Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A word about the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia....

So this is a big hot topic for me.  And over the last couple of months, I have received emails from several families asking about communication with the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa.  The biggest question I have gotten is, "Is it okay to contact the U.S. Embassy?"  Ummmm...here comes the answer....Are you ready?....a BIG.....RESOUNDING.....YES!!!  But let's talk about why this is such a common question.  I mean, you would think it would be obvious that American citizens can contact their own embassy.  Our tax dollars pay for these embassies, don't they?  

Here's the deal.  There are a lot of agencies that tell their clients not to contact the embassy while going through their adoption.  While I could speculate about the different reasons agencies tell their clients this, I'm not going to do that right now on a public forum. 

Most of you know that Wes and I ended up staying in Ethiopia for three months.  There are several reasons for that long stay, and many long stories to tell, but we are not quite ready to share that yet either.  It left us deeply wounded, and we are still trying to heal from much of that experience.  But at the end of that long 3 months was the U.S. Embassy.  In the end, we finally decided to contact the embassy ourselves, and we are SO thankful that we did.  We are SO thankful we spoke up.

Here is part of an email from the embassy in response to an email our agency sent to them.  The embassy cc'd us in the email, so we also received it. 

"We encourage the families to contact us with any questions they may have regarding their paperwork, the status of their cases or any other questions regarding their adoption. Our email address is posted on the U.S. government website www.adoption.state.gov.

If the agency and the embassy work together we may be able to help them to get home sooner than later. Our goal is to assist all of the adoptive families to the best of our capability in this very emotional journey."

There you have it from the horse's mouth.  It is VERY okay to contact the embassy.  Of course there is nothing you can do until your paperwork is submitted to the embassy, but once it is, if you email them, they usually respond within 24-48 hours.  Many parents just want to know the status of their case, and that's okay!  Many parents want to know when the soonest possible interview after clearance would be, and that's okay!  Many parents want to make sure that what their agency is telling them, lines up with what the embassy is telling them, and that's okay!  This is all okay, because your child/children come first, and it is okay to be eager to bring them home.  It's okay!  Did I mention that it's okay?  ;)

During our final week in Addis Ababa in April of 2011, we physically went to the embassy ourselves for the first time.  We were so nervous, because we had no appointment, and we had been told by certain individuals that it was not okay to go there.  But we were desperate, given the fact that a government shutdown was looking very possible, which would mean we could be stuck in Ethiopia for several more weeks until they reopened.  We were not okay with is.  We were going to do everything in our power to get our family home.  When we finished speaking with the wonderful man at the embassy, I asked him one more question before we walked out the door.  "Is it okay that we came to see you without an appointment?"  His response went like this:  "Yes, we encourage any American citizens to come see us with any questions they may have.  That is what we are here for."  I cannot tell you how relieved he made Wes and I feel, because we did not want to be trouble makers, and we did not want to be disrespectful of the process.  His words were like music to our ears.  

I hope this post helps and doesn't hurt.  I hope it encourages any adoptive parents who have questions to feel free to contact the U.S. embassy in any country they are adopting from.  I want to reiterate that there is not much the embassy can do for you until they have your paperwork in hand, but once they do, they will tell you what they can.  And if you aren't sure that they have your paperwork, just email them and ask them.  If they have your names and your child's name, and the agency you are with, they will be able to look you up in their system.  I would encourage you to be very respectful and understanding in any email you send to the embassy, though.   I know that probably goes without saying, but I'm saying it none-the-less!  :)  They work very hard there, and it is important to treat them accordingly. 

Here is the email for the American embassy in Addis Ababa.

And here is the U.S. government website on Ethiopia which also has their contact information.


  1. Just want to say we have contacted the US Embassy during two of our adoptions with questions about our case and they were always helpful and prompt. actually emailed them last night and had a response this morning!

  2. Loved this post!!! 1 week before I was scheduled to leave for Ethiopia to attend our embassy appointment, our agency called us and said our appointment had been postponed an additional 2 weeks. I was devastated!!! I asked our agency if I should call the embassy and they said no. That would be a bad idea and only make them mad. So I didn't. Instead, I called the airline and paid a HEFTY fee to change my flight dates and I cried plenty of tears because of the delay.

    A couple other families in our group called the embassy directly. And guess what? They got their original date reinstated where me and the other families who didn't call got the later date and the fees that went with changing the plane ticket, and not to mention the heartache of waiting 2 more weeks to meet our children.

    So my advice. CALL CALL CALL!!! I still am not sure why our agency told us not to when my GUT said to call.
    Leah from Life According to Leah
    (I couldn't log in for some reason)

  3. Leah, you are right! Many agencies tell their clients this. It is unfortunate. The embassy actually told us that many agencies lie to their clients about this particular matter. Very unfortunate. I'm glad we are on the other side of things now, and can at least share our experiences to spare other parents the same kind of turmoil. :)

  4. Such a good post! We loved our experience with the US Embassy as well. so kind and helpful, prompt and easy-going. For the record, our agency never once told us not to or discouraged us from contacting the embassy ourselves. It never came up. So either we missed an email from them or they had decided by then that it is always in the family's best interest to deal with the embassy directly while they are in country.

  5. Hi, We are adopting from Ethiopia and are caught in some terrible paperwork government dispute between US Embassy and Ethiopia officials. We were actually in country for court with Jeff & Jill Dupras from CA who brought you formula the first week of March. Anyways... desperate to quickly tell you more of where we're at and get your thoughts or advise. We are thinking of sending me over there without an embassy apt but it's risky. Anyways...if you could email me I'd love to chat on the phone. Though I know you're busy with your kiddos and photography but Jill thought you might give me a half hour of your time (can you tell I sound desparate?!?!?) Please email me!
    Thanks so much!