Annual Report

I just mailed my annual post-placement report to Ethiopia.

I know that there are many adoptive parents who have stopped doing these. And I understand why. No one ever reads them anyway. Hardly any kids are being adopted out of Ethiopia these days, so it won’t hold up others’ processes. But here’s the thing. I promised to it, so I will do it. Every year until they are 18. Which some days seems like a very, very long time from now.

But, on with my story. The report asks details about the child, health issues, school, relationships with friends and family and contains some photos. Theoretically, the report and photos are delivered to the orphanage where the kids were relinquished. That way, if their living relatives show up and the orphanage and ask to see the report, they would be able to. I understand that a lot of things are unlikely here. First, I doubt that the reports make it to the local level (although I do think that in my situation, this may be happening). Second, I doubt that any relatives will show up looking for the report. Third, I doubt there is a great filing system so that if they did, anyone would even be able to find the right report.

Yet here’s where I get weird. They ask us to provide 5-7 photos of each child. They can have other family members with them, but 5-7 photos of each child. I am a photographer. And they want me to pick 5-7 photos. 5-7 photos that sum up the year. Out of 400 photos of each of them (no kidding), I have to pick 5-7. This is so hard for me. I agonize over which photos to send. Which ones show their personality? Which ones show how much we love them? Which ones make us look like good parents? Which ones show them pursuing things they love? Which ones show them learning? Which ones make them look most healthy?

I overanalyze the photos. I try to guess what I would think if I lived in rural Ethiopia and saw that picture. Is it culturally appropriate? Do they let kids jump on the bed there? Oh, wait, their family probably doesn’t have a bed. Will they get that this picture is him doing homework for school? Or will they think he’s just doodling? Will they know she’s wearing a backpack because it’s her first day of school? Or does it look like she’s strapped into something? Have they ever had a birthday cake with candles? Or will they think we’re letting him play with fire? Seriously. I think about these things. But in the end, I put 14 pictures in an envelope and send them off to Ethiopia, knowing that there is no way to convey what their lives are like here.


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