Larry and Colleen Daigle were the parents of four sons when, hoping for a daughter, they began the process of international adoption. When they learned there were many Ethiopian boys who needed homes, they altered their plan. Three years later, in June 2014, the Daigles finally brought their fifth son, eight-year-old Adam, home from Ethiopia. He had been living in an orphanage for four years and spoke only a smattering of English. Less than a year later, Adam, now 9, gets along with his brothers (Joseph , Gideon , Jeremiah , and Caleb ) and is proud he is learning to read English.
Colleen Daigle: My first motivation was that I wanted a daughter. We thought and prayed about it for a very long time. We started the process early in 2008, and we had three sons at that time. When we had Caleb, we said four is enough. Then in October of 2009, when Caleb was an infant, I went on a mission trip to Rwanda and had the opportunity to visit with an orphans group at the University at Butare. Those were orphans from the genocide that happened in 1994. That opened my eyes. That was the first time I looked at adoption, because there was a need.
CD: About 85 percent of adopters request an infant or toddler girl. Sex trafficking is so prevalent in Ethiopia, little girls don’t go to orphanages. They get taken and sold. When we looked at the statistics, we saw the need was older boys. At the age of 14, they age out of the orphanage and become street kids. A lot of boys from 6 to 13 years-old need a home. We weren’t hard to convince. We already had four. We are good with boys.
Larry Daigle: We wanted our oldest to stay the oldest. So we asked for a child between 3 and 6. But, because it took 3 years, we pushed that timetable a little bit and asked for a boy between 3 and 8 years old. That’s where we saw the need, and we were content with that in our family.
LD: As soon as you send the paperwork away, your heart leaves with it. You know you are going to end up with a child at some point. Our boys, even at their age, knew they had a brother out there. They prayed very sweet, very child-hearted prayers for their brother, like “Help him come home soon.” We didn’t know at this point if he was 3 or 8. We had boys all those ages. I can’t imagine one of them being in an orphanage. You pray a lot, for his spiritual health, emotional health, physical health. He is in an orphanage because he has had to experience great loss, so you pray for his heart.
CD: It was horrible waiting. On December 6, 2013 we got to see his picture, and we knew the specific child we were matched with. Up until then, I was obsessed with this child I didn’t even know. Is he at the orphanage already? Is he on the street? Is he eating? I would look up the weather in Ethiopia. I had never thought about it before that God, while he is waiting for us to become His children, cares about every detail in our lives.
CD: We had to jump through hoops here to show we could support another child. On the international side, they had to make sure he was an adoptable orphan.
LD: There is stuff that just doesn’t make sense. It’s just bureaucracy at its worst. But there are some things you are glad they do. There is fraud in adoption. In the midst of our adoption, the Ethiopian government realized the seriousness of this issue and shut down all adoptions for a season. It slowed us down, but at that point we were content, because we knew it was going to help the kids of Ethiopia. We chose America World Adoption because we thought they were extremely ethical. When you go through an adoption, you hear horror stories from everyone you know. In vetting many agencies, we saw America World as a credible agency. We can’t say enough good things about them. It was a blessing to work with America World.
CD: I had heard some mothers say, “I saw the picture and I knew.” I thought that was so cheesy. They called us, and we opened up the e-mail. I told Larry, “That’s the one, I just know.” Oh, I did it, too! From the time we were matched to him until he became ours, we were able to send packages to him and got an update from his doctor every month. We told him about the house and the boys and grandparents, aunts and uncles. We asked him if he had any questions for us. One of the questions was if he could see a picture of our dog and cat. We had two dogs. I felt pressure to get a cat!
LD: We said “yes.” At that point, you realize that’s the one God has for you.
CD: In May of 2014, we flew to Ethiopia. He became ours legally on May 27. At your court appointment, they become yours. Then all the paperwork process begins again, in order for them to have a passport matching your last name and a visa. Most families take two trips. The children go either to the orphanage or a transition home. Larry left the next day, but I stayed in Ethiopia with Adam. We would never leave one of the other boys without us. It also kind of helped the process move at a faster clip.
LD: We had made up our mind that one of us was going to stay, regardless of how long it took to get the paperwork done. It was probably one of the wisest decisions we made. They were there together for four weeks.
CD: He could say yes ma’am, no ma’am, and the ABCs. I would try to look in his eyes. He was rolling his eyes to keep from looking me in the eye. And then a child psychologist our agency employs in Ethiopia told me in their culture, it’s very disrespectful for a child to look into an adult’s eyes. He has different life skills than we have. His chore at the orphanage was to walk to the market every morning to buy chickens. He would cut the heads off the chickens and bring them to the cooks. Everything was new. He had never been in a restaurant. He had never used a toilet. He had never experienced a traditional shower. By the time we got home, I knew his body language. I could tell when he was overwhelmed or getting tired.
LD: When he first got here, sleep was intermittent. He would sleep with his stuff underneath his pillow. In the orphanage, he was constantly taking catnaps to make sure nothing was being taken. A few months after he was here, the boys were watching a movie, and he fell asleep on the couch. That was a big victory, because he felt comfortable enough to sleep with everybody else awake. When he started sleeping, he started growing. His body is responding to sleep and nutrition. He has grown three inches. He is maturing, and he looks healthier and happier. One of the hardest things for him was to get used to air conditioning. He walked around with a jacket on when he came into the house.
LD: He is learning everything. He is reading everything now, just like a child would in kindergarten. The boys show him how to do things like how to throw a football and how to ride a bicycle. He started going to school at A. R. Turner Elementary in August. It was a challenge for them, so we home schooled him for a season. We just re-enrolled him. He is on a first grade reading level and second grade math level. We are going to continue on through the summer until he gets caught up. There was just no schooling where he was. It has given him a lot of self-confidence to read. It has been fun watching him grow that way.
CD: I would say he understands 95 percent. Now he asks specific words, “This is what?” That was his question for a long time. He also asks, “If it bites me, am I finished?” We got him a New Testament that had Amharic and English. He said, “I need a new Bible. Mine doesn’t have all the verses.” I told him, “It only has English.” He said, “I only read English now.”
CD: I showed him a video, because it had footage from his orphanage. There is a little clip of his favorite nanny in the video. Larry asked, “Do you like home, or do you want to go back to the orphanage?” He said, “I like home.” I think he is happy. I learned how to cook some of his favorite foods while we were in Ethiopia. One day I fixed his favorite food, sourdough made with a grain called teff, almost like a crepe, with a lentil stew in the middle. You would have thought I had given him a bar of gold.
LD: There are hard times, too. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Fortunately for us, he’s a good kid. There are kids who come from hard places, and it takes a long time for them to respond to authority. Adam has responded really well to us. Everybody gets treated the same here. He fits right into the herd.
Throughout the lengthy process of adopting a child from Ethiopia, there were moments of frustration for Larry and Colleen Daigle; however, there were also times they were amazed by events that unfolded. “It’s really interesting that God worked out so many details,” Colleen says. “We look back and think, ‘There’s no way that could have happened without God’s hand.’”
One of the most astounding of these stories began when Larry and Colleen attended a large conference for adoptive parents at Houston’s First Baptist Church. Although there were about 3,000 people who attended, a couple also adopting from Ethiopia sat on the same row as Larry and Colleen. “We really liked them,” Colleen says. “We hit it off. They were adopting from Ethiopia and using the same agency as us.” The other couple was from another city in Texas, but the two couples stayed in touch after the conference.
When the Daigles learned in December 2013 which child they would be adopting, they were surprised to learn their new friends would be adopting two boys from the same orphanage. The surprise turned to astonishment when Larry and Colleen discovered that one of those boys had been their son’s best friend in the orphanage.
“No one could have done that for us to randomly sit next to people—that we liked!—that we stayed in touch with, and they adopted his very best friend,” Colleen says. Although the two families were about six weeks apart in the adoption process, the Daigles’ adoption was postponed three weeks and the other family’s adoption progressed faster, so the two families were in Ethiopia at the same time. Today, Adam Daigle is able to Skype with his best friend from the other side of the world.