How to Use This Blog

A Wayfarer is a person who is traveling, a particular place, a circumstance, a stage of life, etc. Let's walk the road of adoption together. The journey is so much better with company!
Much of this information is useful for any adoption, but this blog is designed to be a
I hope this blog will be helpful to you in your adoption whether you are considering, waiting or home. I started this blog when we were adopting and found there was next to nothing on the web in any orderly manner. I set about to collect information for myself and then for others. Now, there are more sites for resources, but still not much that brings it all together. I hope this blog will serve as a sort of clearing house for Ethiopian Adoption Information. Please feel free to contribute your knowledge through commenting.
You can search by topic in three ways. 1. Go to the "key word" tabs on top and open pages of links in those topics. 2. Use the "labels list" in the side bar or 3. use the "search bar" above the labels list. You can also browse the blog by month and year in the Posts section or in any of the above as well. The sidebar links are to sites outside of this blog. While I feel they provide good information, I can not vouch for each site with an approval rating. Use your own discernment for each. If you have more to add to the topic, please add it in the comment section of that page or post.
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Welcome to the journey!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Myth regarding Ethiopian children and RAD

I recently answered a question regarding the myth populated by who knows who regarding Ethiopian children and RAD and attachment difficulty. Basically, I hear this a lot from lots of people: "Ethiopians love their kids so they don't have RAD or attachment problems". This is a myth. This is my response to the question asking if this is true.

Good to be thinking this through before you take the plunge. It is true that children who come to their families through adoption generally have some significant challenges. Each country has it's unique characteristics. While there are similarities in the struggles children coming from the same country have, there are always those who do not fill that same pattern. There are generalized ideas out there about different parts of the world and their orphan care and the subsequent issues the child is likely to face when in their forever home. You are likely well aware of these ideas.
The fact is that children everywhere struggle with attachment and can indeed have RAD. The way they struggle may look different. A child from Russia may have been deprived of physical contact and suffer from being easily over stimulated, among other issues and situations. A child from Ethiopia may have been carried on their mother from day one to the time they are orphaned or able to walk around. That same child may suffer malnutrition, may have seen violence or experienced it. That child may have been required to work at a very young age. He may have been shuffled around to various relatives and neighbors where who knows what happened to him. Many things that are cultural norms. These things have their own disadvantages and present their own unique and equally upsetting challenges when the child comes to their forever home in the Western world, a major cultural norm shift. An orphanage is no place for a child, no matter where it is there are negative effects from being in one. Even if the child we adopt was loved (and treated well by western standards) by his birth-mother there is a break. Trauma of death or relinquishment, trauma of the orphanage (even if it is a "good" one), trauma of being adopted (yes that is a trauma -separated from family of origin permanently, from culture, language, familiar everything). The younger the child the less trauma, the older the child the greater the possibility is that they have suffered additional traumas. Contrary to popular opinion Ethiopia has it's fair share of abuse and trauma to a child. Poverty is a catalyst for a lot of hard things including abuse. The thing about it is that they value children and family, so we get thrown off here by westernizing those values. Standards of what is acceptable are different than what we would feel appropriate here. Each time a child is hurt it breaks their cycle of trust and the more you experience the more you shut down, the harder it is to give and receive love. Yes, it happens, even in Ethiopia.
There is a yahoo group dedicated to parents of adopted Ethiopian kids who have RAD. It is not a small group and they are not all older adoptees. It is good to be aware of this but it is not really a reason to run away. Rather it is a good reason to learn all you can and prepare to parent a hurt child. If you have already adopted you are likely quite familiar with all the attachment parenting and related ideas and maybe everything I have said here. I would say, just be an aware parent. No matter where you child is born he or she has suffered trauma of one sort or another. Your child needs to have her circle of attachment mended. You are her catalyst to healing. No matter where she is from she will grieve; be angry; be confused; reject; regress;  need loads and loads of reassurance and love, nurturing love and stick with it love, from you. If you are ready for this you will do the best you can, and we can only hope the child will too.
If you are interested in stats and papers on abuse in Ethiopia you can check out an earlier post on this with links to papers, journals and stats on this issue.


  1. Great post. I heard that rumor quite a lot during our adoption process in Ethiopia. It is true that my two girls came from a loving family, but the trauma of the relinqishment and subsequent adoption has caused PTSD, ODD, depression and anxiety in my girls. Both are doing extremly well considering, but it is taking weekly counseling and with one of them, medication.
    One of my girls has some scarring that does suggest abuse from the past. You are right when you said poverty is a catalyst.

  2. Cool! I don't have idea about that myth before. Thanks for sharing it. I am well informed.



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