Giving Thanks for Moments of Clarity

My dad will be 85 in a couple of weeks. He is in good physical health, and well taken care of at the Harbor Care program of Putnam Farm in Massachusetts. He has lived there for about 4 years, and has made various friends, all of whom have dementia, as Dad does.  His co-residents are at different stages physically, emotionally, and cognitively. He has a friend Katherine whom he spends a lot of time with; both had spouses for some 50 years who have passed away. They have been good companions, but some days they are at odds, as Alzheimer’s robs them of words and makes them agitated or sad.

The staff at Putnam Farm is amazing. Imagine working day-to-day with people who are old, who are in declining health with failing bodies and minds. The staff treats the residents with dignity, even as the residents are inconsistent with responses, gratitude, moods, and abilities. The Harbor residents are often only there for a short time. Local hospice workers come in and conduct lovely memorial services for those who have died, even as some residents are unaware of who is alive, who is gone. Loss is the norm.

Dad needs help these days with sequencing–the ability to put your clothes on in the right order, or to take a shower the right way. He doesn’t remember the field trips, or the pizza, or the holiday parties. He sometimes gets sarcastic and mean, as a way of dealing with the puzzling changes in his brain. He sometimes misuses words, and sometimes just can’t find the right ones.

The head nurse of the Harbor Care program is Beth Burridge. She works with all the residents, monitors their health/medication needs, intervenes when residents are unhappy or uncooperative, and assesses the services each one requires. She recently sent me this email:

Hi Maureen.

I have completed your dad’s most recent assessments & service plan. They are ready for you to review & sign.

I know your dad is doing a lot of compensating conversationally & socially but, as with all the residents I come to know, there is an awareness that is able to come out from time to time. When I asked him to write a sentence, he obliged & when I read it, I was taken aback & thanked him. He said, “You have a very hard job.”

I attached the sentence to the back of the service plan. It is very touching, and made me feel very fortunate.

Safe travel,
Beth
Harbor Care Director
Putnam Farm @ Danvers

There is so much to be grateful for, even as we struggle with what seems overwhelming or unfair. Sometimes there are these moments of light and clarity, and we need to treasure them.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Dad with his first grandson, 1987.

 

 

Adult Adoptees On TV News Shows: Flip The Script

The social media movement during National Adoption Month (November) to “flip the script” is the brainchild of insightful women at The Lost Daughters. The purpose of the twitter hashtag #flipthescript is to include the voices of adoptees in National Adoption Month, which for far too long has been dominated by adoptive parents and adoption agencies. The hashtag broadens the understanding of adoption, by adding the valuable insights of adoptees.

Rosita Gonzalez created this important #flipthescript movement. It’s gained a lot of traction on Twitter, as well as the attention of news outlets. Listen to the recording of Rosita’s #flipthescript radio interview with Adoption Perspectives radio show on YouTube here.

This morning, Aselefech Evans was interviewed on Good Morning, DC, a news show of FoxTV channel WTTG. You can watch the clip of her excellent interview here.

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Aselefech Evans on the set of Fox TV Channel WTTG’s Good Morning DC.

 

On Friday, November 28, you can see 3 more amazing people talking about why it matters to #flipthescript:

Minneapolis: Kevin Haebeom Vollmers‘ interview will air on KMSP-TV Fox 9 at Friday 11/28 at 7:45AM.

Philadelphia: Amanda Transue-Woolston‘s interview will air on Fox 29 WTXF-TV at Friday 11/28 at 8:15AM.

New York: Joy Lieberthal Rho‘s interview will air on Fox Good Day NY on Friday 11/28 at 8:40AM.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

An Ethiopian Adoptee’s Thoughts on Ferguson, Being Ethiopian, and Being Black

In response to the indictment decision in Ferguson and to conversations about race, my daughter Aselefech offered these thoughts to adoptive parents about what it means to be Ethiopian and to be black in America:

Reflections on Ferguson, and on raising black children:

It’s one thing for Ethiopians in Ethiopia to raise their children as Ethiopians. It’s completely different for white parents raising adopted Ethiopian children in the United States.
By adopting an Ethiopian child, what obligations do you have to your children? How embracing will you be of black culture? Will you take the path of least resistance and teach your children to only take pride in their Ethiopian heritage, or will you acknowledge the realities of being black?

White America will not give your Ethiopian child a pass. Your child will be subject to racial bigotry and unjust laws. Your child will be pulled over by the police. Your child will be admired for speaking good English, as if that’s a novelty. Your child will look like the majority population in U.S. prisons. Your child will rarely see herself in fashion magazines as being beautiful.

It’s not enough to eat doro wat at an Ethiopian restaurant or listen to Teddy Afro. Ethiopian children deserve to be raised with black role models surrounding them, loving them, and teaching them. We Ethiopian adoptees are Black in America. I am proud to be black, and to be Ethiopian. I want young Ethiopian adoptees to fully understand their truth.

Aselefech is a founder of Ethiopian Adoptees of the Diaspora, a columnist at Gazillion Voices, and a contributor to The Lost Daughters. On Twitter: @AselefechE.

Ethiopian Adoptions: An Eye-Opening, Jaw-Dropping Investigative Report

E.J. Graff has written a far-reaching, detailed, urgent investigative report on Ethiopian adoptions: “They Steal Babies, Don’t They?”

Many people, including me, have been extremely concerned about the role of fraud and corruption in adoptions in Ethiopia. For far too long, according to Graff, “orphans were ‘produced’ by unscrupulous middlemen who would persuade desperately poor, uneducated, often illiterate villagers whose culture had no concept of permanently severing biological ties to send their children away.” It is heartbreaking–for the children, for the Ethiopian parents, and for the adoptive parents.

This report is an “exclusive investigation of internal US State Department documents.” These adoption-related cables, emails, and other written material were requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

There is also “an alphabetized index of every U.S. adoption agency and Ethiopian orphanage that we found mentioned in these hundreds of pages. Each item…below the name of the agency or orphanage is a link to the FOIA-ed documents posted on our site. We realize that these are raw documents, out of context, and give only partial impressions of what some Embassy staff members were thinking at particular moments. To offer a fuller picture of what was happening, we asked every U.S adoption agency named in these documents whether they would like to submit a response that might clarify, correct, or comment on anything mentioned regarding their agency.” The agencies’ responses are available here.

Graff is ultimately optimistic about the future of Ethiopian adoptions, as a result of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, Uniform Accreditation Act which took effect in July 2014 as well as the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR). We all want children who need safe, loving families to have them. If that happens through adoption, we all want the adoptions to be transparent and ethical–nothing short of complete integrity.

As the adoptive parent of twin daughters adopted from Ethiopia in 1994, and as a mother who met my daughters’ Ethiopian family in 2008, I know firsthand the role of inequity, economics, and heartache that adoptions can have. I also know the love and joy surrounding all of us, as we have been able to meet, talk, and learn. I am hopeful that many people–especially adoption agencies, government officials, prospective parents, adoptive parents, and Ethiopian adoptees around the globe–will read this. I am less confident that Ethiopian birth parents, marginalized and too often voiceless, will have their questions answered and their fears resolved, but that is their right, and only fair. And fairness is long overdue.

My thanks to E.J. Graff for her incredible efforts on this important article, and to the US State Department for its work to make adoptions more transparent. I applaud all those involved in adoption, in Ethiopia and around the world, who are genuinely committed to ensuring an ethical process that protects the rights of children and families.

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“Crowd Funded” Children: The Disturbing Products of World Adoption Day

Hollywood pastor Hank Frontener and others designated yesterday as “World Adoption Day.” Frontener, according to the World Adoption Day website, is the force behind AdoptTogether.org, the first crowdfunding site for adoption costs. It all sounds good, right? Look closer.

Crowdfunding is the practice of raising money by asking for contributions from lots of people–friends, family, strangers–over the Internet.

Private US infant adoptions (through an agency or attorney) and international adoptions can easily cost $35,000 or more. US foster care adoptions cost very little, so the AdoptTogether crowdfunding has nothing to do with those children.

Why is crowdfunding for adoption controversial?

For one reason, crowdfunding for adoption has the feel of raising money for charity. Adoption should not be seen as an act of charity, or of rescue, or of saving. That approach objectifies the adoptee as a “charity case,” as someone who should be grateful and pitied. That’s not a healthy way to build a family, and it’s an unfair burden for the adopted child (who grows up).

A related reason can be the association of payment for a child–not for the expenses involved in processing an adoption, but for the child. I’m sure I’m not the only adoptive parent who’s been asked “How much did they cost?” It’s demeaning and crass, and smiling while saying it doesn’t make it less repugnant. It’s particularly wrong in reference to an African or African-American child.

Another reason for controversy is that crowdfunding is an astonishing reminder of the economic imbalance between those who are adopting, and those whose children are being adopted. The families featured on the AdoptTogether page are looking to raise between $20,000 and $60,000. The children are from Africa (three from Uganda, one from an unnamed African country), from China, and from the US (an African-American girl).

People who adopt generally have a lot more money than the people who are placing their children. It’s safe to say that the US families adopting have much more cash flow than the Ugandan families, for example. The inequity is enormous. Poverty should not be a reason for a mother of father to lose their child forever, yet it happens again and again.

Imagine, for example, what $60,000 could mean to Simon, the Ugandan father of the twins featured on the AdoptTogether page, and written about in the adoptive mother’s blog (September 27 post, “the grand finale”). The twins also have older siblings in Uganda with whom they will not grow up.

The fact that I know that the name and have seen the photo of the Ugandan twins’ father is another example of why crowdfunding for adoption is so controversial: it often involves an unfettered sharing of extremely personal information. You and I now know more about these little children than they do at this point, and it’s all on the Internet forever, without their permission.

Another reason for controversy is that crowdfunding allows parents to pay for their adoptions completely, and then to receive the adoption tax credit.  In an article written by the CEO of the adoption agency Bethany Christian Services, Pastor Hank Frontener explained why he established AdoptTogether: “…many adoptions are out-of-this-world expensive – $35,000 on average for an international adoption. But…if we could crowdfund, and give people a way to be a part of an adoption financially and have a tax benefit to boot, we’d have something special.”

Indeed. The generous adoption tax credit allow families to recoup their adoption-related expenses for item such as travel, hotels, lawyers’ fees, and so on. The US government has given out $7 billion (yes, billion) in tax credits (not deductions), primarily for private and international adoptions, to adoptive parents. Read more here.

Pastor Frontener and others promoting yesterday’s first World Adoption Day invited “everyone worldwide to post a photo of themselves, their family and their friends with the hands up smiley face with the hashtag #WorldAdoptionDay.” Many did so. Others posted that hashtag along with #flipthescript, a successful, important effort led by the Lost Daughters to have the voices of adoptees included in the long-standing chorus of adoptive parents during November’s National Adoption Month. Learn more about #flipthescript here, and take a look at an excellent video about why it matters.

I tweeted yesterday about #WorldAdoptionDay along with #flipthescript. One of my tweets included a photo from the World Adoption Day store: their “Crowdfunded” tee-shirt.

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That photo, that “Crowdfunded” slogan on an ostensibly adopted child, generated quite a response, mostly of anger and frustration, and the tweets flew quickly.

Today, if you go to the World Adoption Day store and look for that shirt, you will get this:

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I don’t know if it was removed because of pressure placed on the World Adoption Day site, or if all the shirts were sold out. I appreciate the fact that the item is gone, in any case. It’s an example of commodifying a child, suggesting that there’s something cute about soliciting money from strangers to provide a child with a family.

Unfortunately, the World Adoption Day folks also thought it was cute to sell tee shirts that say “Love Child.” Sigh. Yes, maybe on some odd scale it’s less offensive than saying a child is crowdfunded. Still. “Love Child” has a different connotation than “Beloved Child,” for example, which is not one of the World Adoption Day tee shirts. Clearly “Love Child” as a product on the World Adoption Day site was considered a clever reference to the euphemism for an illegitimate child or bastard. But why should an adopted child bear the burden of reframing the definition of love child?

World Adoption Day’s main focus was to have people post photos with smiley faces on their hands, and to publicize a crowdfunding platform. Its focus was not to promote awareness of the commingling of love and grief in adoption, or to promote family preservation, or to insist that the voices of adult adoptees and first/birth parents be heard. It did not question the high costs charged by adoption agencies, nor promote the need for adoption from US foster care, for which adoption expenses generally do not need to be crowdfunded.

Let’s not crowdfund children either.

 

 

 

 

 

National Adoption Month and Awareness: Flip the Script

National Adoption Month begins today, an idea that seems straightforward until you start talking with people about it. Whose stories are heard this month? Whose interests are represented? It’s time to #FliptheScript, and hand over the microphone to new voices.

The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) says that, in 1990, they began raising awareness of what had been Adoption Week (the week of Thanksgiving) and   started promoting November as National Adoption Awareness Month. The original purpose was to increase awareness about the need for adoptive families for children in US foster care.

National Adoption Awareness Month in the past has been touted almost exclusively by public and private adoption agencies and adoptive parents. Like the adoption tax credit, the original focus on children in US foster care has expanded to promote adoption of children around the globe.

If we are going to do adoption right, we have to take a hard look at it. We need to listen carefully to those who have a wide range of experiences as a result of adoption: the wonderful, the good, the difficult, the traumatic. Adoption is not a Hallmark greeting card or sweet interracial family photo. It’s time to flip that script. The stories and pictures are complex, and that’s okay.

Awareness is key. We need to move toward increased awareness of adoption and of family preservation/reunification. Those are big, complicated, potentially rewarding undertakings. Let’s look beyond cute pictures and platitudes.

Let’s listen to the voices that we can truly learn from: adopted adults. Let’s move the microphone, held in the past and present by adoption agencies and adoptive parents, and hand it to them.

Take a look today on Twitter for #FliptheScript. Listen to the voices of adoptees who love their adoptive families deeply, and who have struggled nonetheless. Listen to those who had horrible, fraudulent experiences, and who have survived.

Listen to those who have been denied the most basic human right–to know who they are–because they are denied the right to access their own original birth certificates.

Look at who is talking about National Adoption Awareness Month. Sure, listen to the agencies and parents. Then give deeply to listening to those who have truly lived what it means to be adopted.

Inverted image of spider web photo, taken by Maureen McCauley Evans

Inverted image of spider web photo, taken by Maureen McCauley Evans

 

 

 

 

So Much More Than A Halloween Costume

Halloween costumes have taken on a whole new level of complexity. Some call it political correctness, or over-sensitivity: just lighten up. I admit to being puzzled about where to draw the line. Blackface and sexualization of children via costumes are clearly wrong, but sometimes the mingling of what is racist, what the intent was, and who is wearing the costume creates confusion and misunderstanding. I learn from the insight of others’ hard-earned experience.

My own take is to listen and learn, to do my best to let go of my own stereotypes and biases. I’m a middle-aged white woman who has benefited from white privilege, and who has raised children of color and seen (but not lived) their struggles in a racist world. I’ve had various experiences of being “other:” as the only girl in a classroom of all boys during my high school years, as the only white person in the stands at a middle school basketball game, as a white woman being photographed unasked in Korea because of my blue eyes, as a white American in Ethiopia being asked multiple times in front of my granddaughter if I was adopting her. But those experiences were interesting or annoying, not painful and scarring. I could (and did) walk back into my safe and privileged world, a nice enough place to be.

When our eyes and hearts have been opened by those we love, when we make an intentional effort to let go of stereotypes and biases, when we look through the lenses of those who we admire and respect–well, we see things differently, and that truly is a gift. Unsettling sometimes, not necessarily the gift we wanted, and exactly right.

Imagine an essay by a West Point graduate who served as an engineer in the US army, writing to a friend about a white woman dressed as a geisha for Halloween.

Imagine an essay by a Korean adoptee, who is also an adoptive mom, writing to her friend about the same issue.

Turns out the West Point grad, the US Army veteran, the Korean adoptee, the mom: they are all the same person, Soojung Jo.

Here’s are excerpts from Soojung’s essay, “What the Fog Took: A Halloween Story,” at Lost Daughters:

“I was nervous as I rehearsed the conversation in my mind.  There were so many ways to say it, and most of them felt wrong – overly sensitive, accusing, weak. I knew I had to approach one of my dearest friends with caution, because matters of race always seem to get volatile.

I checked the photo again, just to be sure of my position. One of my closest friends (we’ll call her April) had posted pictures from a Halloween party. In them, April’s husband (we’ll call him Mark) wore my husband’s old Army uniform, with my married name embroidered above the left breast pocket. April wore a silky kimono, a black wig, and her face painted chalky white (she is not Asian). The photo was captioned ‘Geisha?  Or mail order bride?'”

Soojung wrote a letter to her friend April that included this:

“…That kind of stereotype supports racism – maybe not racial discrimination, but rather the kind that gets my kids made fun of in school. It would be an insult and hurtful if a kid called one of my kids a ‘geisha girl’ which is the same as calling them sluts or hookers, but with a worse, racial connotation. I’m not angry or complaining, just being honest with you and because we’re friends we owe each other that kind of honesty.”

And…

“The backlash was terrible but predictable.  It started with simple disagreement. It escalated to accusations that I was the jerk,that I was accusing April and Mark of racism. I was told it’s ‘people like you’ who take the fun out of Halloween.  I questioned myself, was I really being too sensitive?  Was I overreacting?  Was I throwing the race card, which sensible, mainstream minorities should never, ever throw?  Or was I simply asking for acknowledgement from a close friend that something she had done made me feel extremely uncomfortable with the stereotypes it reinforced for both myself and my daughters?”

Read Soojung’s whole powerful and important essay here.

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Photo by Maureen Evans; San Juan Island, WA.

 

 

 

A Global Facebook Group for Ethiopian Adoptees

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Please join me in promoting a brand new Facebook site for “Ethiopian Adoptees of the Diaspora.” The two young people who created the site, Aselefech Negesso and Kassaye Magnime, are very special to me. Both are Ethiopian adoptees, one in the US and one in Canada. Annette speaks English and French, so has been able to reach out to a number of folks in Europe and Africa. Together the two young women form a powerful team that hopes to build a strong Ethiopian adoptee community, one that talks together comfortably and advocates effectively for the needs and interests of Ethiopian adoptees all around the globe.

As an adoptive parent (including being Aselefech’s mom), I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ethiopian adoptees who were raised in the US, Germany, Holland, Canada, England, Belgium, Australia, France, Italy, and elsewhere. This Facebook group will enable adopted Ethiopians to share their stories and perspectives, to help each other learn about options for searching and reuniting with their Ethiopian families, and to collaborate on potential projects. It is closed to all except Ethiopian adoptees, and is geared to adults, over 18, not younger adoptees right now. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point the older adoptees pulled mentoring programs together for their younger fellow adoptees, offering support and information for them as well.

There is an increasingly strong global community of Ethiopian adoptees whose individual experiences may have been markedly different but who are open to learning from each other. Strong interest exists in Ethiopia for members of the adoption diaspora to return and bring their experiences and education to help strengthen the country. Ethiopian adoptees are sharing information such as the Ethiopian Adoption Connection and other resources around the globe. Already there has been enthusiasm in creating programs and in funding the costs for adult adoptees to visit Ethiopia, outside of agencies or tour trips. Adult adoptees have begun developing partnerships with each other and with existing organizations to help children and families in Ethiopia. Exciting possibilities.

So please, spread the word about this new Facebook resource for and by Ethiopian adoptees. Thank you! Merci! Gracias! Danke! Dank u! Grazie! Amasegenallo!

Fisseha Sol Samuel: “Irreplaceably Marvelous”

He was not my son, but I see Sol Samuel in many people that I love. Born in Jimma, Ethiopia, in 1994, Fisseha was adopted 10 years ago by the writer Melissa Fay Greene and her husband Don Samuel. Fisseha became Sol Samuel, one of 9 children in a loving, active family. He was an amazing athlete, gifted at soccer, a handsome young man with a warm smile and loads of friends.

He ended his life on October 9.

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He was not my son, but I see the spirit of the vibrant, living Sol Samuel in many Ethiopian and other adoptees that I know and love. Survivors, resilient, charismatic. Great smiles. Most succeed mightily in light of day, overcoming hard pasts, interweaving two distinct realities of Life Then and Life Now. A few who struggle in the night, with painful memories, gnawing fears, and desperate desires to please others, to fill gaps, to know truths, and to trust that life won’t again fall apart.

Most, of course, carry on and do well. They occasionally stumble, but most adoptees, like the rest of us, live out their lives without despair.

Here is a cynical but factual comment I read recently: Adoption and suicide are both permanent solutions to temporary situations.There is sobering research that says that adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide. It’s here in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Not lightweight stuff, and even more startling in that the mean age of the 1000 participants was about 14. Out of the total group, which included adoptees and biological children, 56 had attempted suicide; 47 of those were adoptees.

Sol was Melissa Fay Greene’s son. I met Melissa via phone in 1999 or maybe 2000, when she interviewed me for an article she was writing about Dr. Jane Aronson. Melissa and her husband had 4 children at that time, and were in the midst of adopting a son from Bulgaria. They went on to adopt a total of 5 children, 4 of whom were from Ethiopia. Melissa has written several powerful books, including “There is No Me Without You,” about an Ethiopian woman who took in AIDS-orphaned children. More recently Melissa wrote “No Biking in the House Without a Helmet.” I may have had one conversation with Melissa since that first one some 15 years ago. My impression of her when we first talked and since then is that she is a smart, talented, warm person with a fierce devotion to her family.

She wrote a number of times about Sol, including in 2004 about his amazing athletic abilities evinced just one day after his arrival at 10 years old in the United States. In “The Flying Son,” she wrote of him, “When Fisseha ran, ambition fell away. When he ran, he was a ballet dancer alone in a studio, whirling. He was a painter dipping a brush into oil paints. He was a greyhound, flashing over the ground out of its deepest nature and joy. When Fisseha ran, he was Peter Pan, who knew how to fly.”

He was not my son, this beautiful boy will now remain forever 20 years old. So young, so terribly young. The funeral service yesterday was recorded; it is filled with prayers, with the sound of rain, and with steady, wrenching crying. Among the speakers are two of Sol’s siblings and Melissa. Besides deep grief and deeper love, in their voices there is a sense of puzzlement: How could this be, that they are eulogizing their brother, their son? How could he leave? How can he be gone?

Some adoptee suicides get a great deal of press, as in the case of L’Wren Scott, written about powerfully here. Some get very little attention. Much more research is needed in the area of adoptee mental health. Native American adoptees are said to have a high rate of suicide; certainly many struggles have been documented. Deanna Doss Shrodes of the insightful blog Adoptee Restoration has a challenging post titled “When Adoptees Want to Die.” Tough title to see in print, isn’t it? Tough post to read, speaking as an adoptive parent. Incredibly important to read, and think about, and talk about.

We are not very good as a society at talking about mental illness, or depression, or suicide. We need to learn how to talk about it better. Suicide is not often listed as a cause of death: that someone “died unexpectedly” is the phrase used in some obituaries. Unexpectedly, indeed. The shock, the heartache, the questions left behind for loved ones to handle after the beloved has ended his life are unexpected, and enormous.

I have no insights into Sol’s mind or heart, no knowledge of whether he struggled with depression or anything else. I wept as I listened to the eulogy. I feel completely confident that his was a family that would have provided (and may well have) every possible resource to help any of their children, including Sol.

My impression is that Sol’s death was nothing short of a cosmically confusing event. No warning, no overt signs. Was it something about sports, something about adoption, something about relationships? My heart aches for him, his family, his teammates, and his friends, who will now not only grieve but revisit conversations and events for clues, for explanations of the unexplainable. As a parent, as an adoptive parent, I am mindful of the fragility and the strength of our children–how much we know, and don’t know. How much we love, how little we control, how we need to keep trying and reaching out to those we love. Tomorrow is not promised to us.

It may mean nothing that Sol’s suicide occurred in October. Whatever his demons were, they did not operate on any timetable other than some tortured sense of urgency all their own. Another Ethiopian adoptee, the British poet Lemn Sissay,  wrote this on his Facebook page October 9, coincidentally the day Sol died: “When October arrives part of me leaves. I want what leaves to come back. Now.” I can imagine each member of Sol’s grieving family is saying, “I want Sol back. Now.”

Sol was Melissa and Don’s son, and his Ethiopian parents’ son, and the brother to many. Sol and every one of his siblings have a tattoo “1/9th,” said his brother Lee in the eulogy. Each child in the family is 1/9th of the child pie. Lee also said the name “Fisseha” means happiness. Melissa called Sol “irreplaceably marvelous,” “a genius of the heart,” “a natural-born athlete of joy.” May Sol-Fisseha rest in peace. May his family find strength and healing. Lemn SIssay wrote in June last year, “I’m not defined by my scars but by the incredible ability to heal.” May all of us draw strength from that.

Baruch dayan ha’emet: Blessed be the True Judge. This is a Jewish blessing (the Greene-Samuels are Jewish) said at time of death or other difficult time. Rabbi Louis Rieser says the blessing has this meaning: “In the presence of death, filled with a range of emotions (including anger), I cannot understand anything more than my loss at the hand of some power beyond my control. I can, if I must, acknowledge the power, even if I cannot endorse it at that moment. Even in my grief, I can note God’s Presence. …at this dark hour when we feel the loss deep within our being, this blessing asserts God’s Presence alongside the mourner. We are not abandoned, though we feel very much alone. We are not without consolation, though it is hard to hear any words. God stands with us as we face the mystery of death.”

Baruch dayan ha’emet.

Sol’s obituary is available here.

Update: Yesterday (October 15), Melissa Fay Greene posted this lovely message on her Facebook page. Warm wishes for continued healing.

“Thank you all for the messages of condolence. I can’t write much here yet, but will say that, although Sol took his own life, he was joyful, generous, ebullient, kind, and funny every day of the ten years we knew him, basically until last Thursday. Suddenly, inexplicably depressed over soccer, he made the worst mistake of his life. In our son Lee’s eulogy, he described Sol as the most “down for any adventure” person he’d ever met. There is no way Sol actually meant to miss out on every bit of fun he had planned for the coming year (Thanksgiving with family in Florida, his 21st birthday in January, a return to Ethiopia next summer, intermixed with the endless playfulness and fun of his everyday life), much less miss out on the infinite joys awaiting him across his lifetime. We are grateful for everyone’s loving visits, messages, and bagels. We assure you: he was the gleeful, glorious boy you knew, and the 600 or 700 or 800 people sobbing in the pouring rain at his funeral knew that, too.”

 

 

 

Update on Kristen Barbour and Carri Williams

Update on Kristen Barbour:

Kristen Barbour was sentenced to 6 to 12 months in jail for pleading no contest to the felony charge of endangering the 2 Ethiopian children she and her husband had adopted. Kristen’s petition to serve the sentence in an alternative housing situation was denied last week, and she will be sent to the Mercer County (PA) jail. However, she will be allowed out five days a week to be in her home with her 2 biological children while her husband, Douglas Barbour, works at the family gardening/nursery business. Her petition to allow time served before sentencing to decrease her time of 6 to 12 months in jail was also denied. Kristen will not be allowed to take the children outside the home, with the exception of doctor visits (or similar) for which she must get advance permission. You can read the Post-Gazette article, which includes remarks from the jail warden, here.

The Pattersons, the family that has adopted the 2 Ethiopian children, attended the court session on Kristen’s petitions. The Pattersons asked for help in reminding everyone that all children’s lives matter, all adopted children’s lives matter, and black people’s lives matter. While much has been made of Kristen’s Biblical/Christian motivation for both adoption and for discipline, the Pattersons ask people of faith to denounce any practices that endanger the lives of children. Information on how the children are doing now is available here.

A news video from the local Pittsburgh CBS station is available here. It includes Kristen’s attorney Robert Stewart commenting that he has been surprised at the amount of media coverage this case has had, given that he’s seen far worse cases of abuse.

The adoption community has really come together in speaking out for the rights of adopted children. Let’s keep talking about the safety of vulnerable children, the need for better pre- and post-adoption services, and the experiences and insights of adult adoptees.

Update on Carri Williams:

About a year ago, Carri and Larry Williams were convicted for the murder of Hana Williams and for the abuse of Immanuel Williams; Hana and Immanuel had been adopted from Ethiopia. Carri and Larry are currently serving lengthy prison sentences in Washington state. Both had indicated that they would appeal the conviction, and Carri Williams recently filed her appeal. Her case is being handled through the Washington Appellate Project, a nonprofit providing legal assistance to indigent clients.

Carri Williiams’ appeals brief is some 59 pages; the appeals process can be lengthy. Let’s continue to keep Hana and Immanuel in mind, and to hope that justice is served.