Faith and Family — International Adoption: Pathways counselor shares what international adoption means to his family

I will never forget the day in August 2010 when my wife Jennifer and I signed our names on our adoption application. We were excited, nervous and a little scared.

Our adoption story does not start in 2010, however. It begins years earlier, when we were both kids, growing up in families that regularly opened their homes to people who needed a place to live. Our parents taught us that the word “family” has a big definition and helped lay the foundation God would use to build our dream of adoption.

Even while we were dating, we discussed adoption as an intentional choice for our family. After the births of our first and second biological children, both girls, we went through a time when we thought two might be all for us. Then in 2004 we were surprised by number three, our first little man.

A decade passed before the topic of adoption resurfaced. When it did, we took 30 days to sincerely pray about adopting. We went to our families and the leadership of our church and asked them to pray with us. We also asked if they could commit to support us in the process. At the end of the 30 days, the answer to our prayers was a resounding “yes” to adoption.

For the next few months, we researched adoption agencies, looked into the requirements of various countries and investigated domestic adoption. As a counselor for the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes, I regularly work with children in foster care. A part of my heart naturally wanted to adopt one of the children from that system.

However, Jenn and I have both spent time overseas on missions trips. We have worked in refugee schools, orphanages and slums. We have seen poverty in big cities and remote villages. All that knowledge made the decisions tough.

Once we decided on international adoption, there were even more decisions. We had to choose a country, then an agency, and perhaps toughest of all, what level of special needs we thought we could handle as a family. It often felt like we were choosing against one group of children, determining that one group was more deserving than another.

The process was gut-wrenching at times and much more difficult than we thought it would be.

We persevered and began the mountains of paperwork required. There were state and federal background checks, reference letters, financial documents and medical exams. By February of 2011, we had completed the paperwork and submitted our dossier for approval. The good news was that our dossier was accepted almost immediately. The bad news was that the country we had chosen, Ethiopia, had recently enacted new procedures for approving adoptions. We had initially expected a wait of 10 to 13 months to adopt a 4-year-old boy, but our agency now told us to expect a wait of 18 months to two years.

The waiting was excruciating. Month after month went by with little progress. Our background checks and medical exams expired, so we redid them all. Twenty-six months passed with no news. All the while, we knew we had a son in Ethiopia, and we had so many questions: Did he have food today? Or a hug? When he cried, was someone there to comfort him? Then one day we got “the call.” I was working from home April 26, 2013, when our caseworker called to tell us they had a child for us. We were overwhelmed with emotion as we listened to the details of our next steps.

Our caseworker went over our son’s medical records, legal records and miscellaneous forms, and then finally asked if we were ready to see a picture of our boy. The most beautiful little face we had ever seen popped up on our computer screen. We cried tears of joy for this boy, Tamirat, whose name means “miracle” in Amharic. How perfectly named he is.

Two months later, we finally met our son. We attended court in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 12, 2013, and heard the judge tell us we were now the legal parents of Tamirat Roderick Campbell. It was a difficult day when we had to leave him in Ethiopia and return home while the U.S. Embassy completed their part of the paperwork, the last step in the adoption process. We were reunited nine weeks later, and on Aug. 24, we finally landed in Atlanta and drove home to Anniston where our family was waiting to meet our newest addition.

Christmas Eve marked four months home with our new son. We have answers to some of the questions we wondered about all those months, but there are still many things about our son’s first four years that we do not know.

What we know without a doubt is that we are thankful the international adoption process led us to Tamirat. He is amazing, smart, funny, strong and loving. He fits into our family so well.

We have seen God use this process to challenge and grow us spiritually. We have felt the love and care from our faith family and our biological family as we deal with the rough times. We believe God is up to something in us and in our kids through this process.

While we hate the pain and loss our little guy has endured and wish there were no need for international or domestic adoption, we are so glad God continued to move us in the direction of saying yes to adoption.