Family circle -
Boulder couple's fourth adoption from Ethiopia will reunite sisters
Rocky Mountain News (CO)
April 16, 2007
Author: Lisa Marshall, Special To The Rocky
The goodbye was so painful to witness
that Rick Romeo still tears up when he thinks about it.
Standing in an orphanage in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2005, he watched as Tadu, the teenage girl he'd adopted and
was bringing home, offered a baby doll and a parting embrace to a dark-eyed,
round-faced little girl. Just days earlier Romeo had learned that Tadu had a
little sister named Yenu.
As he left the impoverished, disease-ravaged nation to deliver Tadu to a
new life in Boulder, his joy was overshadowed by guilt. "It was a
heart-wrenching situation," says Romeo, a Boulder lawyer, recalling the
last words Yenu uttered before her older sister walked out the door: "When
are you coming back to take me to America?"
Soon, she'll get her answer.
Last fall, Rick and his wife, Karen, began the long, complex process of
bringing 10-year-old Yenu to Boulder, where she will complete a family of
eight, including their two biological children in their 20s and three other
school-age children adopted from Ethiopia.
In the seven years since the Romeos welcomed their first Ethiopian child,
Asha, into an elegant home in the shadow of the Flatirons, adoption from Africa
has gone from being virtually unheard of to being the stuff of talk shows and
blogs, thanks to celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie.
High-profile adoptions from the world's poorest continent also have shed light
on the plight of the estimated 18 million African children who have been
orphaned by AIDS, and appear to have influenced more adoptive parents-to-be to
look to what has long been considered "the forgotten continent."
According to the U.S. State Department, 732 Ethiopian orphans were issued
immigrant visas to come to the United States in 2006, up from just 82 a decade
ago, making it the fifth-most popular country from which to adopt. Local
agencies predict the number will continue to rise.
"Ethiopian adoption is probably one of the most popular adoptions at the
moment," says Linda Donovan, international program director for Adoption
Alliance of Denver, which has nine families waiting to bring children home from
Ethiopia. "Suddenly, it has just taken off."
Rick Romeo, 55, and his wife Karen, 51, already had two teenagers and were
beginning to build a nest egg for retirement when, in 1998, they decided to
"We are absurdly fortunate," says Karen, an accomplished violinist
and former director of the Boulder Arts Academy. "If we can give back, we
have to give back."
In June 2000, 18-month-old Asha joined the family, followed in October 2003 by
3-year-old Dante, who arrived with a jagged scar on his leg and teeth so
decayed they would have to be extracted. In August 2005 came Tadu, a painfully
shy teenager whose shaved head and downcast eyes hinted at a life with too much
hardship for her 14 years.
This spring, the Romeos completed their paperwork for adopting Yenu, who,
like roughly 2 million other children in sub-Saharan Africa, is infected with
the HIV virus. They're awaiting approval from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, which must clear the international adoption of an HIV-positive
child. They estimate that the adoption will cost them $20,000, and Yenu's
medication will run about $5,000 annually.
"We don't know how much her immune system has been compromised, but we
do know that her prospects here are much better than any she may face over
there," says Karen.
On a recent afternoon at the Romeo house, the three youngest children
carried on like typical siblings, bickering and joking as they made cookies in
the kitchen and ran around in a backyard littered with bikes and toys.
But for Tadu, a quiet, serious girl who listens only to Ethiopian music and
keeps a picture of her little sister by her bed, the longing for something
missing is palpable.
When her parents recently informed her that they were going to take her to
Ethiopia to get her sister, she quietly wept in disbelief.
"My hope is that Tadu will now feel like the loop has been closed,"
says Rick. "This has been a huge hole in her heart."
Adoptions catch flak
Rocky Mountain News (CO)
April 16, 2007
Author: Lisa Marshall, Special to the Rocky
The recent surge
in African adoptions has not been without controversy. When Madonna brought
18-month-old David Banda home from a Malawi orphanage in October, critics
accused her of dismissing local adoption requirements and using her wealth and
fame to hasten the process in a nation where international adoption is
majority of African nations still refuse to allow international adoptions,
either because the country is staunchly Muslim and does not approve of it or
because as a former British colony it sees adoption - particularly by white
parents - as a form of neocolonialism, experts say.
child welfare agencies have begun to frown on the idea of foreign adoption as
humanitarianism, encouraging people instead to do more to help children stay in
their home countries, immersed in their own culture.
"UNICEF is not opposed to international adoption; however, this is only
one way in which children who have been orphaned in Africa can be
assisted," says Geoffrey Keele, a spokesman on child protection issues for
UNICEF, which prefers that children be cared for in their own country whenever
he says, "There is a large market globally for adoption, and in some cases
there may be families that can be pressured to give up their child."
Carter-Shotts, who founded Indianapolis-based Americans for African Adoptions
Inc. in 1985 after adopting a child from Mali, says she has little patience for
such arguments and believes fears about child trafficking from Africa to
Western countries are overblown.
In reality, she says, adopting children from Africa is often akin to lifting
their death sentence, particularly if they are HIV-positive. "Just getting
the drug into an HIV-positive child in Africa isn't enough," she says,
noting that without good nutrition, even the lucky few who get anti-retroviral
drugs in the orphanage can suffer devastating side effects. "It may be
prolonged by the medications, but the fate of the child there is probably going
to be death."
to new adoption policies in Ethiopia, Americans have only recently been able to
- like the Romeos - adopt HIV-positive children. But it rarely happens,
Romeos are a phenomenal family. I think the world of them."