Now that we have our heads on straight again and are home and settled into our routine I thought I may start to share a bit about what has been going on over here. I think now that Josiah is home I can be a bit more open about everything and why it took so long getting him home. It has taken me a while to recover from the battle of bringing him home, and I haven't been in a place of being ready to blog. When I am overwhelmed I tend to go in shut-down mode and turn everything off for a while. The last months of trying to get our guy home was so intense and overwhelmingly stressful. The US Embassy sent our son's case to USCIS for further review. When I emailed the US Embassy and asked them exactly what was missing from our son's file, they gave me a very vague answer and told me that they were not satisfied with the police officer's phone interview. That is all they said, nothing more or nothing less, even when I bolded my question asking them the specifics. At this point we were sent all of our son's documents by our agency and went over them with a fine tooth comb. There wasn't a thing in his files that would make anyone raise an eyebrow of suspicion. He was abandoned with FOUR WITNESS MATCHING TESTIMONIES AND A MATCHING POLICE TESTIMONY. Ads had been hung in his village more than once for long periods of time to see if anyone in my son's village knew anything about him, and no one ever stepped forward. Once our son's case reached USCIS we were VERY confindent that they would clear his case because they told us they only needed 51% proof that our son was indeed an orphan. Waiting the 2 weeks for them to process the 65 original cases that were sent to them was agonizing. Sleep was lost EVERY night as we stalked our email for an answer. I felt half-crazy during this time. We waited and waited and waited until we knew that the team had left and were finished, and we were the ONLY ones out of all the families that didn't have an answer. I had to call someone with USCIS and tell them we hadn't received an email, and was concerned that our email was incorrect in their system (FOR THE 4TH TIME..seriously....no lie 4 times between the embassy and USCIS). Of course it was still wrong in their system and the highly important information regarding our son's fate was sent to the wrong email address AGAIN! Around 6:00 pm that night we received the notice that they were again denying our son's visa and had an "RFE"( Request Further Evidence) notice attached to the email. As I stated earlier, we had gone over our son's documents with a fine-tooth comb as did our agency, and we were all dumbfounded to receive the RFE. When we opened it and read what it stated we could not believe our eyes. My immediate thought was to call USCIS and explain to them this horrible error and they would reverse the RFE (yeah right!) I did just that in a panic and was basically told it would be best to hire an attoreny to process our RFE. I was in denial of this because I kept thinking that our son's case was an easy fix, and it was absurd to have to hire an attorney for such a dumb mistake on the US Embassy's part. I was wrong, and we were trapped. No one would listen at this point until we jumped through all the hoops in getting this RFE response turned in. We had never felt so helpless than we did at this point.
The very absurd reason for us receiving our RFE was because our son had a last name listed on his orphanage paperwork. In Ethiopia a child is given the last name of the birthfather's first name, UNLESS THEY ARE FOUND ABANDONED, and then, in many cases, they are given the last name of the village/city they are found in, which was what happened in my son's case. The woman who found him was the one who named him and gave him a last name of the village he was found in. ANYONE working in this culture should know that this is customary and very common for them to do this in abandonment cases, but those working at the US embassy in Addis Ababa did not. In their incompetency, they stated that since our son had a last name that there must be a birth father out there searching for his son and our agency must have been keeping this information from us. We were to do an ivestigation to find this man and see if he wanted his son. WHAT???? Are my eyes deceiving me? Is this really what we received our RFE for? That's not all folks, it gets even more ridiculous! It also stated that the police interview (as mentioned above) conducted by the US embassy did not match the 4 witness's testimonies. When our agency started to dig into our investigation for the RFE response, they discovered that the policeman that was interviewed by the US Embassy was not from our son's village. NOBODY had heard of him. Upon further investigation they discovered this police officer wasn't even in our son's jurisdiction. To this day, we don't know if the US Embassy mixed our son's files up with another child's files or even if this police interview actually took place and this man actually exists.
So all said and done, our son is home. We incurred $4200.00 in unncessary attorney fees to prove our son's case against the dumb errors on the part of our own government, whom we pay our tax dollars to. So basically we paid them to put us through this hell. This should have never happened. Our son should have been home in September 2011 but because of having been put through this ridiculous and unnecessary mess we brought him home in January 2012. We lost precious time with him and these months of conducting these additional investigations to prove our son's case were agonizing! It was a daily fight just to survive our days. We had no extra energy for anything other than taking care of our girls and making it through our day. I don't think one day went by in the months of October, November and December that I wasn't in tears. It was taking a toll on our family. It was exhausting emotionally and physically, and spiritually we felt worn out. I wrestled with God MANY days on why we were having to go through this. I knew for some reason He allowed us to walk through this, and I honestly was angry at Him for allowing it. I personally was in a very low, dark place and my sweet husband was doing his best to be supportive and strong for us, and deal in his own way and balance work on top of that. I am so thankful for my sweet Aaron who is strong in the Lord...so thankful! Having Josiah home has lifted that heaviness and burden. The first Monday having him home, I drove Alyssa to school. After dropping her off it was just me and God in the car, and the realization of that burden being gone hit me. I broke down and bawled like a baby. It was the loudest, hardest cry I think I have EVER cried and I just felt a releasing of all the built up stress I had carried for so long. I cried to the Lord and asked Him to forgive me for being angry with him, and not walking through the last leg of our adoption with more grace or faith. I felt the Lord hugging me and melting away all the pain and guilt of anger. It was freedom, and it felt so good. Since then my girls have felt that freedom and have said over and over "I am so glad Josiah is finally home." Alyssa said it was great that I wasn't crying everyday. I think for the past 2 weeks daily I have been told by one or both how glad they are to have their brother home. He has brought a new joy to our home. Everything just feels right again, and it is amazing how normal everything feels with him being here already. We were beyond ready to have him home and the Lord had prepared out hearts and his. It's been sweet.
Now I haven't shared all this about our troubles with the Embassy out of bitterness or anger, although, I was in that place for a while, I shared this to tell people the truth, and what WE PERSONALLY expereiced. There are a lot of rumors going around about all the corruption within adoption agencies associated with Ethiopian adoptions. I want to state my opinion and say don't always believe what you hear. Corruption is a strong word, and I don't believe for one minute that is true to the grand extent at which the US embassy is claiming. I believe there is a bigger politcal HAGUE agenda, and if they don't get what they want, they are going to try and shut the country down or suspend it to force this agenda. I believe this is why we are seeing so much junk going on within our own government right now in regards to Ethiopian adoptions. Let's face the reality that in any international adoption, it is going to be complicated. There are cultural differences to work through, language and translation issues, and 2 different governments working together. One government does things totally different than the other. In conducting our own investigations in our son's case, even with as simple and clear cut of a case our son had, the reality of these cultural and language barriers, not to mention, technological mishaps was enough to make me want to pull my hair out daily. If it wasn't a translation error or not specific enough communication, it was fax machines not working or phone lines being down. What was a simple request in my mind, was a big ordeal to get in Ethiopia, because of all mentioned above. It is very difficult to get the story straight. I believe this needs work. We do need our children's stories straight absolutely. Moreover, I don't believe this is corruption. Corruption in my mind would be a family or agency from the US directly offering an Ethiopian family money in exchange for their child. There has been talk of this, but I have seen no proof, just talk. To me this seems like an absurd theory given that UNICEF themselves claimed there to be 5 million orphans in Ethiopia in 2010. Why would anyone need to offer families money directly for their child when orphangages in Ethiopia are overflowing with children who need families, and so many children without familes are living on the streets to fend for themselves? And why does our government have to keep talking down on the Ethiopian government. A friend put it best when she stated " Instead of bad mouthing Ethiopia, UNICEF and the U.S. should be applauding the Ethiopian government for wishing a better life for their most marginalized citizens."
Another friend of mine also made a great point about all the "trafficking" going on in saying if agencies were doing this, how would they benefit? Think of it...here let me give you all this money for your child so I can in turn care for them, feed, and clothe them for the next 1-2 years with the little to no resources we have available to do so with. That rumor just doesn't logically make sense to me at all. If you look at past countries who have shut down there is always the same pattern. The state department will cry "fraud" and all these stories of corruption will surface. Then comes all the ruckus of cases being given RFE's, and lots of unnecsary heartache for families and children. There will be enormous amounts of cases under review to prove they are digging to prove all this corruption that doesn't exist for the most part. In the end, the reality of all this is that 99% of cases ARE proven to be orphans and they all evetually do come home. Oh sure, I am not saying there isn't some corruption. There is corruption everywhere in every system. I am just saying I do not believe it to the extent they are claiming. I find it ridiculous. In the meantime, because of all the ruckus, people start to believe that there must be all this fraud and the coutry's adoptions are all corrupt and unethical. They jump on that bandwagon and essentially have a hand at helping to shut the country down to US adoptions. Now these are all my own opinions from our adoption expereice, but I personally believe that if Ethiopia were HAGUE accredited this would not be happening. The HAGUE agreement was initially instituted to help stop child trafficking. Child trafficking indeed does take place all over the world, even in the U.S., but it is very little associated with international adoptions. The state department and UNICEF should focus their money and energy on prostitution rings in Mexico, Cambodia, or India where human/child trafficking is rampid. And again I think they are claiming all these false cries of fraud and corruption to convince the congressional panel that the HAGUE agreement is needed in Ethiopia, and suspending or shutting the country down will force the Ethiopian government to join the HAGUE agreement, which they neither want nor can afford. I think our testimonies of the hell we had to endure on behalf of the US Embassy needs to be told to the congressional panel as well. I whole-heartedly believe we endured what we did with this RFE because we were in the process of our adoption at the wrong time... a time where beaurocracy got in the way and our own government decided to pick a few to try and prove a point and force an agenda. Sad but true.
I believe the only way Ethiopia will stay open to US adoptions is to convince our lawmakers that HAGUE should be thrown out. It may have started out as a good thing in the beginning with good intentions, but has only proven to cause heartache to American families adopting and the adoptive children. I hope no other family has to endure the heartaches and financial burden our family has faced at the hand of the state dept's political agenda. I am writing all this now, not out of bitterness, but in hopes that eyes will be opened to the reality of what is really going on and people will write their lawmakers and try and convince them HAGUE should be thrown out. Also I would like to state that I love my country and am so blessed to be an American citizen. I just think it is unfortunate that our family had to suffer at the hands of a certain branch of our government, with no apologies at all. Please be fighting in prayer for this precious country and the millions of orphans that all deserve a chance at being adopted. I believe through prayer political agendas don't stand a chance against God's agenda to set the lonely in families. I also believe we need to do more than just pray. FAITH TAKES ACTION!!!!! Please take action with us and the other families and write to your lawmakers about how the HAGUE Agreement needs to be thrown out.
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