Ethiopian Adoption Court Trip: Day Six

Originally written November 21 2013

Today was a big day- the whole reason we came.  Today we went to Ethiopian Federal Court to make this adoption final!


Like most things we get involved with, it was an adventure.  Court starts at 9.  You don’t have an exact appointment time, you just get there at 9 and then the judge calls you when it’s your turn.  The owner of our guest home told us our driver would be here at 8am.  8:15 came and went with no sign of the driver.  Ethiopians aren’t known for being punctual and normally this would not be cause for concern, but we didn’t want to be late for such an important event.  We called our family representative who said they were caught in traffic (you’re ALWAYS caught in traffic here) and would arrive in 10 or 15 minutes.  8:35 came and went, still no sign of them.  We were starting to freak out at this point.  They finally arrived around 8:45.  At 9:00 we were still sitting in traffic just down the road from our house.

I was really annoyed at this point.  Anger was pulsing through my veins as I looked for someone to blame. What did this mean?  Could we still go to court today?  If not, could we reschedule for tomorrow?  What if we couldn’t do that? We can’t just extend the trip. We have plane tickets and work and I really miss Wiggles.  I bit my tongue but I was not a happy camper.

We arrived at court around 9:25.  We hurriedly climbed the three flights of stairs.  The courtroom was full, but our representative told us that we were fine, that things were just getting started.  We stood outside the room, unable to see and hear, as a family went through the procedure.  As they were leaving, our representative motioned us inside.  We walked in and took the only seats we saw, in the very front row.


So it turns out the front row is for families being interviewed by the judge.

We hadn’t been called by the judge yet.

So basically we looked like giant disrespectful idiots.

Our representative shooed us to single seats in the back of the courtroom.  Back we walked.  Then someone with the court waved us back to the front.  We moved again, thinking it was our turn.  The other waiting families laughed at us.  Then there was some confusion as different people were telling us to stay vs. go back.  The husband and I just looked at each other, not sure what to do.  We hadn’t seen any other families go so if it was our turn, we weren’t really sure what to expect.

I’m sure they are thrilled we are adopting their children.

Finally a court representative took our passports and the judge started talking.  There was a court translator as the judge spoke in Amharic.  The judge/translator asked us many questions.  Did we have other children?  How old?  Boy or girl?  Have we studied Ethiopian culture?  Have we taken international adoption classes?  How long have we been in this process? Do we live in a city or rural area?  Is it diverse?  Do we know other families who have adopted from Ethiopia?  Do we get together with them often?  Have we met the kids?  Do we understand that we are to treat them as our own?  Do we understand that this is permanent?

After five or six minutes of questions, the translator said the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard:

“Your adoption is approved.  In the eyes of the Ethiopian government, M and Y are your children forever.”


After all that we’ve been through, the infertility treatments and not knowing if we would ever have a baby, the joy of our first referral and the pain when it got taken away, the pain of a long labor and the beautiful baby boy it produced, the surprise second pregnancy and receiving our second referral two days later, being scared we would lose the referral due to the pregnancy, being scared we would lose the referral due to birth mom changing her mind…after all that, this. 

I couldn’t help tearing up.  I think I’ve cried more on this trip than in the past year of my life.


Officially parents of 3.5 kids!

Officially parents of 3.5 kids!

We left the courtroom where our representative burst into laughter, telling us it wasn’t our turn to go.  Oops!

So what happens next?  Why can’t we take them home now?  While it’s final in the eyes of the Ethiopian government, it’s not yet in the eyes of the US government.  Next, the Ethiopian government will issue a decree approving the adoption.  It gets translated into English then sent to the US Embassy.  The US Embassy arranges for the kids’ passports, visas, and medical exams.  They also do research to make sure the kids are really and truly available to be adopted; they will likely interview the birth mom.  All of that could take as little as 4 weeks or as long as 12+.  Once the US Embassy is complete, we will have an appointment scheduled with them that we’ll travel back for.  And then, finally, we can bring these precious kiddos home.

After court we went to the transition home.  Our boy came running out to greet us with a big smile on his face.  Our girl would barely look at us.  It was heartbreaking; you could tell she was angry with us for leaving.  She wouldn’t let us near her.  She even tried to scoot her chair under a table to get away from us but it wouldn’t fit.  The husband played with our boy while I pursued this young hurt girl.  I talked to her gently, reminding her of some of our fun moments over the past few days.  I gave her my earrings, which she loves.  I just wouldn’t leave her alone, and finally, over about 90 minutes, she started coming back out of her shell.  We ended up having a super day with both kiddos.  Our girl even got goofy with us, making faces for the camera and then laughing at the images.

Towards the end of our time here their uncle came to visit.  He speaks very limited English and we didn’t have a translator available, but it was great to meet him.  He lives in Addis and is more educated than most of his family.  When the birth mom wanted to change her mind, he asked her what she would do with the kids?  What chance would they have here?  He helped her understand how adoption works and made her realize she was making a very unselfish decision by giving them up.  We owe a lot to him, so it was great to hug him and get his picture.

We spent about 5 hours at the transition home today.  Going later in the day was nice.  There are only six kids here- our two, a baby, and three toddlers.  The three toddlers are super sweet but super needy and attention starved.  It is sometimes hard to get quality time with our kids when the toddlers are climbing all over us.  But the toddlers nap in the afternoon, so we had a couple hours where it was just the four of us.  And that was awesome.  I do not think everything is going to be easy-peasy-life-is-breezy when we get home.  I can already see things that are going to be challenges, issues these kids have that will need to be worked through.  But I can see our family forming, and each day I spend with them I become more confident that things are going to work out just fine.

There were more tears when we left today, but we have another day of quality time tomorrow.  Our driver took us back to the guest home, where our host had prepared an Ethiopian barbeque! 


I thought we were “cheerings” but I guess they had already moved on.


Our transition home director came over along with a few people we didn’t know.  We enjoyed beer and wine (well, they did) while we were waiting on the food.  Ethiopian barbeque is basically tough bites of meat dipped in a popular spice called berbere and then dipped in a very spicy sauce.  It was okay.  I genuinely like Ethiopian food, but at this point in our trip I am burned out on it.  Plus, our host, like most Ethiopians, always cooks enough food for 10X the number of people she’s feeding.  And then we get scolded for not eating more.  And if we do manage to eat it all, then they bring more and scold us for not eating all of THAT.  We can’t win!  I am so tired of being yelled at for not eating enough!

After dinner they lit a little campfire.  We hung out for awhile before relaxing in our house for the night.  Our trip is nearing an end.  We have all day with the kids the next two days and then we fly back.  We are so ready to see Wiggles, to take a hot shower standing up, and to have toilets that flush all the way.  I just need to figure out how we can sneak these kids back in our suitcases!



Filed under First adoption trip

2 responses to “Ethiopian Adoption Court Trip: Day Six

  1. K

    I found this blog by accident a while ago, and I can’t get this paragraph out of my mind: “When the birth mom wanted to change her mind, he asked her what she would do with the kids? What chance would they have here? He helped her understand how adoption works and made her realize she was making a very unselfish decision by giving them up.”
    Have you thought about how you will explain to your children that their mother wanted them? That someone stepped in and made her give her children up? Someday they will be able to read your blog, and they will learn this and it will tear them apart. Obviously I’m not telling you to turn back time and change the facts of their adoption. But please think about how you will gently tell them this truth… their mother wanted them but you took them. And please, please get in touch with their mom. It is not too late (or too early) to do that. Stay in touch. Then their mother won’t have had to completely give them up.
    I’m writing this as an adoptive parent of two Ethiopian children, so I understand a lot of what you are going through.

    • justjames44

      Hi, nice to “meet” you and thanks for the comment. Adoption is never pretty or easy, is it? We’ve done a lot of thinking about how to talk to our kids about adoption, and have consulted other adopted parents and resources like “The Connected Child”, but I suppose we can’t say what we’ll do for sure until the time comes. Through my eyes- whenever someone has to make a big, life changing decision, they consult with people they love and trust. Her brother was one of those people who encouraged her in her eventual decision to provide a better life for her kids. He didn’t force her. He didn’t make her. He just encouraged her. And I hope that the fact that she loved them, and wanted them, and that it was hard for her to give them up, helps the kids come to peace with their life story eventually. I hope that they feel like their lives are so full of people that love them, in America and in Ethiopia, that love just overflows from their hearts. And yes, we definitely plan to keep in touch with their birth mom, will honor her in our home, and hopefully will even get to make a trip or two back to visit someday.

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