Another Adoption “Re-Homing” Story {Sigh}

Dawn Davenport


Re-homing in adoption disruption of child adopted from Ethiopia

Does being sent to live with a grandparent qualify as an adoption “re-homing”? How to prevent adoption dissolutions.

Another “re-homing” story is making the rounds, although this time the teen was sent to live with her adoptive grandmother. Does that qualify as “re-homing”?

Tarikuwa Lemma was adopted at age 13 from Ethiopia, along with her two younger sisters. Her mother had died three years before and her father was struggling to raise his family on his own. Little information was provided in the video or article on what happened in the adoptive home, other than eight months later Tarikuwa was sent to live with her adoptive grandmother, where she stayed for 5 years before going out on her own.



 What is Re-Homing?

Since time immemorial, struggling parents have sought help from extended family members to care for their “difficult” kids. Sometimes everyone just needs a break from each other, sometimes the parents believe their child needs a fresh start in a new environment, sometimes a child simply needs a different approach to parenting. For whatever reason, it happens, and when it happens in a biological family society generally applauds both the sender and receiver for working together in the best interest of the child. After all, that’s what families are for, right? Apparently not if the family happens to be a family created through adoption.

Is there a double standard with adoptive families? 

I struggle to consider sending a child to live with grandparents as re-homing, although I can see the argument that this wasn’t the original intent when the child was adopted and brought to this country. Also, the extended family hasn’t been vetted through, nor educated by, the adoption home study process.

The Sticky Wicket That is Adoption

What this case and this video does very well is illustrate the cultural misunderstanding that can happen in international adoption. The opportunity for misunderstanding is compounded when adopting a teen because we must factor in the adolescents ability to understand what is happening. My heart breaks for this young woman. My heart also breaks for her Ethiopian family and American adoptive family. What a mess.

Would it have been possible to explain the true meaning of “adoption” to her birth father? Would it have made a difference? He was poor and struggling financially and emotionally to raise his children alone after the death of their mother, and might well have chosen this option even if he realized the full legal implications knowing that this would provide his children with love, food, clothing, and education.

This young woman clearly could have been better prepared for what was happening to her, but again, would it have made a difference? Ultimately she felt betrayed and abandoned by her birth and adoptive family, and she might well have these feelings even if she fully understood before she left Ethiopia.

Could her American adoptive parents have been better prepared? It’s hard to say since we don’t know what preparation they received. We know that they only tried for eight months before sending her to her grandmother to live. We don’t know what type of behavior they were dealing with, not what resources they used to help them and their children cope.

I can only guess that they could have been better prepared pre-adoption and especially better educated and supported post adoption.

Would you consider this an adoption re-homing situation?


Image and video credit: WLBZ News (Bangor, Maine)

26/11/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 10 Comments

10 Responses to Another Adoption “Re-Homing” Story {Sigh}

  1. Avatar c says:

    Tanikuwa’s story is well known in the online adoptee world. Here is a post on the Gazillion adoptees blog re Tanikuwa (adoptive name Journee Bradshaw).

    Make sure you watch the video in the article – second part of Australian Broadcasting Corporations Foreign Correspondent on Ethiopian adoptions. Tanikuwa’s adoptive mother is represented a few times and she does come across very sympathetically as do the other APs interviewed – the person one ends up disliking is the ghastly CWA lawyer (I wanted to slap his smarmy face). At the time of the program, CWA was in the midst of suing both the Bradshaws and the other family and reported the second family to authorities in order to have all their children (bio and adopted) removed (which thankfully didn’t happen).

    It is interesting that the first question you ask after watchng the attached video to your post is “Is it rehoming” when there are obviously other question worth asking.

    Re this:

    “Would it have been possible to explain the true meaning of “adoption” to her birth father? Would it have made a difference? He was poor and struggling financially and emotionally to raise his children alone after the death of their mother, and might well have chosen this option even if he realized the full legal implications knowing that this would provide his children with love, food, clothing, and education.”

    Actually her father wasn’t poor. Many African families see adoption as a way of providing opportunities for their children but where the misunderstanding arises is that they don’t realise that the Western form of adoption (replacing one family with another) is different to the more traditional forms of adoption (where wealthier relatives raise a child but the child is still in contact with their extended family and when older may return home if they so wish). One might venture to say that in fact, the more traditional adoptions are the “true” adoptions.

    Other cultures also have similar views of adoption and these misunderstanding have caused major problems in their adoption programs, causing them to be closed, eg addoption in the Marshall Islands:

    Traditional Marshall Islands adoptions are a form of Polynesian “adoptions”. In NZ, it is called Whangai. Incidentally, research on comparisons between Western-type adoption and Whangai during the 1950s-1970s have constantly shown that in general, Maori children raised in the Whangai system did much beter psychologically than those Maori children raised in Western adoption.

    One thing I did want to note re actual rehoming is that quite often when we hear about rehoming, the first thing out of many APs mouths is “the kid must have RAD”. I suspect the truth is in many cases it is quite the opposite – it is not that the child is unable to attach at all, it is often because they already feel “attached” to someone else and don’t want to attach to the “new” parents. Thus, it is important to know the reasons behind lack of attachment to the new parents.

    I think Tanikuwa got along better with her adoptive grandmother at the time of “Fly Away Home” (2010) because she didn’t feel pressure to “attach” in the same way she was expected to attach to her actual adoptive parents. I note that your article says that things have gone downhill since then and that she is now living with other parents.

  2. Avatar Tara James says:

    This isn’t a re-homing situation, I think it was irresponsible on the journalists part to suggests this. She was sent to live with her grandmother. I’m older but in my family (years ago) this was done often, kids lived with their grandparents, or cousins for a bit if the parents for some reason needed a respite or got ill.
    Not that I think that the parents were right, they went into it for the wrong reasons, and did not seem to understand what they were doing, eight months is not enough time to give this child time to acclimate. I wonder if they tried to keep in touch with her Ethiopian family, or did anything culturally to help her feel a little more comfortable. So I’m not defending them at all, but this doesn’t fall in the same category as finding a stranger on the internet, that is sensationalist in my opinion.

  3. Avatar Maureen says:

    I don’t view this as rehoming. The parents were being responsible. I don’t know what people think should be done. There are some situations that arise where you can not safely take care of a child. They did not put this girl on a plane and send her back, or send her to strangers. It was a grandmother’s home. I know bio parents that have sent children to grandparents or aunts and uncles.

  4. Avatar Tamara says:

    I don’t consider going to Grandma’s “re-homing.” Also, is it permanent or temporary? As for vetting, that is true, but isn’t that the case when we determine who will be guardian if we (the vetted parents) can no longer care for the child. I know I had to have a letter from my proposed guardians agreeing to care for my daughter if anything happened to me. My parents are the guardians and were approved by India, even though they did not go through the adoption process. I know the situation is different, but the result is the same – we, the adoptive parents, are choosing someone else who was not approved to care for the child if we can’t for whatever reason.

  5. Avatar c says:

    “how destructive her behavior was to her two sister’s adjustment”.

    Tanukawa’s only problem is that she was too intelligent and aware for her own good. She knew what was done was wrong and she wasn’t going to take it and good on her. She knows her life changed against her will and that it will never be the same. She’s like Peter Finch in Network – she’s as mad as hell and aint going to take it anymore.

    Btw I note that Maureen Flatley was in both your video and the one I posted and thought she made some excellent points.

  6. Avatar Christy says:

    Dawn, I do agree with that point. In fact I feel that many adoptive parents I’ve seen post in various places did not receive adequate education and information prior to adoption, paticularly the adoption of international or foster children. Agencies and social workers can and should do better overall prior to and after adoption, and more resources are needed to help families in crisis. Adoption is wonderful, complex and rarely easy.

  7. Christy, while I agree completely with you, I still understand that from the perspective of the adoption agency and sending country, the grandmother had not gone through the home study process, nor received the education on parenting older adopted kids. While it worked out OK here, I can imagine a different outcome.

  8. Tara, I agree that this is fairly common. While I don’t think that 8 months is very long, we also don’t know how intolerable life was or how destructive her behavior was to her two sister’s adjustment. I’d like to think that with good therapy and support they could have stayed together as a family.

  9. Not exactly re-homing as presumably grandma was a person well known to the adoptive parents IMHO, also since she is grandma it’s likely they APs got updates and may have visited. Far cry from handing your kid over in a parking lot to peple unknown to you who answered your ad on the internet.

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