Adopting from Ethiopia

Eliot Angle

I’m Eliot, and I’m an adoptive parent. My wife grew up always wanting to adopt from Africa and I’m a big traveler, so the more I got to know about the process, it became something I was enormously interested in. But if there’s anything that inspired me to do this, it was going to the orphanages in Ethiopia where my daughter was born. It’s incredible; there are just so many children desperate for a family.

I met my daughter Ella Fay when she was six months. We were in Ethiopia for about two weeks, and it was amazing. We were supposed to just go for a week, but we wanted to take an extra week to see some of the country and spend more time with her. It was one of the most remarkable places I’ve ever been. The adoption agency that we went through is somewhat liberal, so they gave you the option of choosing to meet the birth parents or not–and we did! The day that I met Ella Fay’s birth mother, I was really nervous. I was so worried that she would seem to have some sense of regret about her decision, and it was very much the opposite. Her mother was there; they walked down from the mountains from this teeny little village where they lived. They were very well dressed, but had no shoes. My wife and I prepared a long list of how we wanted to take care of this wonderful girl. It was really touching to meet them and see how overwhelmingly thankful they were about this process.

The process of adopting Ella Fay took about a year and a half. At the time, Ethiopia was one of the faster countries to adopt from; one of the reasons that it appealed to us. The biggest challenge of adopting was probably the wait time, and also, certainly, the essays. I often say we wouldn’t have such an over-population problem if parents had to write 30 essays about why they wanted to be a parent. You have to list a lot of reasons about why you want to be a parent, and what makes a good parent, and what you think about the process of adoption and that sort of thing. It was actually quite helpful in a certain way because it really makes a couple decide a lot of these things together and really be on the same page, which is great. We took them very seriously and spent a lot of time thinking about why we were doing this.

The home study process was long, but it was fairly easy. It just involved someone coming into our home a few times to make sure we’d be competent parents and that it’d be a safe environment for the child. And we passed!

Ella Fay has adjusted to her new life very well. She was six and a half months when she came home with us, so she doesn’t really remember anything else, but she’s a very versatile, adaptive girl. She knows she’s adopted; we try to make a point of using that word a lot. We feel that it’s helpful for it to be something that’s just very much a part of our life and her life. We didn’t so much have one discussion, but decided to just make it part of our monthly discourse and we have a lot of books about kids that have been adopted. She’s just five and a half now, so she’s just starting to ask questions about her skin color and the process of adoption—she’s asking about what it means to be black and white—so, we’re talking a lot more now.

I’d say we stand out as a family. I found out in Los Angeles, there’s less notice to our different skin color, but in New York and in some other places there are more quizzical looks. It’s funny, I like to be outside in the sun, but I do it a little more now just because it helps talking with Ella Fay about the differences in our skin color. I can tell her, “uh, well, you’re dark brown, and I’m light brown, and momma is pink. People aren’t really white or black.” I’m enjoying starting to talk about those things with her.

Raising an adopted child does come with its certain set of challenges, but they’re so rewarding; they more than make up for any frustration you might have had with the process. My daughter Ella Fay is a beautiful little girl; she’s mischievous, and funny, and smart, and I feel so fortunate to spend time with her. Raising an adopted child is amazing, it’s the best thing in my life.