Meeting the first family

A lot of parents had the opportunity to meet members of the first family of their Ethiopian child after attending the court date for adoption in Ethiopia. There is a great variety in setting and practical arrangements; presently agencies assist in making appointments upon request of the new parents.

We are convinced that all adoptive parents will wish to enable their children to gain full knowledge of their personal history and the circumstances of their relinquishment; therefore we will concentrate on giving some practical hints on how to prepare for such an event. The few hours that both families get together can become a most valuable experience and a solid foundation for the new family to build their relationship on.

New parents will be confronted with their own insecurity and they will have to find stategies to overcome this uneasiness. What are they going to say, how are they going to react? The preperation process can help focus on the aspects of the adoption that will now dominate their daily lives: After anticipation, waiting and organizing practical things, the more difficult emotional aspects of building a relationship between parents and child are present: the child will always have a first father and mother he or she was seperated from. Accepting this as a painful reality on an emotional rather than a theoretical level is one consequence of meeting the first parents. This insight will help understanding some of the reactions that a child may show when adjusting to the new family situation.

Considering the situation the relinquishing parents are in adoptive parents will want to show them all due respect and depending on age and circumstances of the child, the new parents will find ways to show their appreciation. It is good to be prepared for an extremely emotional situation. While the photos taken on this occasion will not only be looked at very often by the children at some point in their lives, but also by those that stay behind, one should not expect too much exchange of factual information: It doesn´t make much sense to stick to a prepared list of questions in a situation that requires so much attention. The first meeting can, however, serve as an occasion where arrangements for further contact can be made. Establishing a way of mutual contact through the orphanage or another third person is something every family should keep in mind. It will make things a lot easier for the child whenever he or she should decide to contact their first family.

Parents should be aware that their new child will not neccassarily have to be present for the entire meeting; the appropriate time the child will need to say good bye to the old family has to be considered in cooperation with the orphanage staff according to the emotional situation of the child. From the point of view of many parents, meeting the first family has enabled them to reassure themselves and their children that the information given in the documents oft he child was correct and that the first family was aware oft he consequences of giving their child for adoption. This certainty can be very helpful as soon as the child starts reflecting on his or her life history.