided to adopt but we couldn't even start the process because we couldn't decide on an agency. My arms longed to hold my new child!! Much like most things in our lives, I was glad we went with Dave's plan to be patient (I hope he doesn't read this). The agency I was pushing for ended up to be pretty sketchy when it came to ethics - but, hello? that's why they were gonna be so much faster! duh! I only cared about fast! Ok, that's not true. I wanted fast AND ethical. We ended up finding YWAM Ethiopia (Youth With A Mission) and they were a perfect fit for us! The fast part didn't exactly work out, but the ethical sure did and we're both very grateful for that. So, after signing on the dotted line, our journey began. 15 not so short months later, we would be returning home with our new son.
So why Ethiopia . . . simply put, because that's where our son was.