Our daughter, Grace, struggled from the moment she was in our care. She was five years old at the time we adopted her and brought her to the United States. She turned six just a month later. She had walls up to protect herself, and rightfully so. She had been kidnapped, and had endured so much trauma in her short life. She could not trust others, and we later found out that the only person in this world she had felt safe with was her Jaja.
Around the age of ten, Grace began to exhibit more extensive cries for help. She was stealing, lying, running away, manipulating others, and rejecting our care more and more everyday. We were at a loss as to what to do, and how to best care for her. One day while she was in a therapy session, she had told her therapist she just wanted to go home. “Where is home?” her therapist asked. “Uganda. With my Jaja.” Grace replied. “I think you should tell your parents that you feel that way.” her therapist suggested. It took a lot of bravery on her part, but she did eventually tell us that she felt that way, and that she felt like if she had misbehaved enough, we would send her back. That statement both opened our eyes, and broke our hearts.
Once again, we reached out to Gladys. We told her how Grace was feeling, and she promised to reach out to her Jaja. At first, Jaja was reluctant. She felt like Grace should adjust to life in America, and that she would likely have better opportunities here. Gladys explained that Grace was not adjusting well to life in America and that she just wanted to be with her Jaja in Uganda, and Jaja replied, “Then bring my baby home.”
It would take many months to properly plan for and carry out the reunification of Grace with her Jaja. We spoke with therapists, friends, and mentors. During this time, we spoke with other families that had done similar things after discovering corrupt and unlawful adoption practices that had unnecessarily separated their adopted child from their Ugandan family. Gladys immediately got to work involving the proper authorities in Uganda as well as a licensed social worker to ensure we were prepared for safe and lawful reunification. She also helped us find an amazing school for Grace to attend, and we hired a lawyer to help us navigate the ins and outs of this delicate process. At the heart of it all, we wanted (and still want) what is best for Grace. It was surreal to think about life without her, but we also had an overwhelming peace that we were doing the right thing.
Grace and Abraham’s Jaja lives in the countryside, and we had a long journey to get to her. When we arrived, the clay road leading to her home was flooded with recent rain and turned to thick red mud. Grace was on the edge of her seat as we drove down the small path. You could almost feel her heart beating with anticipation. We had to stop before reaching the home because the road was blocked. Grace leapt from the van as soon as it was in park. We saw the biological family walking toward us, and Grace walked faster toward them until she was in a full speed run. Her Jaja, barefoot, also started running. They met on the road, Grace lunged into the arms of her Jaja, and Jaja swung her around in full embrace. She then embraced Abraham, kissing his cheeks. The rest of the biological family started down the path, each of them embracing the children and then myself. We walked back together toward the family’s home, to our surprise there was a full party awaiting to celebrate the reunion. A feast had been prepared, and gifts were presented to me. Aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends were all there to celebrate the homecoming of Grace. After some time, we walked down another path to meet with the kid’s great-grandmother who we found out was over 100 years old! She told me she did not think she would ever live to see her great-grandchildren again, and what a blessing it was that they were there. The sun began to set, illuminating the fields of harvest around the home. Abraham was playing soccer joyfully with his cousins and neighbors, laughter filled the air. Grace was eating fruit that her cousin showed her how to pick from nearby trees, their faces dripping with sweet cocoa plant. The fire that had cooked a meal to fill our bellies, was slowly starting to die out, and we knew it was time to go. Grace wanted to stay with her Jaja instead of joining us at the hotel, so we embraced and said our goodbyes for the night. I asked her a few days later if she was scared when we left her that day, and she responded, “Why would I be scared? I am home.”