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)