Abused Ethiopian Children Now Thriving: Life and Love With the Pattersons

In adoption, as in life, love isn’t all you need–but it surely is a big help. For Robert and Didi Patterson (formerly Eskindir and Rediet Barbour), love, along with therapies, medical care, stability, patience, and realistic expectations, has helped the two children begin to thrive. It’s beautiful and remarkable, though their mom, Ali Patterson, notes: ” Once someone feels safe, then you can work on everything else.”

Robert and Didi were originally placed for adoption from Ethiopia in 2012 with Kristen and Douglas Barbour. A short time later, both children were hospitalized for conditions that included broken bones, severe weight loss, and skin lesions. Kristen and Douglas were arrested. Ultimately they pled no contest to charges of child endangerment. I’ve written about the case several times, most recently here. In July 2014, the children became the son and daughter of Ali and Kevin Patterson.


Parents Kevin and Ali Patterson looking at photos with son Robert and daughter Didi. © Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Robert and DIdi, now eight and four years old, have three older Patterson siblings, and are thriving in their active, safe, loving family. They will have challenges in the years ahead as a result of the abuse and trauma prior to life with the Pattersons, but mom Ali and dad Kevin are well-prepared, and have deep faith in the children’ strengths.

A recent Pittsburgh-Post Gazette article, “Family creates a home for Ethiopian Adoptees abused by previous parents,” has more photos and information.

The Pattersons debated making a victim impact statement at the trial of Kristen and Douglas Barbour, after the Barbours had entered their “no contest” plea. In the Post-Gazette article, Ali says they decided ultimately to make a statement, because they felt an obligation to children whose abuse and neglect might not be reported. “There were so many missed opportunities for help for our children, from mandated reporters to people in the community. People need to understand that it isn’t their job to determine whether abuse and neglect happened, but to report their concerns.”

Ali says also in the Post-Gazette article that “No one involved in the children’s lives at that time, from their community, family or church ever apologized to Robert and Didi…Nobody said, ‘I’m sorry you suffered.’ ”

The story of these children has been made public in the course of the Barbours’ criminal case, and the Pattersons are well aware that Robert and Didi could look up those stories in years to come. Says Ali in the recent article, “We wanted them to see themselves not as forever victims but as the resilient people they are, and we want them to know they are admired and adored.”


Big brother Will Patterson, 13, getting a hug from little sister Didi, 4. © Pittsburgh Post-Gazette