Farewell Natalie

22 December 2007


Farewell Natalie

Sadly, we are not going to be able to adopt Natalie. We received official word today that she will not be staying in the Acres of Hope (AOH) program. An explanation follows, divided by headings so you can easily skim for important details.

NATALIE’S REAL STORY: We accepted Natalie’s referral late in July, and in August we learned that her case was being reinvestigated. Gradually the truth came out. A group of older girls, including Natalie, were presented to AOH by their “aunts” who asked AOH to please try to help them find a home in America like all the little children that get adopted. Apparently adoption is not well understood in Liberian culture and so the girls were told to lie and say that their parents were killed in the civil war. As it turns out, they all had living parents and all but Natalie were immediately dismissed from the program. AOH understood the desperation of parents who would do anything to seek a better life for their children. However, they could not let the community think this was an acceptable way to get help.

For reasons we don’t fully understand, they thought Natalie’s case could be worked out. Natalie is the youngest of approximately 13 children born to her mother. Her mother wanted some hope for her “baby”. Natalie’s father was a skilled mechanic before the war, but like many men in Liberia, he became discouraged in a society of approximately 90% unemployment. He became indifferent to his children and their mother and a little too friendly with palm wine. He was OK with Natalie being adopted.

We didn’t hear much mid-fall while we continued our fundraising efforts, thinking Natalie’s case was moving along and she would be ready to come after the new year. However, it appears something very different was happening in Liberia because a few weeks ago we learned that her relinquishment papers were still unsigned and the actual adoption process hadn’t even come close to starting. Natalie’s mother had not signed the relinquishment because a relative living in the U.S. disapproved of Natalie’s being adopted though he/she had no interest in helping to support her. The mother didn’t feel like she could proceed without the approval of this relative and she began to avoid the AOH staff. AOH thought it best to drop her case, and we agree. Ideally a child should stay with her parents in her own culture if at all possible.

We are sad because we know that Natalie’s mother cannot provide for her. In early fall, when we thought Natalie was starving in foster care, she had actually returned to live with her mom. When the AOH founder went to check on her in November, Natalie was dangerously thin and not doing well at all. We hope that Natalie and her mother can find reliable ways to have their basic needs met. Though she will not be coming to our family, we continue to think of her lovingly and will pray for her well being for a very long time. We ask others to please remember Natalie in their prayers as well, especially when praying for the people of Africa.

ABOUT YOUR DONATIONS: We have been amazed by the outpouring of financial help through our $1 Adoption fundraiser. This was clearly THE answer to the financial barriers of adopting internationally again so soon. We offer our heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated! Some of the money has already been used for government fees and updating our home-study. There is still money in the fund that was targeted for Natalie’s adoption fees. Clearly, however, refunding donations is going to be difficult. So we are proposing two possibilities. We can offer some refunds, but we hope that most of you will agree to donate what remains of the money to another family who is saving for an African adoption.

THE BARBER FAMILY: Donna Barber is the mother of 10 children – several were adopted from Liberia- and the family is currently adopting twins from Ethiopia. We met Donna when she worked for AOH, and she helped tremendously when we were adopting Leon and Aliou. She became a personal friend, and we would like to help her fundraising efforts by donating what remains in Natalie’s adoption fund. Please check out her blog to learn more about the family and to watch for the homecoming of their twins. What a joy to be part of helping these babies get out of an orphanage and into a family! It’s not too late to be part of their Christmas Miracle.

REFUNDS: We understand that there are situations that call for a refund. For instance, we received some very large donations and understand if you would like that money returned. We also had several situations where children raised money, and that money may need to be returned. We also know that many donations were offered more as a gift to our family specifically rather than as support for adoptions in general. And some people wanted to support the adoption of an older child or took a special liking to Natalie (like we did :-))

So if for any reason you want a refund, please send us an e-mail with the amount and how you want it returned. Remember, Paypal took some when you sent it, and they will take a little more if we send it back via Paypal, so it is probably best if we make refunds by check. If you want a check, please also include your mailing address (even if you're sure we have it.) We will begin sending refunds/correspondence after we celebrate Christmas and the New Year with our family. On February 1st we will send a check to the Barber Family for the remaining funds. Here is our e-mail address: afranciscan@gmail.com

THE EMOTIONAL SIDE: It is hard to adjust to not having Natalie in our family picture. We were collecting things for her, planning the girls’ bedroom layout, dreaming “What will it be like when…” kinds of day dreams. In our minds, she was already part of the Tippett clan. It’s also hard to think that she didn’t know much about us, yet we were putting so much hope and effort into her coming. She received a photo album of our family that we put together, and we also sent several small gifts and cards with other families that were traveling to pick up their adopted children. We thought we were starting to build a relationship with her, but we don’t know if she ever received these things since she was not in the care of AOH for most of the time we knew of her. It’s tempting to believe that all of our efforts were in vain until we remind ourselves that love is never wasted.