We have officially decided which agency we are going to use. Using this agency means that we will probably have to wait a little longer to get kids home (because their waiting list is longer) and it will mean that we will probably have to spend a little more money to get them home as well. So, why did we decide to go with Adoption Advocates International? There are several reasons why we decided this agency was the best fit for us. First of all - they have been working in Ethiopia for almost a decade and they have a very good reputation. They have brought hundreds of children home to loving families in the United States and we have the utmost confidence that they will do the same for us.
AAI runs two orphanages in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Layla House for the older kids and Wanna House for the younger kids). In these orphanages they provide healthcare, education, and lots of love for the children while they wait for new families. They explain to the kids that a new family is waiting for them and they do their very best to prepare the kids for the tremendous transition they are about to experience. I cannot imagine how sad and scared and shy some of these kids must be, but the caregivers at the orphanages are experienced in helping the kids get through it all and be happy, healthy kids. We decided that this treatment of orphans in Ethiopia was something that we wanted support.
Another factor that went into our decision-making was the attitude that AAI has toward HIV-positive children. AAI works with an organization called AHOPE which runs an orphanage in Addis Ababa specifically for HIV-positive children. AHOPE also receives funding through World Wide Orphans which provides the anti-retroviral drugs needed to keep these children healthy. Before this funding was provided and drugs were made available, AHOPE was essentially an orphanage that provided respite care to kids who were dying of AIDS. However, since these drugs have been made available, this has changed dramatically. In 2006, they did not lose any children to AIDS. These kids now have the ability to dream about what they want to be when they grow up, because they now have hope that they WILL grow up. THAT is pretty amazing...and that is something we want to support.
AAI also believes that it is important to keep siblings together during the adoption process, even if one or more of the children is HIV-positive. Many other agencies working in Ethiopia separate the children who are HIV-positive and these children are not eligible to be adopted. Does being HIV-positive mean that you are less deserving of having a loving family? Of course not...and AAI is working with families who are willing to adopt children who are HIV-positive. Very few agencies will do this. Does this mean that Z and I are wanting to adopt a child who is HIV-positive? Maybe...maybe not. We are not sure...we are doing lots of research about this and we are working to find out what other families who have opened their lives to HIV-positive children have to say. We are keeping our options open and we are learning as much as we can about it so that we can make an informed decision. Maybe it is right for us. Maybe it isn't. But we will consider it and we will not make this decision lightly. We will only make this decision after serious consideration and research. We know that this is something that is "unusual" for many people. And we know that it is something that many people would not even consider. We also know that it is not something for everyone. And it may not be for us. Regardless of our final decision, we want to encourage others to consider these children and to support them in any way they can. Whether it be through adoption, financial assistance, or through prayer. These kids have already suffered through more than any child should have to. They have already had to watch their parents die of AIDS....they may have lost brothers and sisters to the disease...people with HIV in Ethiopia are often shunned and pushed to the edges of society...so they may have been shunned by other living family members after their parents died. No kid should have to deal with these things. Because they are HIV-positive, should they have to suffer through living their lives in an orphanage, knowing they don't have anyone who is truly "family"? What happens to them if they grow up in the orphanage and have to leave because they've gotten too old to stay in the orphanage? Will they be able to continue taking the medications that keep them healthy? Or will they leave the orphanage and have to give up their meds, knowing this is a death sentence? In the United States HIV is considered a chronic condition - it is no longer a death sentence. It is manageable through medications, much like type I diabetes. Kids who are HIV positive can have a normal lifespan. They can grow up, live a normal happy, healthy lifestyle. They can go to college...they can get jobs in the real world...they can get married...they can have their own children if they choose to...they can be NORMAL. They just have to take their medicine. We'll write more on this later...
So, even though AAI might be slightly more expensive than the other agency we were considering...and even though we might have to wait slightly longer to find our kids and get them home, we feel that by working with Adoption Advocates International we will be making an investment in Ethiopia. And this is something that is very important to us. Adoption Advocates International it is! So, now that Christmas is over, we are going to fill out the application in the next couple of days and get it sent off. Hopefully before the first of the year (if not before, then it will be shortly after). We're getting closer!