In January of this year I traveled to Burkina Faso to meet with our foreign attorneys and various government officials involved in the adoption process. Traveling to Africa, while exciting, can also be exhausting and hard. While many find my job and ability to travel internationally thrilling, it can also be challenging. Being away from home and family frequently can take a toll. However, once I arrive, I am quickly reminded why I do what I do.
The first order of business is meeting with in country staff. Every country where MLJ provides services that I travel to, I am reminded that the foundation to the success of any country program, is the strength and wisdom of its in-country foreign staff. MLJ’s Burkina Faso staff is incredible! Since the opening of the program, their dedication to vulnerable children and adoptive families shines through in everything they do. MLJ’s Burkina Faso staff consists of a team of ten, made up of attorneys and support staff, all of who are committed to ensuring they are providing ethical services that are in the best interests of the children and families we serve.
Additional meetings were held with Burkina Faso’s central adoption authorities. I was able to meet with the Minister of the Ministère de l’Action Sociale et de la Solidarité Nationale as well as the Director of the La Direction des Placements et des Adoptions (the Adoption Placement Office). I was welcomed with open arms by both the Minister and Director. Additional meetings were held with Judges and other officials involved in the intercountry adoption process. A meeting with the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou also proved worthwhile as we shared information on the adoption program, visa processing procedures and improvements that would better serve adoptive families and children.
The most enjoyable day of my trip, however, was touring orphanages. The ability to interact with children, smile at them and hold the babies who are in these facilities because they lack forever families, always leave one with a profound sense of sadness. It is also the end of the journey so to speak. The reason for trying to tackle all the governmental red tape, the reasons for foraging through the mountains of paperwork, and the reasons for the willingness of families to wait months, perhaps years to bring a child into their family through adoption. The reason why adoption professionals do what we do is because of the children we visit with at the orphanages. The children who smile back at us, the toddlers with arms outstretched asking to be held, the infants who don’t want me to put them back in their cribs, but want to only be held close.
Yes, the reason for why I leave my family and continue year after year, despite the decline in international adoptions and the continual obstacles placed in front of agencies and adoptive parents, is because of these children staring back at me in orphanages with their arms outstretched. Looking into their eyes, their only wish is to have their own forever family and parents who will hold them close.