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Choosing A Placement Agency

Trying to decide which placement agency to use during your adoption journey? This blog entry will help you in that decision.

Choosing A Placement Agency

International or Domestic Adoption

International vs Domestic Adoption? Why we decided to adopt internationally.

International or Domestic Adoption

Our Trip To Ethiopia

A recap of our trip to Ethiopia. A firsthand account of a trip that would touch so many lives.

Our Trip To Ethiopia

Pathway To Citizenship

Adoption from Ethiopia was only the first step for many families. Re-adopiton and citizenship are a next step. Your pathway to both.

Pathway To Citizenship


:::MERKATO::: A new documentary by Sosena Solomon about the largest and oldest open air market in Ethiopia. Join Coily Embrace as a sponsor of this film.


Packing To Go To Ethiopia

What should you pack to take with you on your trip to Ethiopia? We have a list for you that includes supplies, medicines and other must have items.

Packing To Go To Ethiopia

Choosing Homestudy Agency

Not sure what to consider when choosing a Homestudy Agency? Here are some things to consider when you make your decision.

Choosing Homestudy Agency

Hana's 4 Year Review Collage

Hana's celebrates 4 years with our family.  This is her yearly collage that highlights her life over the past year.

American Idol Alum Chris Daughtry Joins With DC Entertainment To Fight Famine In East Africa

We love to highlight efforts by people around the world that shine light on the real problems that exist in East Africa.  Tonight we received a link to a story in the Hollywood Reporter that announced that American Idol alum Chris Daughtry has agreed to serve as an ambassador for the We Can Be Heroes campaign by DC Entertainment.


What makes this truly special for the Ethiopian Adoption community here in the USA is that Chris has recorded a new version of his song “Rescue Me” for DC’s campaign and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to fight hunger in East Africa.  Move over Superman and Batman it looks like DC Entertainment has a new superhero that we can all support.

You can read the entire Hollywood Reporter story by following the link.

We want to thank DC Entertainment and Chris Daughtry for their commitment to making a difference in East Africa.  We will make sure that our children remember your efforts.

Bill Gates Visits Ethiopia And Shares His Experiences Via Blog And Video.

Bill Gates recently returned from a visit to Ethiopia as part of his work through the Gates Foundation and he has shared his trip via his blog and a video.

One of the things we love about individuals like Bill Gates is they are truly attempting to deal with the core issues that create poverty and high death rates in nations like Ethiopia.  Mr. Gates work in Ethiopia includes the development of agricultural programs and expanding access to healthcare.

“What Ethiopia is doing in health is really a model system because it reaches everyone in the country. I visited the Germana Gale Health Post, where I talked to several of the more than 30,000 health extension workers who have been trained in recent years to deliver basic health education, prevention, and treatment. Most of the health workers are women, and those I met were energetic and well-trained.

These kinds of primary health services—giving vaccines, educating women about family health, and promoting hygiene and environmental sanitation—is the foundation for building good health systems in poor countries. Ethiopia’s health system also includes district health centers like the Dalocha Health Center I visited. There, they do a little bit of surgery and have more expertise and a wider variety of drugs. There are also primary hospitals that focus on higher level treatment and some emergency surgery, and general hospitals that deal with serious emergencies and high-risk and specialized care.”

You can read and view the video by following the link to Mr. Gates blog.  We want to thank him for his work in Ethiopia and hope for continued success.

Hana is FOUR

Hana is FOUR


Tour de France Winner Cadel Evans Gives First Interview About Adoption Of Son From Ethiopia.

We wrote an entry a few weeks ago about the announcement by Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and his wife adopting a son from Ethiopia.  Yahoo Sports has a quick interview with Cadel about his adoption experience.

"It is a flood of emotions and it has been an amazing process.

"We are still learning about him."

The Yahoo story is short but it is worth the time to read and share.  Congratulations again to the Evans family on their adoption of their son Robel.

Canadian Adoption Agency Closes Due To Financial Troubles. Is It Only A Matter Of Time Before US Based Agencies Face Same Financial Problems?

A story today in the Canadian newspaper The Globe And Mail outlining the closing of an adoption agency should make American families looking to adopt internationally ask if the adoption agency they are utilizing is facing similar problems.

The Globe And Mail story focuses on Hope Adoption Services announcement that they would be closing their doors soon.  In Hope’s January 5 letter announcing the closure they sited their inability to meet their financial requirements as the reason for the decision to stop operating.  For Americans the following two paragraphs should make us all think about the agencies we are using here in the USA:

“Developments abroad, including poor countries clamping down on what can be problematic adoptions, can affect the cost and time for would-be adoptive parents. Such developments can also affect the finances of adoption agencies, which typically run as non-profits and rely on client fees to break even.

In a Jan. 9 letter to clients, Manitoba-based CAFAC, which got its start co-ordinating adoptions from Ethiopia, said is facing “significant financial challenges” and would be introducing a $1,000 annual file maintenance fee to help offset a drop in referrals – children to match with prospective parents.”

If the Canadian based agencies are facing financial problems due to countries clamping down on international adoptions, is it too farfetched to believe that U.S. based agencies are facing similar problems?

This story should make anyone going through an international adoption to inquire with their agency about their financial health.  Families should also know what would happen to any their adoption application/process if the agency they are utilizing ceases to operate.  In addition what would happen to the money they have spent to date and what other agency could/would pick up the representation of the family in the nation they are adopting from?  These are very legitimate questions that every family has a right to have an answer to.

To read the entire The Globe And Mail story just click on the link.

Tour de France Champion And Wife Adopt Baby Boy From Ethiopia.


Twitter is buzzing this morning with news that Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans, and his wife, Chiara Passerini, are adopting a 12 month old baby boy from Ethiopia.


Chiara tweeted “We had the most special Christmas of our lives….” and included this link to a picture.


Congratulations to Cadel and Chiara for completing their adoption.  We wish their family a lifetime of joy and happiness.


U.S. Department Of State And U.S. Citizenship And Immigration Services Hold Stakeholder Meeting On Issues With Ethiopian Adoptions.

A few months ago word began to spread among the Ethiopian Adoption Community that the U.S. Embassy In Addis Ababa was starting to delay and challenge a growing number of Form I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative) because they deemed them to be “not clearly approvable”.  As many can imagine, this sent shock waves through the families waiting to adopt.

Since that time the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) have attempted to reach out to “stakeholders” and try to explain why the issues with the From I-600s have arisen and what actions will be taken to help expedite the process to deal with these concerns.

On December 9, 2011 the USCIS and DOS held a stakeholder conference call and provided an update on what has taken place since the stakeholder meeting on October 28, 2011.  The quickest summary is that the USCIS and DOS are moving forward with ways to expedite and streamline the process of dealing with the Form I-600s that they have identified problems with.  This includes real solutions such as stopping the 4 to 6 week shipment of these cases from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya and the deployment of USCIS officers to the Embassy in Addis Ababa to deal with these cases.

We suggest that any family currently going through the adoption process or planning on adopting from Ethiopia read the entire meeting summary.  We also suggest that families ask their adoption agency about this issue and get a clear, and in writing, answer for their plan to deal with the rise in Form I-600s being challenged by the USCIS.

You can read the summary by following the link to the USCIS website.  We will keep you informed about this issue as we receive information.

Jolie And Pitt Adopting From Ethiopia?

We found a small blurb on the website PARDAPHASH stating that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are planning to adopt another child from Ethiopia.  If this is true we wish them well in their latest adoption journey.

Click on the link to read the PARDAPHASH story.

Forever Family Brings Ethiopian Adoption Families Story Of Love

Forever Family

Most families we know who have experienced their own “Ethiopian Adoption Journey” share the feeling that this is a life changing experience that we all wish more people would open themselves up to.  We also know that bringing that child or children home comes with many challenges.  One of those challenges is building that sense of family with your child and helping them understand their new family loves them dearly.

While reading twitter feeds the other day we came across one from Cynthia Rohwedder, Baobab Haus,  announcing that her children’s book “Forever Family” was published and ready for families to purchase.  We clicked on the included link and were pleasantly surprised to read the following description:

"A tale of a two parents trying to create a family through adoption. The story starts at the decision process, takes you to the child's birth country of Ethiopia, and then back to a joyous homecoming in America. Written in such a way that even a toddler can understand in how adoption is such a magical journey not only for the parents but for the child as well."

We finished reading the description and knew we had to talk to Cynthia. Cynthia was gracious in her response to our interview request and shares her thoughts on “Forever Family” with us:

Cynthia Rohwedder

When did you adopt your child from Ethiopia?

We brought our son, Gavin, home from Ethiopia May 18th 2010.

Has going through the adoption changed your life?  If so, how?

Adoption has changed our life completely!  We became parents for the first time due to adoption and it has made me aware of the wonderful children that still need parents.

Something I will never forget is our trip to my son's orphanage, and seeing all the beautiful children.  There was a girl who was about 14 who was being adopted and waiting for her parents to pick her up.  She had a best friend there who did not yet have a family.  When children get to be 15 years of age there, they can no longer stay at an orphanage because of the law.  She was so sad to leave her best friend behind yet so excited to have a family.  I will always remember that girl and her friend.

What inspired you to write your book?

I was actually inspired by my son.  He loves story time, so I wanted to find some children's books about adoption, but I was surprised at the lack of a selection I could find regarding African adoption.  My son's a toddler and most adoption books are made for older kids.  The book I wrote is geared towards five and under, and easy for a toddler to understand.

How did you come up with the title?

The title actually came to me while I was half-asleep, half-awake tending to my then newborn daughter.  I felt that it really conveys what an adoptive family is; a family forever hence the title "Forever Family".

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your book to life?

There were a few challenges.  I'll be honest, it was tough trying to find someone to publish a book about adoption, let alone a children's book about it.  It's a small market so I would say I got lucky that someone was interested in this book.  I'm also not a great artist, so finding someone to illustrate the book was pretty difficult too.  Thank goodness I had a friend who suggested one of their artist friends.

Are you working on any new book projects?

I have several new stories in the works.  I have 3 more titles that I've been working on to help children with understanding adoption.

Who did the artwork for the book?

Angel Ramos was my illustrator.  He's a very talented artist from Cleveland Ohio.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part was finding the right wording that my toddler would understand.  Talking like a toddler isn't always an easy task.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I did learn something.  I learned that adoptive families face many unique challenges and if you can't find the book you're looking for, then you may have to write one.  Also, finding time to write a book with two children under two can be quite the battle.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I would encourage writers to write what they know!  Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has an experience to share.  Who knows, maybe you can inspire someone else.

Do you have any advice for other families wanting to adopt from Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is such a wonderful country, and the children there are precious!  I can honestly say from visiting Gavin's orphanage in Asela, that the children get so excited when they know they have a family that's coming for them.  It may be a long process with ups and downs but it's well worth the wait!  I couldn't imagine my life without my Bubba.  Bottom Line: Patience is the key.

Are there any adoption books you would recommend to readers?

I would recommend several. Gavin has a couple that are pretty good, one is called "Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale" by Karen Katz and "Happy Adoption Day" by John McCutcheon.  The illustrations are good in these books plus the message is a good one too.  For the adults, I recommend "Creating A Family" by Dawn Davenport.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I really just want readers and their children to enjoy the message of the book, which is no matter how you build your family, be it through adoption or biologically, family is forever.

With the holiday season quickly approaching we can’t think of a better gift than Cynthia’s book.  You can purchase a copy of “Forever Family” by following this link to Publish America.  You can catch up with Cynthia and her family by visiting the Baobab Haus site.

We thank Cynthia for taking the time out of her schedule to provide us with her thoughts.  We look forward to talking with her again.

Minnesota Public Radio Publishes Our Op-Ed On Why Congress Must Amend National Adoption Day And Month Resolution To Include International Adoption

When we started planning our blog content for National Adoption Month, we never imagined that we would spend the first few days of November debating with Members of Congress why international adoption must be included in any National Adoption Day and Month honoring resolution.  But here we are 3 days into the month and that is exactly what we are doing.

As part of this campaign to include children and families brought together through international adoption, we have written an Opinion Editorial that was published by Minnesota Public Radio today.

Recognition of adoption shouldn't leave out international families

November 3, 2011

By Myiesha Taylor and William Schlitz

November has always been associated with giving thanks for the things we cherish in life. For many, that celebration of thanks is centered on family. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's provide opportunities for families to travel far distances to be together and celebrate.

Our family's celebration also includes the anniversary of our youngest daughter's adoption from Ethiopia. This December we will celebrate her third year with our family and share with as many friends and family as will listen why they should consider adopting a child.

Coincidentally, November is also National Adoption Month. The purpose of the recognition is to shine light on the many children who have no family and would love to be adopted.....

Please share this with family and friends.  Please contact you Member of Congress and 2 U.S. Senators and ask them to amend the National Adoption Day & Month resolutions to include international adoptions.

We want to thank Minnesota Public Radio for allowing us the opportunity to express our opinion on these two resolutions.  You can visit MPR's website and see the entire Op-Ed by clicking on the link.

National Adoption Month Legislative Resolution Fails To Recognize International Adoptions

It is only the first day of National Adoption Month and it seems those families that have adopted internationally are being forgotten.  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Senator Landrieu (D – LA) are the lead authors of House and Senate Resolution supporting “the goals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month”.  Both resolutions, nearly exactly completely leave out any reference to children and families who have been adopted internationally.

We called Congresswoman Bachman’s Office and had a civil but unpleasant conversation why “international adoption” is not mentioned once in her resolution.  We were informed that the sponsor of the resolution created the “adoption month” celebration and want to focus on “domestic” adoption only.  We say BS.

We have legislative experience and know that the “sponsor” of any legislation does not have the right to control the resolution.  The sponsor is not a sitting Member of Congress and it is not the “sponsors” name on the resolution.  A simple sentence recognizing children who were adopted internationally and their adoptive families would do nothing to take away from domestic adoption efforts.  We believe that deny recognition of international adoption in the official vote of record by the U.S. House and U.S. Senate sends a message that there is something not acceptable about adopting internationally.

We are working with Members of Congress to offer amendments to both resolutions to recognize our families during this celebration.  You can read the text of House Resolution 433 and Senate Resolution 302 by clicking on the links.  Please watch for future updates to see how you can help in this fight to include our families in the National Adoption Day and Month celebration.

National Adoption Month Kicks Off

National Adoption Month is here.  Throughout this month many activities and celebrations will happen in our communities that will highlight and celebrate the successful adoptions of many children.  A somewhat unique aspect of these celebrations will include those families that have chosen to adopt children internationally.

Each year many Americans are choosing to adopt a child internationally.  In 2010 over 11,058 children were adopted internationally and over 2,500 of those children came from Ethiopia.  In fact just five years ago there were only a little over 400 adoptions from Ethiopia.  Ten years ago it was barely over 90.

Our Ethiopian Adoption Story blog will spend November celebrating the international side of National Adoption Month.  We will focus on those families that adopted from Ethiopia and share their stories.  In addition we will share with our readers our efforts to advocate for a better adoption process that is both beneficial to the adopted child and the adopting family.

We hope you will join us in this month long celebration.  We hope that our story will inspire you to consider an adoption for your family.  Adoption is our chance to make a real difference in the world by helping and loving one child.

Happy National Adoption Month to everyone.

Brad Pitt On International Adoption And Ethiopia

Brad Pitt is out doing interviews regarding his new film Moneyball.  In an interview for Parade Magazine he shares with readers an interesting view about his adopted daughter from Ethiopia Zahara.

“You and Angelina have three foreign-born adopted children [Maddox, 10, from Cambodia; Zahara, 6, from Ethiopia; and Pax, 7, from Vietnam]. Why not adopt American kids who need a home?

I can’t place the importance of one child over that of any other. I have seen children suffer far beyond what we experience in America—like our oldest daughter [Zahara]. I know she would not be alive [if she hadn’t been adopted]. I know what care was available to her, and it was nil. I cannot imagine life without her.

I guess I just don’t see America as separate from Vietnam or Ethiopia. We’ve got to start looking at things differently. This mentality of “Our team’s better than yours”—it’s a high school idea. Why do we need that in order to feel better? My kids don’t see those dividing lines, and I don’t want to either.”

This answer captures what many of us feel.  We don’t know why there are those in America that feel they must attack international adoption because parents chose not to adopt domestically.  Children are children.  Each life is important.  When you add to that that these children in Ethiopia are facing such daunting obstacles, such as overcoming crippling disease and famine, you have to believe that their lives are just as important as any other child in the world and they deserve to have a family that loves them.

We also know from our own experience that had our daughter not been adopted at the point in time that she was, she would not be alive today.  The illness that she faced was at a point that they could not provide the type of care necessary for her to live.  Now she is healthy and has an opportunity to live a meaningful life.  A life that will provide her an opportunity to make a difference for others.  A life she would have never had if not for being adopted.  We see no shame in that.  We see celebration.

We loved the interview and you can read it by following the link.

Family Focus: Eric & Laura Anderson

A great story today by WPRI (Providence Rhode Island) about the Anderson family and their recent adoption of their “Little Ambassador” Claire.

Like many of us, the adoption of our newest family member is only the start of this journey.  The WPRI story focuses not only on the commitment that the Anderson’s have made to Claire but to continuing to make a difference back in Ethiopia.

The story by WPRI is definitely worth the read/view.

Twitter Tag "#YouKnowUHungryWhen" Continues To Be Used To Mock Famine in East Africa

We have been watching through TweetDeck the ongoing use of the new #YouKnowYourHungryWhen being used by many tweeters to demonstrate how ignorant we are to the current famine situation in East Africa.  Far too many tweets with this hash tag have included the following:

you live in Ethiopia

kids in Ethiopia have a better body than you

LMFAO made my night, you're so fucking funny stupid for that one RT@su_spenceswag: #UKnowUHungryWhen you live in Ethiopia

Unfortunately we could quote thousands of similar tweets.  This type of humor is disgusting at a time when over 12 million people in East Africa are facing famine.  There have been multiple reports in the media demonstrating the heart breaking stories of mothers having to abandon a child to die in an attempt to save their other children from starvation. 

These racist and insensitive tweets are truly deplorable to us at a time when we just spent a weekend remembering the 9/11 tragedy.   Have we not learned anything from our own history.  Must Americans face famine before we realize that humor such as this on twitter is not acceptable.  What would our response had been to a Twitter #tag that made fun of 9/11?  Of course it would have been on the front page of every American Newspaper and on every cable tv news network.

We ask that readers of this blog that have a twitter account tweet out the following:

Nothing funny about 12 million people facing starvation.  #UknowUHungryWhen jokes about Ethiopia out of line.  Give to famine relief.

Coily Embrace has made a donation to Oxfam International East Africa Food Crisis Fund.  If you have not done so, please visit any disaster relief organization to make a donation for famine relief.  Every dollar given makes a difference in this fight to save lives.

::::MERKATO:::: New Documentary Project In Addis Ababa Ethiopia by Sosena Solomon

A few weeks ago Coily Embrace became a sponsor of a new documentary film by Sosena Solomon that will tell the story of one of the largest open air markets in the world in MERKATO.  We believe that supporting a project such as this film is important to helping our daughter stay connected to her home culture.

Here is a description of the documentary by Sosena:

This film is a beautiful and nuanced portrait of five unique individuals and their particular relationship with the market. The modern development in Ethiopia and its overall impact on the people and culture of this unique community is threatening the survival of MERKATO. I knew this moment had to be documented to share the unheard voices of the people affected the most. It has been a very exciting and personal journey filming MERKATO. I found a deeper insight in my own culture that was grounding and rewarding. I am so grateful for such a vibrant experience. I want to make this film & photo book because I have always loved this market; the smells, the people, the colors, the chaos! It just gives you an incredible feeling and I want to experience this with you.


Please contribute to this project.  The goal to make this documentary come to life is $12,000.00  To date Sosena has commitments for $2,975.00   We have 28 days to reach our goal.  So join Coily Embrace as a sponsor by following this link to Sosena’s kickstart campaign page.

Family Focus: Jeff & Sarah Stoller

We want this blog to not only focus on the process of adopting but how a family continues on their journey after the adoption process is complete.  With that being said, we will highlight news stories regarding families who have adopted from Ethiopia in a series tagged “Family Focus”.

Our first Family Focus blog entry is Jeff and Sarah Stoller.  Erin Cox for the Times Bullentin in Van Wert, Ohio does a wonderful article on Jeff and Sarah and their adopted daughter Selah.  The story focuses on Jeff and Sarah’s commitment not only to Selah but helping make a difference back in Ethiopia.

What we learned was that adoption is a good thing to do, but it isn't the only solution and doesn't solve all the problems people face in Ethiopia," Jeff said. "Adoption can't help everyone. In the long term, we need to have people on the ground there to help them build the foundations for a strong community.

If you have not read the story please take time to read it now.  We want to thank Jeff and Sarah for demonstrating how touching one life can make a life-long difference in our world.

Orphanage Closures In Ethiopia

The United States Department of State has released the following information on the closure of multiple orphanages in Ethiopia. 

Notice: Confirmation of Orphanage Closures in Ethiopia

Ethiopian government officials have confirmed that several orphanages in the Southern Nations state are closed due to revocation of their licenses to operate by Ethiopian authorities.

These orphanages are:

  • SOS Infants Ethiopia (Arbaminch, Dilla, and Awassa branches)
  • Gelgella Integrated Orphans (Tercha and Durame branches)
  • Bethzatha Children’s Home Association (Sodo, Hosaena, Dilla, and Awassa branches)
  • Ethio Vision Development and Charities (Dilla branch)
  • Special Mission for Community Based Development (Hosaena branch)
  • Enat Alem Orphanage (Awassa branch)
  • Initiative Ethiopia Child and Family Support (Awassa branch)
  • Resurrection Orphanage (Hosaena branch)

According to officials in the Charities and Societies Agency office, which oversees the licensing and regulation of orphanages in Ethiopia, the children in the care of those facilities have already been transferred to other orphanages.

Ethiopian officials indicate that cases involving orphaned children from these facilities that are already pending with the Federal First Instance court will continue to move forward.  The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa is working closely with Ethiopian officials to determine if children from these facilities who were previously referred for adoption or matched with prospective adoptive parents will be allowed to continue in the adoption process.  MOWCYA officials have confirmed that the affected children’s case files are currently being reviewed, a process that is expected to last at least one month.

We continue to ask prospective adoptive parents and agencies that hear news of specific closures to inform the Department.  Please send any specific information regarding orphanage closures to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line “Ethiopia Orphanage Closures.”

Prospective and adoptive parents are encouraged to remain in contact with their adoption service provider to stay up-to-date on any information pertinent to their individual case.  The Department will post confirmed information on www.adoption.state.gov as we receive it.

Please contact your adoption agency if you should have any questions.  To read the release on the Department of State website follow the link.

Travel Requirement Changes

We want to bring to our readers attention that the Ethiopian Government has changed the travel requirements for adopting families in 2009.  Since May 2009, at least one adoptive parent must be present for the Ethiopian Court Hearing.  This is a change from previous years and if you plan on traveling to pickup your adoptive child this will now require you to make two trips to Ethiopia.  Please keep this in mind when budgeting for the adoption process.

Three Years Old

Hana is doing very well!! She is a happy, well-adjusted, compassionate, obedient, loving, affectionate, little girl who is full of life and promise. She can say the alphabet, count to 10 (almost), knows all the shapes, colors, speaks well, and physically she excels! She enjoys all foods. She's about 3 feet tall, and weighs 27#, is 3'1" tall. She has been completely healthy since her initial treatment course upon arrival to the US. And after a year of ECI (early childhood intervention), she no longer needs the program! Her brother and sister LOVE her, and she is the perfect "little" sister.

She is such a joy. And I am very happy to report she's doing fabulously!

Regarding Hana

Thank you my fellow blog friend and adoptive mom, Tania, for sharing with me this 'create a book from your blog' site. I am finishing this chronicle of our adoption journey now...and with this book. We really appreciate all of our new 'blog friends' for sharing their stories, and the yahoo groups for great advice. We have gone from an "adoption idea" thru the adoption process...and have completed the transition with the Certificate of Citizenship Ceremony.

Regarding Hana.

I think that we have all adjusted nicely. Hana attended the same preschool as Ian, and when she's not there...he misses her. Haley is still super excited about having a little sister.

Hana is making strides in her cognitive/academic development. She knows her shapes, and the letters A and B ☻ She is talking more (I think a combination of ECI, preschool, and our *insistence* that she speaks before we give her almost anything...is what's contributing to this progress). I also believe that she realizes that we are her forever family, and is starting to enjoy the love and attention that comes with being a member of our family.

I've done *tons* of reading about cumulative cognitive deficit (CCD) in internationally adopted children and post institutionalization syndrome, etc. Hana, thankfully, doesn't have many features of these diseases. There are a few signs/symptoms of RAD (reactive attachment disorder), but these issues are nearly completely resolved. For instance, a few months ago...when I would 'disappear' into a closet/bedroom/bathroom/where ever, Hana would continue to play and never miss me. Now, she'll stop playing after awhile (maybe 20 minutes, which is still way long) and start walking around the house looking for me. She's even gotten to the point of calling out for me (although very softly).

Other examples: at night, she used to prefer to sleep alone, in the dark, quiet room. Then, as mentioned, she began to enjoy TV at night, and preferred 'background noise.' Later she would cry when you put her into her own room alone, and when left to her own...she'd always go into Haley's room. We gradually started insisting that she sleep with us (which is not normal to 'beg' a kid to sleep in the big bed with Mommy/Daddy). She was obviously uncomfortable in our bed/room...and would twitch and hold her shoulders up high, never quite relaxing. But as of about 4 months ago, she prefers to go in "mommy and daddy's room." She plays around in the bed, and loves to sing, and overall just seems relaxed.

I've been doing a lot of reading about adoption, issues, complications, in light of the recent incident whereby the Russian kid was sent back because the adoptive family here in the U.S. felt unsafe and overwhelmed by him. What interests me most, though, is the issues this kid had...and the outflow of comments from adoptive parents testifying similar disillusionment. What can be done to help prepare these families...and what can be done to help these children once here? Even with ECI...when Hana didn't qualify, I had to basically present all the the research/findings that indicate that she, indeed, was behind in development...and waiting to intervene would likely prove a huge mistake.

I think that, for these children, the experience of lost is profound. By the time they reach our arms, they have been cared for by no less than 4 people...and very likely more. They don't attach/bond...and if they do, it comes with great pain when they are separated (again) from their new care-givers. So, instead of experiencing that hurt...their coping mechanism is to disconnect. No connection, no pain. What they don't realize is...the disconnection causes pain, many adverse life issues and situations, and ultimately is not a solution that yields a positive outcome. And, because they are children, they can't simply be 'talked into' believing anything other than what they feel/experienced.

Maybe there is something that would 'motivate' these kids to seek attachment...because they realize that 'disconnection' is proving detrimental. That the (even immediate pain) of not being connected supercedes the potential long-term (emotional/loss) pain if the relationship with the new parents end. To use that innate coping mechanism to encourage bonding/attachment/obedience/acceptance...by making it so undesirable to do the contrary. That in the end, the natural inclination should be to just reach out rather than push away.

That's what we're trying to do with Hana. To prove to her that not only "are we there for her," but that her allowing us to be there is actually LESS painful (even with the subconscious fear of us leaving/abandoning her) than pushing us away. The fear of us NOT being there/connected is the 'real' fear (this is the fear that is normally felt by birth children. Birth kids are not sitting around in their subconscious minds fearful that their parents will abandon them...rather, they fear absent parents who are disconnected. "Mommy, look at me!! Mommy notice me!! Mommy, LOVE me!! Mommy, *connect*") And really, this is true. The likelihood that we won't connect/bond with her is much higher than us abandoning her. And in our disconnected state...she will suffer immensely - emotionally, psychologically, developmentally - because 'connection' is normal and necessary for development. See, the short term fear/threat of abandonment supersedes the *real* danger associated with non-attachment in a child's mind....unless we are able to do something to help them realize the contrary.

How this is done...I don't know. But...I think it starts avoiding over-romanticizing the idea that "love will conquer all." I think it means discipline, and insisting that the child engage/interact with you, sleep with you, eat with you, and cooperate with you. I believe in showing kids unpleasant (and sometimes painful) consequences of adverse behavior...(in addition to rewards for pleasant behavior). Sometimes parents allow the 'kids to lead the way.' But in this case (especially) it is up to the parents to show the kids the way...because the child's own subconscious will lead them astray...and onto a trajectory yielding a very difficult life (psychologically/emotionally). If we as parents can somehow force that child onto a trajectory which allows 'normal' human interaction...I think there would be less issues.

I think Hana is on the 'happiness' trajectory now. That bonding and attachment is worth the risk of loss. That the consequences of not connecting are more pressing now than the *potential* loss that may be felt if she were abandoned. I think...and hope...because if she were able to see the situation like this, it would serve her well.

After reading tons of blogs/article/comments, I realize that complete attachment and 'connectedness' happens slowly...and takes upwards of year, and likely about 2. Which seems weird, since connection is much, much faster with bio kids. BUT, with bio kids (aside from the fact that parents begin bonding with the baby for almost a year before they even make their debut...they don't typically come with this subconscious abandonment issue to overcome (as adopted kids didn't 'come' with them initially either, but rather developed them after being 'passed around' early in life). Second only to the initial health issues we dealt with...this was the biggest issue. And, I think the bulk of that work is done.

Hana is smiley, engaging, is talking more, demanding more, makes good eye contact, seems happy to see us after an absence, sleeps well, eats well, is medically healthy, follows directions. She is still overly sensitive (which may, or may not be related to her adoption status, or just her temperament). She aims to please. She mimics well. Socially she is above average. Motor development is above average. Cognitively, she is doing better now that she seems to be more willing to fully engage (emotionally, psychologically, physically) in this life...despite her (prior) underlying issues likely stemming from lack of attachment and possibly abandonment.

Our family is very happy with Hana. It has been quite a journey...

Certificate of Citizenship Ceremony!!

Today was a great day. Honestly, when I received the letter from the USCIS regarding the Certificate of Citizenship stating that we have to "appear" to actually gain possession of the Certificate...I was a tiny bit annoyed. "Why can't they just mail the thing already?"

But...I am SO happy they make a big to-do about it. I had no idea it would be a full-on ceremony, with an oath, a President's message, video, music, pledge of allegiance, and the whole deal. In a room with about 50 other children...called the N600 ceremony because it was all N600 children there. Ages less than 1 to about age 20.

With this certificate....we are finally DONE. No more *official* social-worker (paid) post-placement reports. We have the Passport, SS#, and now the CoC.

Of note: At this ceremony, they take the permanent resident card away. If you happen to not have it with you (lost/stolen/forgot/whatever) you have to sign this paper *promising* to mail it to them when it is 'found/discovered/whatever'.

Very happy we did it. Very happy they make us go down there. Very happy everything is finally all complete!!

1 Year Post Placement

12/8/2009 - Hana is doing very well. She is about 26 pounds, 32 inches, wearing 2T clothing. She has a full set of teeth. She follows instructions well, and therefore understands English very well. She enjoys many of the common foods we eat, such as Cream of Wheat, granola-type bars, chicken, potatos...but her favorite so far is corn.

We've moved to Texas, and she had her first appointment with her new pediatrician in October. Pediatrician was impressed with her health and development considering the circumstances. Overall she's very healthy. She gets URIs/colds, not too frequently (maybe she's had 3), but when she does her nose will run and she'll cough for a month!

I'd like to see her weight a tiny bit more, so we continued the Boost/Ensure up until late November. We decided to stop the supplementation because she'd feel so satisfied, she'd frequently refuse to eat at mealtimes. Since the point is to *add to* the meals (and not replace them), we cut back on the Boost. She started eating more at mealtimes...so we cut back more. It's important for her to develop good eating habits, and now that she's old enough to participate in the family mealtime, I think it's best that we allow her to develop an appetite. Now, she gets no supplementation...and she seems to have lost no weight.

Hana started preschool this fall. She's doing SO well. Her speech (as I pointed out earlier) seemed to be lagging behind. And although the ECI folks didn't think it was significant enough to warrent therapy, I'd like to see her use more words, and string two or three together in simple statements by now. So I was going to have her reevaluated in January...but now that's she's in preschool, she's doing much better. So, we'll see what her speech is like in January and decide then if she needs a reevaluation (or just private therapy via health insurance, etc).

She's done lots of fun things this year. Disneyland, travel, museums, circus, parks, water parks, birthday parties. She got Christianed, started school. She seems to still be bonding well with us. Her and Ian attend the same preschool, so they are 'friends' now (after a somewhat rocky start). Haley and Hana get along great. BUT Hana is now starting to "express herself" with screams/yells, gestures...and a few words. So when she not happy, she now can show/tell you all about it.

We're still working on counting, the ABC song, colors/shapes, body parts, and basic words. She doesn't like to 'perform' so when asked to do something...she gets all pouty-faced and would refuse to do it (that is if she thought that would get her out of performing...but it doesn't...so she does).

Emotionally she seems to be doing well. Initially, and up until as recently as last month, she seemed very uncomfortable in Mommy and Daddy's bed, not too comfortable being held cradled like a baby. She'd prefer to go to bed alone...in the dark...with the door closed. We started leaving a video in the DVD player playing on a TV in her room at bedtime - and she'd fall asleep to that. Then, we started making a big deal of the bottle at bedtime (i.e. making her ask for it, occasionally NOT giving it to her). That takes away a bit of 'distraction' and comfort...which forced her to seek comfort elsewhere.

That's where the TV and the family came into play. We'd leave the door open with the TV on...and instead of going inside of her own mind, in the dark...or sucking on a bottle as comfort...she started singing with Elmo...or standing up in the crib looking out the door. Trying to connect. Doing things, and interacting in the world outside of her own mind.

Eventually she got to the point where she didn't want to go to bed when she was not sleepy. (vs. before, she'd go to bed *anytime* and sleep 16+ hours/day if undisturbed!!). She asks for the TV. She protests the door being closed, and the room being dark. This makes us happy because...this is normal.

So, after a year of being home...and gradual titration down of the bottle/supplementation, medications...and increasing interaction (bringing her into our bedroom, and rubbing/holding/talking to her until she literally just passes out from exhaustion) has yielded a little girl that seems more at ease with affection, being in the midst of family/people, and a preference for being awake and interactive than alone in the dark. She's not quite so "awkward" in these intimate situations with family...and this is good.

I think everyone sees Hana as a true part of this family. Even Hana. However, there are times Hubby and I wonder if she's still 'unsure' or 'uncomfortable' here because of a facial expression she'll make, or a certain "awkwardness" she may display. A 'discomfort'...kinda like someone who realized they wore jeans to a black-tie affair. Nervous smile, wringing hands, darting eyes. And with discipline, being told "no," or the taking away of something she shouldn't have and trying to replace it with another object...causes her to really get upset. Immediate and loud yelling, big instant tears, and big pouty mouth with the whole poked out lip and all. This response can be illicited even with a very low whisper and a disapproving tone. Evenso, she's still very agreeable, correctable, and doesn't hold a grudge.

I realize that our emotional development may be just a bit behind (as a family) because she was so sick when she arrived. Keeping her at arms length, emotionally. The "distraction" of TB and the anti-TB meds. The focus on what she's NOT doing or able to yet do. The focus on her weight (currently she is weighs in at 24 pounds and is 32 inches)...and the attention/energy spent on just making sure she's healthy, and has the things she'll need just to survive...muchless actually thrive. Us learning about her (then learning how to subsequently deal with her)...and her us. Our expectations, our boundaries, etc. Understandably all of this "business" gets in the way of "pleausre" of bonding and fully emotionally investing/integrating in/with her, and her with us. But this is slowly (actually more slowly than I thought with a small infant...since she's actually been with us here longer than any other place in her life) resolving. But, like I said, I attribute the delay to her illnesses, and the distraction an illness serves to development in other ways.

We've received her new social security card. Passport application, and Certificate of Citizenship applications have been submitted. Her post-placement 1 year SW report is upcoming next week. And with these things...her 'legal' transition is totally complete.

Health issues resolved - check
Legal issues resolved - check
Developing issues resolved - almost
Emotional issues resolved for the baby - possibly/almost
Emotional issues resolved for the family - almost


The Passport has been obtained. Social security card obtained. And today (3/4/10) the Certificate of Citizenship has been obtained.

Hana seems to be doing MUCH better with adjustment, in that she is asking for more kisses...and talking more. Not quite as 'uncomfortable' speaking up for herself, sleeping in the big bed, etc.

ECI came for a f/u visit, and determined that they should keep an eye on her because she didn't have more than 20 words (and by 2, she should have 50+). But, as of last week or so, she actually has begun putting short phrases together...which actually "catches her up" to where she's supposed to be. She knows her shapes, body parts, and follows commands well. So...I bet in a month or two, ECI will decide she's doing well afterall. Actually, they wanted to 'give her more time' (this time), but *I* persisted and 'advocated' that they don't wait another few months, but rather just start working with her now....

Anyhoo...everything is complete now. All paperwork. So...I will not be updating this page much anymore as I will integrate her story into our collective story (so check out the family site). Additionally, I will use our collective story now to compile the kids individual books.

Hope you enjoyed Hana's adoption story!! But now...it's a *family story*.