Tag Archives: adoption stories

Faith in the Darkness: Disrupted Adoption

My friend Addie Zierman asked her readers to share their stories of faith in the darkness to mark the release of her new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark. I highly recommend her book and have already shared about it, but I wanted to take up her challenge and write my own story.

This is not an easy story to share, as you’ll see. There’s more I could confess. There are other, different, arguably more important perspectives. But this is my perspective and the only one I can share. I ask your grace and mercy in sharing this, not for me alone, but for everyone who had a part in this season.


The darkest season in my life started with a nine hour stay at the emergency room. That night—well, early morning I guess—we came home without our daughter. We would see her again, but she never came back to our house.

This is the story of a disrupted adoption.

That’s safe, clinical language for an adoption that falls through. You welcome a child into your home, make her a part of your family and do everything you can to convince her that this is a permanent and lasting home.

And then you kick her out.

It’s the antithesis of everything adoption is supposed to be.

And it’s what my family went through in 2011.

I remember driving home from the hospital and passing a wrecked car abandoned in the street. There were no police. No flashing lights. No people standing around. Just a mangled car. Broken glass littered the street, catching our headlights and throwing pinpricks of glare into the early morning dark.

It looked like someone crashed into a parked car and then drove off.

That hit-and-run felt like too apt a metaphor for what had just happened to us. There was no one at the site of that accident—no one to blame, no one to accuse, no one to give answers or directions. Just a ruined car and a lot of questions. Continue reading Faith in the Darkness: Disrupted Adoption

Adoption Failure

I’ve written about a number of adoption stories lately, many of them happy, heart-warming tales. But not every adoption story is so good. Adoption inherently involves some form of brokenness, so no matter what there’s already some heartache involved. But in some cases even that measure of hope that comes to a broken story is lost.

These stories suck. But I want to be honest that they happen. That’s pretty obvious after that whole putting a kid on a plane to Russia debacle, but sometimes we need less sensational and more real stories. I don’t want to imply that these cases are completely devoid of hope—I’m kind of an annoying idealist that way and believe hope can eventually come to the darkest situation. But in the midst of that darkness it can be pretty impossible to see the hope. I can only pray it’s there.

In Addition by Adoption I mentioned a family of six that had moved to Uganda to finalize their adoption. It was an incredible story. Unfortunately late last year the family moved back to the United States without their new addition. At the time they weren’t sharing any details, but earlier this month they broke their silence. The dad shared the details and his perspective here and the mom later added her perspective here.

The story, in a nutshell, is that they discovered the 5-year-old boy they were trying to adopt had been abusing their toddler-aged daughter. A history and pattern of abuse emerged, something that’s sadly not uncommon for institutionalized children. They had to make the painful decision to relinquish the child and ultimately chose to return to the United States.

Continue reading Adoption Failure

Adoption Isn’t So Lucky

Sometimes as the parent of an adopted child you get a lot of comments that are spoken innocently but come from a place of ignorance. Education is part of our job, but sometimes it gets a little frustrating.

This mother reached that point of frustration over people expressing how lucky her son must be.

“What a lucky little boy.”…

Lucky? Lucky. Lucky to have been born on a continent terrorized by war, corruption and greed? Lucky to have been born in a country where 25,000 women and girls die each year due to pregnancy-related complications? Lucky to have been born in a country where more than half the population has ZERO access to basic medical care? Lucky to have been born in a region reliant upon rainfall and devastated by drought?
And on it goes.
The rescue and lucky mentality people have with orphans so easily overlooks the very real pain and trauma inherent in it all. It engenders a need for gratefulness and payback among the children that’s just unhealthy. It turns a blind eye to the reality of their situation and turns adoptive parents into superheros that we’re definitely not.
It reminds me of another recent comment from an adoptive parent: “Are you kidding? I’m the lucky one.”

More Adoption Stories

I came across this exchange between a mother and her son on another blog from an Ethiopian adoptive parent:

“Mama, what time of day was Philip born?”

I answered, “I don’t know honey.”

He replied, “You don’t know?” He looked slightly befuddled as he said, “How can you not remember?”

I am sure I looked slightly befuddled as I said, “I wasn’t there…”

A light dawned in his eyes and he said, “Ohhh… yeah. He was born in Ethiopia.”

A gentle reminder that the how of a family isn’t always so important.

Kids Traveling Back to Ethiopia

Reading adoption blogs is always interesting because you usually have piece together the story. The format of a blog doesn’t give you someone’s life story right away and unless they have a handy about page that lays it out for you, you generally have to read a ton of blog posts to piece their life together. Even then it can still be difficult. It’s kind of a challenge. A creepy, stalker-like challenge.

Anyway, I’ve been reading some blogs from fellow Ethiopian adoptive parents and it’s been interesting trying to piece the stories together. One especially interesting story comes from the Knutzen family in Washington. They have five children, two older children who have graduated high school and three children adopted from Ethiopia who seem to be around 14 years old.

Earlier this year half of the family traveled back to Ethiopia to be in a wedding and connect with birth family. The father, oldest daughter and two of the adopted children went on the trip.

The girl, Meron, was a junior bridesmaid in the wedding of a family who had cared for her for the first five years of her life (like I said, sometimes the story is hard to figure out). From the pictures it looks like an incredible moment to be a part of.

The boy, Joseph Abel, was able to meet his birth family and hear about his birth parents (“Joseph also was impressed to learn his birth father was a professional soccer and volleyball player!”). His grandmother thanked God for Joseph’s visit because she doesn’t think she’ll live much longer. Joseph was also able to get a photo album of some of his baby pictures and was able to determine his actual birthday from a banner in one of the photos. I can’t imagine what a treasure that would be.

They also visited the care center where they had lived and heard local history about donkeys.

I don’t know this family at all, but it’s cool to read about their story and the opportunity for these kids to travel back to their homeland. These children were adopted when they were older and have a greater connection to Ethiopia with families, memories and even language, but traveling back to Ethiopia is something we’ve always wanted to do with Milo. I hope someday when he’s old enough and prepared for it we can do that. Maybe even more than once.

Run Fast for Ethiopia

Another cool adoption story involves a boy adopted from Ethiopia who wanted to raise money for his homeland (there’s no public blogpost on this one, so I’ll leave off the names—though the identity will be obvious to the people who know). He organized a charity run, dubbed “Run Fast for Ethiopia,” and raised at least $170 for the Hossana region in Southern Ethiopia. The money will go to buy cows, chickens and plant a vegetable garden as part of the fundraiser for the Summer Mehaber, an annual picnic celebrating Ethiopian culture here in the Twin Cities.

I didn’t hear about the event until the day after, but I so would have been there.

The boy’s sister also did a fundraiser of her own, hosting a garden tea party for the ladies.

Adoption Rescues Us from Our Own Faults

Tague and Lisa Harding of Minnesota adopted two boys from Uganda a year and a half ago. The family was featured in a CBN story on the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit VI event held in Minneapolis last month.

Lisa expressed a beautiful sentiment about the common misconception of ‘rescue’:

“People have said, ‘Oh, aren’t they lucky, you rescued them from whatever. And I think, Are you kidding? I’m the lucky one. I get to be their mom. And I get to be daily rescued from my selfishness, and my impatience, and things that are just as disease-ridden in my soul.”

That’s an incredible attitude. Some days I think I’m drowning in my impatience.

Apparently this CBN story is drawing more attention because of comments Pat Robertson made after the story. I don’t quite understand why anybody still listens to that guy.

Grandparents Parenting Again

This is another cool Ethiopian adoption story.

Matthew and Amanda Johnson from Minnesota have two children, both adopted from Ethiopia: Samrawit, 7, and Teshome, 5. Amanda traveled to Ethiopia with her parents last year to bring Samrawit home. Amanda’s parents have talked about “finishing well” for a few years now, and had been dreaming about what that could be. They had been empty-nesters for a few years and loved it.

But that all changed.

While in Ethiopia they met two brothers: Berhane, 13, and Tsegaye, 11. And they decided to adopt them. As Amanda writes:

“And so the last few days of the trip involved a lot of soul-searching on the part of my parents.  They knew they couldn’t go into this for the wrong reasons.  “Saving a child” was simply not good enough.  They knew it meant a total life style change, almost starting over.  They knew it would be hard.  These kids have a lot of grief and trauma.  The kind of stuff you cannot just love away.  …  Then, as it goes, they started to get excited, thinking about all the new things they would get to experience with the boys.  They started to see the boys in a different way, looking at each of them for their strengths, their potential.

“They started the paperwork on the plane home.  Last week they finished their home study.  This week they start their dossier.  With any luck the boys should be home before summer.”

Amanda’s dad is in Ethiopia right now to bring these boys home. Amanda’s parents actually had a chance to meet with the boys last year and ask them if they wanted to be adopted. I can’t imagine making a decision that quickly or being able to jump through the appropriate hoops while in the country. That’s some impressive commitment on the part of these parents, the social workers and agency.

I also can’t help but think how incredible this is for the family. Samrawit and Teshone will have two Ethiopian uncles. Berhane and Tsegaye will have a niece and nephew from their country—and Samrawit was at the same care center. Amazing.

It’s definitely not the kind of thing every grandparent could do.

But as Amanda wrote, “I cannot think of a better way to finish.”

$12.12 for Ethiopian Adoption

I’ve been coming across a lot of cool adoption stories lately, especially as I poke around at blogs from other Ethiopian adoptive parents. I’ve been tweeting a few of them, but I think it’s worth sharing them here. Gives a little more room to the story and isn’t quite as ephemeral as Twitter.

Adam and Amber Stutzman from Oregon are waiting to bring home a baby girl from Ethiopia. Right now they’re waiting for a referral and have entered the single digits on the unofficial waiting list. I remember those days—you get pretty jumpy waiting for that phone call.

They’re diligently raising money—more than they originally planned since Ethiopia now requires two trips—and perhaps their best donation just came from a second grader in the form of $12.12:

I went to our kid’s school and one of the little girls that is in the 2nd grade came up and she gave me a pencil box with money in it. She had made bookmarks and had been selling them to family and friends and it was ALL for our baby—to help bring her home!

I love it when kids blow us away with their generosity and heart. That’s pretty cool.