Lisa came to motherhood later in life. In the midst of a relationship, it became clear to her that there was “absolutely something missing from [her] life,” however her partner had already raised his own children, and had moved on to another chapter of life. Lisa knew that having a child biologically would be a challenge, and turned to adoption. Her partner at the time knew that Lisa would be much happier being a mother, so with his help, Lisa came to EVOLVE (then HOPE) and met with social worker Susannah Barnes.
At first, Susannah and Lisa looked into fostering to adopt. After some reflection, Lisa felt as though this was not an option for her. “Waiting years and years wasn’t something I was prepared to do,” she said. So, they began to look at International Adoption. For Lisa, it was important to adopt a child that shared her Black Heritage. “At the time, I think the only two countries HOPE was working with of African descent were Haiti and Ethiopia,” shared Lisa. Haiti had been on Lisa’s radar, however within just a few weeks of meeting with Susannah, a devastating earthquake shook Haiti, taking it off the table as an option. So, Lisa turned to Ethiopia.
To Lisa, Ethiopia felt right. “The first time I saw Ethiopians, I just said ‘those are my people,’” she continued, “I just had a connection.” Her decision to adopt from Ethiopia meant that Lisa would have to find a referral agency. While HOPE could do the home study, she would need to find a second agency that worked directly with Ethiopia.
Finding an agency that would work with Lisa proved to be a challenge, but her search yielded Children’s House International outside of Seattle, Washington. After she connected with CHI, she was able to begin her home study and application process. One of the things she remembers most was getting a flow chart on how to complete her Dossier. “I looked at it and thought, ‘I am never ever going to get through all of these steps,’” she laughed, remembering that the document even said “The paper chase begins!” It took a year for Lisa to complete the application, but “Susannah was wonderful; she held my hand through the whole thing.”
“The whole process from when I completed the application to when my son’s feet stepped down with me off the plane was two years, four months, and four days.” However, Lisa shared that those two years were challenging for her mentally and financially. “After all this waiting, I was told that CHI was raising their fees, and I had no choice but to pay it- I had been waiting so long.” Feeling very discouraged, Lisa began to draft a letter detailing her anger with the process. “It just felt like I was waiting forever, I was never going to become a mom.”
As if someone knew of Lisa’s discouragement, Lisa got a call the very next day. “Happy Mother’s Day,” said Alicia, Lisa’s contact from her referring agency. Lisa could barely keep her composure as she learned about her son, a 7-month-old from Ethiopia with a summer birthday- a detail that would eventually give Leo his name. “I about fell to the floor,” shared Lisa, looking at her son’s pictures for the first time, “He exudes Leo.”
In July, Lisa traveled to Ethiopia for the first time to meet her son. After landing, she felt as though she arrived home. Although American, Ethiopians greeted her as one of their own, speaking Amharic. She fit in so well that even the driver that was supposed to pick her up did not recognize her as an American. Not knowing the language and without a ride, Lisa had to find someone in the Airport that could help her. Finding someone who spoke English, they called the driver and explained that she was American, but looked Ethiopian. It wasn’t until she skyped with her sister after her arrival that this all made sense. “Welcome home,” she said. Lisa’s sister shared with her that a DNA test explained why Lisa felt so at home. The DNA Analysis revealed some Ethiopian DNA in Lisa’s ancestry, which explained her appearance and her draw toward Ethiopia.
Her time in Ethiopia, although short, was life changing. Allowed to meet her son for two hours, she brought a letter that had been translated into Amharic to read to her son and a photo album of his family. “When I first met Leo, he had this look of discernment like ‘okay, I think this will work,’” Lisa laughed. In court the next day, Lisa officially adopted Leo. “The first thing the judge asked me was if I had met Leo, and then asked if I liked him, and I said, ‘I love him.’ The judge ended with ‘He is yours.’”
Visiting Leo once more, Lisa put Leo in his crib and laid her hand on his chest. Leo quickly opened his eyes and stared at her, “it was as if he was taking a snapshot of this moment.” In October of 2013, Leo finally came home.