By Anita Doberman: Columnist
My husband and I adopted our son Matteo from Ethiopia. Our adoption journey has been exceptional. It has taught us things about ourselves and others, and surprised us in unexpected ways.
Being a military family, we had to overcome practical obstacles. Finding references who lived in our area and had known our family for at least three years was difficult. Most of our friends were military, and constantly moving around, and we hadn’t known civilian families for longer than a year.
Giving proof of income was complicated. When the social worker from our adoption agency saw the breakdown of military salary – basic allowance for housing (BAH), basic allowance for food (BAS), flight pay – she was confused, and wanted something more straightforward.
Military bureaucracy and adoption bureaucracy spoke different languages. We did our best to navigate through the sea of paperwork on both sides. After several months of hard work, we met the requirements established by our agency and the U.S. and Ethiopian governments, and finally completed all the necessary forms.
When we thought we were ready for a referral from Ethiopia, we faced another unexpected set of issues. Our social worker was troubled by our status as a military family. “What if Matt (hubby) dies on one of his deployments? What would happen to the little boy you want to adopt?”
She was concerned about the fact that Matt had a hazardous job.
Danger was looming on the horizon; yet, we couldn’t assure the social worker that we would and could avoid it. Being a military family placed us in an uncertain category. I thought this uncertain condition was called being a human being. But, I didn’t say that – I thought she wouldn’t have liked the answer. Instead, I reassured her that if we were faced with tragedy, we had an emergency plan, life insurance, family ready to step in.
I also told her that if she wanted the guarantee that nothing would ever happen to my husband, myself and my family, I couldn’t provide her with it. But, being a military family had several advantages — diversity, the belief in strong family values, respect for our country and a supportive community.
And really, who has control over their future? All we can control is the present moment and the choices we make at a particular time. She must have liked the answer because she finally approved us.
It’s ironic that while our agency thought being a military family would be a hardship, we were inspired to adopt after getting to know several military families who had chosen to adopt.
We welcomed home our little Matteo Degemo when he was 4 months old. He is now 11 months old and thriving.
We are fully aware Matteo will face several issues growing up. Transracial adoption is challenging. Matteo will have to navigate different layers to find his identity as an African-American boy, and eventually, man.
But, we also know that he is loved and that he will be proud to be part of the military family and the values it stands for, even with all the uncertainties it brings.