by Joy Casey, written while in Ethiopia

When I travel to Ethiopia, we ask adoptive moms to send letters and pictures for me to give to their child’s birth family. Having walked through a relinquished adoption with these dear ladies and then seeing them year after year, I look forward to sharing pictures of their child and catching up. Tears are inevitably shed, pictures are kissed and the aunts and mothers, especially this time, have much they want to say about their feelings and their gratitude to the adoptive family. Two of them wrote letters back to their niece and child.

One mother had her boy visit her this past summer. He had just graduated from high school and now is in his first year of college, so the book his U.S. mom sent was full of high-quality graduation pictures of he and his sister (also adopted from the same orphanage).

One of the adopted children has significant special needs. Both her birth mother and aunt met with me and relished seeing pictures of their little girl, now 12-years-old.  Repeatedly, they wanted me to thank the family that adopted her because they know the challenges of dealing with her disabilities. I assured them over and over that it was the family’s joy to have “D” in their family and to provide her with all the supports she needs.

I feel strongly that birth families need to be reassured that their precious children are happy and doing well in their adopted families and be able to follow their development over the years. We have been able to provide that connection for many of our birth families and it is our joy to do so. On the other hand, there are some birth mothers and fathers in Gimbie, Nekemte and Dembidollo that I have not communicated with in years, and it burdens my heart. That part of Ethiopia has been in turmoil for a while, and it simply has been too dangerous to travel to that area. And now, with civil war and ethnic tensions at an all-time high, I do not see a way in the foreseeable future, either.

The adoptive families who take the time to put together pictures and write a letter have my deep appreciation! Hearing the women today express their dreams for their child and be able to ask questions and even write a letter back reinforced once again how important it is to stay in touch.