Here is something I am working on, that I thought I’d send out to the universe today:
Among the most marginalized people in the world are the first mothers of adopted Ethiopian children. Many of these women would not place their children for adoption were it not for abject poverty.
Since 1999, about 13,000 children have been placed in the US from Ethiopia. Many of their mothers never hear from, or even about, their children ever again. These women don’t have access to the Internet or support groups or media. They often live in isolation, with their memories and sorrow.
I have yet to hear about US adoption agencies offering significant post-placement services to Ethiopian first mothers, in their language, with cultural competence. Fewer children are being placed from Ethiopia. Adoption agencies aren’t working there as much anymore. So what happens to the first families? What sort of grief and loss counseling do adoption agencies provide to the first families? Who do the first mothers turn to when they desperately miss their children, or want to know if they are alive?
We are missing so much in adoption. So much.
Families are supposed to send updates to Ethiopia. Some do, some don’t. There’s a lot of anger and mistrust, among families, agencies, government workers. My sense is, in any case, that most reports don’t get to the people who most deserve them: the first families. The mothers.
US adoption agencies do gather information about why children are placed for adoption. Increasingly, though, adoptees and adoptive families learn the information is inaccurate, or, worse, horrifically fraudulent. What are the true stories, and will anyone really know what they are?
What about the stories of the first mothers? Who listens to them, and records the family stories, and saves them for their children? Who values those stories?
I’ve begun working on a couple of exciting possibilities to change things.
One project is to create a network–an infrastructure–that delivers, to Ethiopian first parents, reports from US adoptive parents about their Ethiopian children. The reports would be in the Ethiopian parents’ language, and would be read to them if they are illiterate. Yes, photos too.
Another project is to work with Ethiopian first mothers, and preserve their personal histories. What a huge honor that would be. I belong to the Association of Personal Historians, and last month presented a workshop “Rebuilding Personal Histories” at the annual conference about personal histories for adoptees and others separated from their original family history. I’ve since talked with a few folks about doing this work with Ethiopian first mothers. Would that not be amazing?
So, I ask you to accompany me on this journey, in any way you can. Feel free to post here, or to email me at Maureen@LightOfDayStories.com.
The photo is my Ethiopian daughter reuniting with her Ethiopian mother. Aselefech wrote about this journey here: “Far Away, Always in My Heart.”
No mother should suffer not knowing what happened to her child. We can change this.