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The Sibling Experience | Adoption Law

In 2011 and into 2012, my family went through the process of adopting from Ethiopia. There was a lot of paperwork, a lot of fundraising, and even more waiting. At that time, I had four younger brothers, and I was the only girl. I was longing for a sister.

One Saturday afternoon when I was in fifth grade, I was at my best friend’s house. It had been a great day of soccer, creating videos, and playing with her siblings. At this point we had been waiting so long for a match that I had almost forgotten we were waiting. I remember sitting on the front porch with my best friend’s family, waiting for my mom to come and pick me up. As soon as the van pulled up, I knew something was different about my mom.

She walked up to the porch and handed me her phone. On it was a photo of a small child with huge, beautiful brown eyes. I saw her and immediately knew what it meant and who she was. We had gotten matched with a little girl from Ethiopia. I was beyond thrilled and overwhelmed by emotion.

After we got home, more of the story unfolded. We’d been matched, and my parents needed to leave as soon as possible for Ethiopia in order to avoid the rainy season. The next few days were a flurry of emotion and questions. One of my favorite memories over those few days was getting to help name this new addition to our family. I felt important. My family trusted me.

We soon decided on the name Charlotte.

Unfortunately, not even a week later my younger biological brother, who has Down Syndrome, was diagnosed with severe epilepsy. He was having constant seizures and needed immediate medical attention and around-the-clock supervision.

My parents made one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. They chose not to go to Ethiopia. As a child, I didn’t understand the weight of this decision or the reasoning. They chose to focus on and love well the family and children that they were already given. Despite their deep desire to grow our family, it was not possible to simultaneously support the medical needs of their son and leave for Ethiopia for an undetermined amount of time. At the time, I struggled with understanding their decision. In retrospect, I believe this was the most loving decision they could have made for everyone involved.

Time passed, and our family grew. We adopted a little boy domestically in 2015, and he was and is such a huge blessing. Fast forward two more years to a Thursday night in June 2017, and I find out that we got matched with a baby who was born that morning. We needed to leave immediately to pick him up the next day, so my family got into our van and headed to Kentucky.

Before we left, we needed to decide on a name for our new addition to the family. As with the first baby boy we adopted, we kept the middle name his birth mother gave him to honor her. We were in the car, and my mom asked me what I thought we should name the baby.

I thought for a minute, then decided on Charlie. It was one of my favorite names growing up, and it is a nickname for Charlotte, to honor the baby girl who will forever be a part of our family in my heart. My mom asked the rest of the family what they thought, and the result was unanimous. His name would be Charlie, to honor Charlotte.

Adoption has a significant impact on all members of the family. Support is so important. The Adoption Law Center was a tremendous support to us as we went through the process of adopting Charlie. Finalization was a fun day and we brought the whole crew! Jenny Hall talked to my mom a lot and helped us navigate the process of Adoption Assistance in an independent adoption. The Adoption Law Center also has wonderful connections in the community for supporting families. They refer to resources such as Adoption Support and Preservation (ASAP), counselors and social workers depending on the need, advocacy for children with disabilities, support groups for relative caregivers, and many others.

If you need support around adoption-related issues, call us at 615-543-8640 or send us an email at[email protected]. We would love to connect!