Tariku – The Boy We Didn't Adopt

the day we met Eby
the day we met Eby

Eight years ago this month we received our referrals for Eby and Little Man. Through a strange series of events, we also received a referral for another little boy, but we were only approved for two children. I, of course, fell in love with all three of them.

In Tariku’s referral pictures, he looked small and fragile, while Eby looked sad and scared. Little Man was a tiny baby with big eyes. I wanted to scoop them all up, love them, and make them part of our family.

How do you choose one child over another? I was devastated – I didn’t sleep, cried a lot, prayed, and talked with friends. Russ and I spent hours going over the information on each child. We had questions that simply couldn’t be answered. Eight years later, I see that many of the things that worried us seem inconsequential now.

Ultimately, we believed that Eby and Little Man were our sons, so we accepted their referrals. I knew another family would gladly adopt Tariku; he was precious.

We traveled to Ethiopia to get our boys and meet Dimples in February 2007. At the children’s home in Addis, we met Eby and Little Man for the first time. The room was filled with sweet babies and I walked from crib to crib hoping to spot the other little boy I’d grown to love. I finally asked about Tariku and was told that he would not be adopted due to a medical condition. My heart! It was  even a condition we felt comfortable dealing with in our family.

I still think of this little boy and wonder what became of him. Did he finally find a family?

Adoption does something to our hearts – it opens us wide to the possibility of loving children we’ve never met, of drawing them close and making them our own. And often we find ourselves loving children who were never meant to be ours. I have to believe there is a purpose in that – my prayers for Tariku were not in vain.

Have you loved a child(ren) you thought you might adopt, but then it didn’t happen? Do you carry other children in your heart?

[Take a moment to enter the giveaway for the beautiful Advent book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.]

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

43 Comments

  1. shelley
    November 13, 2014

    LISA I am pretty sure this is my friend son from Ethiopia!!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      Shelley, I'm looking at her pictures and trying to figure out if it could be him. Was he ever a CWA baby? When we saw him, he was in the transition home in Addis and he would have been close to two in Feb/March 2007. Of course, CWA wouldn't place children with HIV or Hep B – and you know how I feel about that. It would be amazing if it were the boy we've prayed for.

      Reply
      1. shelley
        November 13, 2014

        I am pretty sure it is him. Let me know if you want to contact her-I have known her for years. I can give you her email!

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          November 13, 2014

          Yes, of course. I would love to know if it is the Tariku we've wondered about all these years. I have the early pics I could show her and see what she thinks. Did he start with CWA? That would be the most significant thing to know.

          Reply
    2. Sharon
      November 13, 2014

      Wow! That would be amazing.

      Reply
  2. Ashley
    November 13, 2014

    In 2011, we were referred a little girl and one week before we traveled for court, her birth family reclaimed custody. We were devestated -of course- for ourselves but there was peace in knowing that she would grow up in her birth family and in her culture. In that case, we were able to release her in our hearts…Fast forward past the successful adoption to February 2014. We were working to adopt a little girl we had met when we traveled to bring our son home. We had been working tirelessly for almost 18 months to get her and our family paper-ready, when one day we got the call….We were familiar with "the call" but it was the lack of closure that keeps her in our hearts and on our minds. This little girl would not be adoptable because the regional government wouldn't sign the paperwork and were requesting she be returned to a govt orphanage in the region. We were told that they were working on a domestic foster program that she would qualify for. We hope and pray often that all of those things happened but…as with most things in international adoption…we are left with far fewer answers than questions. We keep her picture on our fridge and I pray for her often…praying that she too knows the love and safety of a family….

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      Thank you for sharing your story, Ashley. We never forget these sweet children.

      Reply
  3. Nancy
    November 13, 2014

    Yes! There are 2 children who we prayed about but did not adopt. God is so good because we were able to later find out that both were adopted by loving families and are thriving. One of them I even met while picking up my daughter in her birth country. I was able to deliver a. Are package from his soon to be family and take pictures of him for them.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      I love hearing that, Nancy. Thank you.

      Reply
  4. Cat
    November 13, 2014

    Yes. We seriously considered another little boy before adopting A. At the time, his needs seems overwhelming, though looking back now, "inconsequential" is spot-on. In any event, we did not pursue his adoption. I found out later that he had to wait several (too many) more months to be matched with his forever family, but – most importantly – he was matched. And since I am connected to his mom on Facebook, I have been fortunate to "see" him grow up healthy and happy these past years. An incredible blessing.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      What a blessing to know where he is, Cat. I love seeing pictures of children we met in Ethiopia who have found their families.

      Reply
  5. Sharon
    November 13, 2014

    Yes. Oh, I still think about him. I'll call him M here. We spotted this sweet baby boy on a waiting child list over 3 years ago. We reviewed his file, his needs and poured over his photos. We were ready. I got a strange weekend call from our agency. There had been a mix up at the lab and they discovered that he was not HIV+, meaning that he would be moved off of the waiting child list and go to the next family that was waiting for a baby boy. Oh, it hurt. I had a range of different feelings about that, and I still do. I did see a photo of him over a year ago and know that he is well, but I think of him often.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      Oh, that is a hard one, Sharon. What a painful experience that must have been for you.

      Reply
  6. Karen
    November 13, 2014

    Yes. We had a referral for a sweet baby boy we ultimately didn't except. The process was gut wrenching, but, like you, we had such a strong sense that the 2 kids we adopted were the kids God had planned for our family.

    But before him, before all our kids, we had a baby girl in our home for a year. She was 6-18 months, such a fun time in a baby's life. We always knew reunification was the goal, and we wanted that for her. But I remember the day of giving her to her mom and walking away so vividly. I believe the fibers of my being unwound in that moment and rewound in a different pattern. She will be turning 13 this next year and will always have my heart and my prayers as she navigates this life.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      Isn't it amazing how that little girl probably changed your life in many ways. What a gift that she has your prayers, Karen.

      Reply
  7. Gloria Griffis
    November 13, 2014

    We agreed to adopt twin boys while the unwed mom was pregnant. Because we assured her they would have a loving home, she cancelled her plans to abort. The parents married and moved in with her grandparents. They would be in their late 2Os now. God knows what us best.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      That is beautiful, Gloria; your obedience to God led to life for them, even if they weren't meant to be your sons.

      Reply
  8. Alyssa
    November 13, 2014

    Oh yes– first, 2 little boys my sister-in-law was foster mom for in another state. We actually started the process- then their relatives started coming out of the woodwork, then they thought they had a home for them with their other 2 siblings (we actually considered all four once we met them). Everything fell through over and over and after the older 2 were placed in an adoptive home, my sister-in-law decided to adopt the two boys herself. Single mom, lots of adopted/foster kids, lots of family drama…. The littlest of the 2 boys was so attached to us and tell me, "I'm your boy" when I first met him. I really thought it was meant to be… so ten years later, we have now been asked if we could take him because of behaviors, not safe in his home. I struggle a lot over this, with anger and sadness and frustration. There's no way we can take him now, but I believe our family would have been equipped to help him and all we can do now is pray for him as our nephew.
    We were chosen as one of 3 families for a committee decision for an 8 year old boy when we decided to adopt from foster care. We weren't chosen and I had immediate peace about that, but always wondered how he's doing. Three days later we got the call about our son and can't imagine life without him!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      So many twists and turns, Alyssa! Adoption is not for the faint of heart.

      Reply
  9. Traci
    November 13, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this. It truly is a pain we share in the adoption community. We fought for "our son" for months, but in the end a simple ruling that we had too many children (3) kept us from being allowed to bring him home. We tried to accept a referral for another little boy, but it never felt right after our loss.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      I'm sorry, Traci; that is very sad.

      Reply
  10. Kim
    November 13, 2014

    Yes, We were in the process of adopting 2 teens from foster care, when one chose instead to stay in the group home where she'd been for over 2 years because she wasn't ready to be adopted. Her brother had told her it was her decision, so he stayed where he was as well. I think of them often and they are in our prayers. Somehow, I still feel like they are part of our family, at least in our hearts. It's been hard to start the adoption process over again. With teens, there are some who are afraid or don't want to be adopted, as the unknown is just too difficult to contemplate. God has called us to this though, so we trust that He is using every child we meet, every file we read. every mile we drive, to accomplish His will.Our hearts belong to Him as well, so we are dedicated to trusting Him despite the difficulties.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      Kim, you bring up some really good points about teens and the fears they might have. You'll never know how the Lord used you in her life and the life of her brother. When we are obedient to God's call, we don't get to choose the outcome, and that can be so painful. Press on in your calling.

      Reply
  11. Jessica Pair
    November 13, 2014

    I haven't ever loved a child that I thought I might adopt because I haven't adopted or fostered children, but I have loved children that I wanted to adopt. I worked in child care before I had my own kids and some of the children came from very unsafe homes. One child in particular always sticks with me. I often wonder if he is doing okay. He was the sweetest baby and had such a beautiful little smile. I have always worried about him and prayed for him because his mom was very young and was in an abusive relationship with an older man. His brother was four years old and was kicked out of daycare and referred to a daycare for kids with behavior problems because he kicked a teacher in the back (causing her to be out of work for two months), and left bruises all the way around a little girls neck because he tried to strangle her when he got mad at her. I have often prayed that God would keep him safe from his dad and brother, and that he would keep his sweet personality despite his environment. He would be in junior high now. I often wonder how he has turned out. I hope his mom eventually believed that she deserved to be safe and loved.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      Jessica, it's amazing how children can touch our lives and grab hold of our hearts. Russ and I often talk about a little boy we cared for in a group where we worked during college. We wonder what became of him.

      Reply
  12. Leah Elizabeth Good
    November 13, 2014

    I'm just about to leave my teens, so adoption is still one of those things I'm praying God has in my future. But there are children I pray for that I don't think I'll ever forget. It's not the same, I know, but it's just one of the ways orphans can impact someone. Your post reminds me of how much God loves for each orphan, whether adopted or still waiting or destined never to find a forever family. They always stay in His heart and within His watchful sight.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      So true, Leah. Thank you for sharing that.

      Reply
  13. Luann Yarrow Doman
    November 13, 2014

    This is one of my biggest fears. The three siblings we are in the process of adopting are so deeply entrenched in my heart. There have been a few hiccups the past few days, and I realize how much I already love them. If we don't get to bring them home in early 2015 as we expect to, I don't know how I will handle it.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      That would be so hard, Luann. I hope all goes well.

      Reply
    2. DFNY
      November 14, 2014

      Our wait was 3.5 years long but, in the end, we brought our daughter home almost 6 years ago. There were so many times that we really had nothing to hold on to and wondered what we would do if the rules changed once again and the foreign government would not let us bring her home. As I said to one government official (over the phone, once I was able to determine that another investigation started): even if you decide that we will not become her parents, she will always be our daughter and God will help us find a way to support her and help educate her, even if we don't officially become her parents. In our case, it worked out after a lot of pain and worry. I pray you will also have the opportunity to parent these children of your heart.

      Damaris

      Reply
  14. Gina
    November 13, 2014

    We fostered a little Chinese boy in china when he came to the big city to get tested for his strange blood disease … I loved him! I wanted him so bad but both my husband and I weren't 30 years old yet… But boy did we pray our hearts out for him … For his life for his future parents for his salvation for his terrible progressive beta thalessemia. After his month with us, he returned to his orphanage and we got regular update. Three years later he was adopted by a wonderful Christian family in New York. Praise The Lord for this wonderful ending (beginning). I think the chance we have to pray for people when our lives intersect through foster care or adoption are profound. We pray for our daughters birth mom even tho we don't have communication. But I truly believe she probably has never had a single person pray for her before us… What a privilege for us.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 13, 2014

      It is a privilege – you' re right, Gina! Thank you for that reminder.

      Reply
  15. charity
    November 13, 2014

    his seems to be a part of the experience of adoption for many…unmet expectations, paths cut short, children whom we love but never bring home…I began reading this blog five years ago when we felt led to begin the adoption process for an 11 year old boy we learned of in an orphanage in Ghana…he has had a place in our hearts and family ever since…that year I had a difficult miscarriage and the orphanage was shut down by the government after allegations were brought by other older children who'd been adopted against the man running it…it was a blessing to the children I.m sure, however it meant almost all adoptions came to a halt and those children who weren't returned to relatives were sent to boarding schools…no longer adoptable. You get to a place in the process where you already feel they are yours and you are responsible for them, and it is excruciating to feel you cannot provide for them and protect them, because the path simply ends… And you just have to trust god knows his plans for us and for these children. We are still hopeful we may be able to help him in some way in the future, but eventually I just had to ask god to help me not feel after him as a mother, because I couldn't focus and care for our other children while stressing about him and things I couldn't change . god answered that prayer soon after and we can smile now when word reaches us that someone has heard from him and he's doing well…but I don't think they ever leave your heart.

    Reply
  16. Kayla
    November 14, 2014

    When we started, we thought we might do fos adopt. Long story short, we prayed for a lot of waiting kids from all over the country but never received a referral or even a hint that we were on the short list of families for them. But I really believed that those kids mattered, that our prayers for them mattered. We may have been the only people who ever prayed for them by name and the enormity of that is not lost on me.

    Reply
  17. robyn
    November 14, 2014

    Our foster sons of 16 months go to a new family, 4 hours away, next week. So many emotions. So many questions. And, of course, your blog post timing is not a coincidence. God is good and He has a plan.

    Reply
  18. Elke
    November 14, 2014

    Dear Lisa,
    Reading your story about loving a child you could not adopt brought back memories: 5 months after we brought home our little daughter from Thailand, we received a mail from the Orphanage, it was a letter from an American woman: "Good to hear from you guys . : ) I was there a couple years ago and after spending time with one of your children I looked into adopting her. R. She had already been paired up with a couple in Germany, in a city a few hours from where I now live. I'm wondering if you could contact that family for me." We got in contact and found out that we lived very close to each other and Sally was able to visit and play with our daughter. Afterwards I googled Sally's name and found some lovely photos of our daughter on the internet together with some info:  R. with 2 little buddies ~ of all the babies I've seen this year, I really want to bring her home with me, we just get along real well.
    Till today I feel guilty !
    Elke (apologies for any mistakes)
    P.S. I have been following your blog for a little while now and would like to express sincere thanks for addressing so many interesting and important topics around the adoption subject.

    Reply
  19. adventisthomemaker
    November 15, 2014

    It's hard reading all of the responses. There are hard times for adoptive parents. We tried to adopt an 11 year old girl this year and had our dossier compiled and submitted to Taiwan. She finally said no to the adoption and the process was terminated. It's been about six weeks since we got the news and I still hurt. I pray for her often. We are applying to adopt another older child who will also have the opportunity to say yes or no. It's hard to open ourselves up to potential pain again but really feel God is telling us to have faith in Him, no matter what happens.

    Reply
  20. harriet88
    November 15, 2014

    Oh, Eleto, lovely 4-year-old boy with the sorrowful eyes. I think of you when when I read to my boy in bed every night. You made me think harder about the unpredictable (and not the "God's destiny") nature of adoption and loss, and my obligation to you and your family (though I've never met you or them) and to my son and his family (so dear to me, and so complicated). Love to all the little boys who yearn for their first families.

    Reply
  21. sciencedino
    November 17, 2014

    We were on the short list for two different 10yo boys for foster/adopt. We had to choose to accept an interview for only one boy, because we weren't allowed to be "in process" for both. If we weren't selected for the boy we chose first, we could re-enter the process for the other boy, if he hadn't already had a family selected. So we picked our son J – we interviewed and turned out to be the only family under consideration. J lives with us now, and is still in his 6-month foster period. So we never interviewed for I. But last week, I saw I's photolisting on our state's waiting child Facebook page. It made my heart hurt to know that he could have been ours, and that 11 months after we turned down his interview, he *still* doesn't have a family.

    Reply
  22. Karen P
    November 17, 2014

    As a foster mom, I hold in my heart a few children that I thought of as mine….if only for a little while. We have only been able to stay in touch with two of them. We hope and pray that the others are safe and well-cared for and happy. Loving them is easy, saying good bye is not.

    Reply
  23. Heidi
    November 25, 2014

    Yes! The little girl placed with us whose mother decided to parent, the little micro-preemie with heroin withdrawals whose medical needs were to great for us to handle, a little boy with Turners syndrome currently in Costa Rica. All of these children are in my heart and I pray for them often. Maybe they were a part of my life for those brief periods so they will have someone praying for them. All the children my parents fostered through the years that we lost contact with are also in my heart.

    Reply
  24. Katie
    August 30, 2017

    When I did missionary work at an orphanage in Uganda, I fell in love with a 6-month-old baby girl. I was at the orphanage for 1 month, and the baby and I formed a unique bond. I loved her, and I could tell she loved me too. I was seriously considering adopting her, and I asked the orphanage director about how I could do so. But she told me that a family in Uganda was already in the process of adopting her, and she was going home with them the next day. The next morning, I said goodbye to my “daughter” and I was the one who placed her in her new mother’s arms. I had tears of joy and grief in my eyes, happy that she had found her family but saddened that I had to let her go. Perhaps this is what a birth mother goes through when she places her baby for adoption. I still think about the baby, who is probably in her early teens by now. But I know that God gave her the family he did so that she would have the opportunity to grow up in her native country and become a productive citizen of Uganda. Who knows? I may go back to Uganda one day, and find out that she is a doctor, or a lawyer, or even the President. So, even though I still carry that loss, I have comfort knowing that she is no longer an orphan and that she has the security and love of a permanent family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 30, 2017

      Thank you for sharing your story, Katie. It’s amazing how our hearts can connect with a child in such a short time.

      Reply

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