Bringing Desta Home

Bringing Desta Home has chosen to allow the author of this article to remain anonymous. Instead, the Author and her husband will be referred to as "Abbat and Enat", meaning "father" and "mother" in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia.

It's been a long wait for Desta to come home. I know that every adoptive parent can identify with that. You spend so much more time waiting for your child than anything else you have to do for an adoption. The wait drags on and on. You wait for your child even before you know who your child is. You wait for your child once you have pictures and video. You may even wait for your child after you have already visited your child. You just … wait.

If you ask Abbat and me how long we have been waiting for Desta, you might get varying answers. Officially, we have been waiting for Desta since April 1, 2005 , a mere 4 months after we brought our son Efram home from Ethiopia . Abbat might tell you that we have been waiting for Desta since November 18 th , 2004 , the day we met Desta, even though we were told at that time that we would probably never be able to adopt Desta. I could say that I have been waiting for Desta since September of 2003, when I received her picture in the mail from AHOPE for Children after I sent money to sponsor a child.

But I think the real story in how long I have been waiting for Desta begins in 1995, when I spent a week as a volunteer counselor at a camp for kids infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS. Eleven years ago. I have been waiting for Desta for 11 years, even though at that time I did not know who she was or where she was. Desta might not even have been born yet when I started waiting for her.

Volunteering at that camp was a life-changing experience for me on so many levels, but what stuck with me the most through my five years volunteering there and in the years afterward was that I could love and care for a child with HIV. I have loved and cared for many children with HIV. I have seen their struggles to be accepted for who they are, not just seen as a disease. I have seen the many ways they are just like healthy children, and I have seen the ways that their lives are dramatically, irrevocably different. Something in me has said, since that summer eleven years ago, that I can, I should, I want to be part of these kids' lives.

On our second date, I informed Abbat that, should we ever get married, we would be adopting children. I knew that if his response was not favorable, there would be no third date. There were, fortunately, many more dates, and at some point early in our relationship, I expressed my desire to someday adopt a child with HIV. Abbat said that that was not something he thought he could ever do, and I let the matter rest, fairly certain that there wouldn't be much of a need for me to adopt an HIV+ child now that screening of pregnant mothers and treatment during pregnancy and the early weeks after birth have lowered the mother-to-child transmission rate so dramatically. It never occurred to me that my HIV+ child might be waiting for me in Africa .

It never occurred to me to adopt from Africa at all until, six months into the search for a country to adopt from, Abbat and I heard a radio program about the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ethiopia and the number of AIDS orphans there. At that moment Abbat and I knew we would be adopting from Ethiopia .

From one of the agencies doing Ethiopian adoptions, we received a brochure for AHOPE for Children, an organization in Washington state that runs an orphanage in Addis Ababa for HIV+ kids. While we were adopting our son, Efram, we sponsored Desta. Then we decided to visit her while we were in Addis to bring Efram home. We spent an entire afternoon with Desta, playing soccer, eating cookies, and reviewing her school papers. I even tried on her school uniform. That night at dinner, Abbat told me that he wanted to adopt Desta. Back in America , we told the director of AHOPE that we wanted Desta. We were told that Ethiopia was not allowing HIV+ kids to be adopted. However, four months later we were notified that things had changed and we could attempt the adoption. That was on a Friday. On Monday morning we contacted our homestudy agency and requested an update to our homestudy.

Waiting for Desta has been hard. All eleven years of it. In the past eleven years, some of the children and counselors I met at that summer camp have died. Protease inhibitors, with all their promise, have burst onto the market, only to see many of their promises wither. People still get HIV. People still get AIDS. People still die. People are still afraid not just of HIV but of people with HIV.

Waiting for Desta has been hard. All two-and-a-half years of it. We worried constantly about Desta and whether she would live another year. Whether she would live to adulthood. What would happen to her when she was too old to live at AHOPE anymore?

Waiting for Desta has been hard. All ten months of it. We have worried about our financial situation. We have worried about how Desta's arrival and eventual departure would impact our other kids, the aforementioned Efram and our biological child, Ramona. They are, respectively, three and four years old. We have worried about how our families, friends, and the community at large would react. We have worried about whether our health insurance would cover Desta. We have worried about whether she is receiving appropriate treatment in Ethiopia . We have worried about whether our marriage and our spirits can survive this venture intact.

We have had to explain, again and again and again, to people who care for us and only want that best for us, that we are not adopting a disease. We are adopting a daughter, a daughter with whom we fully expect to share many years of love, laughter, and good times. We have had to explain, again and again and again, that the risk of HIV transmission through the normal contact of living together is extremely low.

And we have had to wait. As of today, Desta is still not home, and we don't, at this point, know how much longer it will be until she is. But some day she will be, and the wait will finally be over.


Sponsor an orphaned child with HIV: (excellent opportunity! Use their online Network for Good button to have your monthly donation made automatically)

Abbat & Enat's blog:

Waiting Children who are HIV Positive:

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