Archive for Monday, July 20, 2009


Adopting support: Couple pushing through international system for Ethiopian orphan

Ross and Michelle Merritt are in the process of trying to complete an international adoption.

Ross and Michelle Merritt are in the process of trying to complete an international adoption.

July 20, 2009


Michelle Merritt makes homemade rings out of old buttons that she is selling to raise money for an international adoption.

Michelle Merritt makes homemade rings out of old buttons that she is selling to raise money for an international adoption.

With one mouse click, Ross and Michelle Merritt could have deleted away their chance to be parents.

The afternoon of Sunday, May 31, the couple noticed they had an e-mail with the subject, “A baby girl for you!” They both laughed thinking it was spam. Fortunately, they opened it and saw a photo of their baby daughter for the first time.

“It was surreal,” Ross says. “It was like we found out we were pregnant. We just sat there smiling at each other.”

The Merritts treasure that photo, because until they pay the rest of the almost $17,000 of adoption expenses and receive a court date in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, their baby girl will be waiting in an orphanage halfway across the world.

Married for seven years, they moved to Lawrence from Arizona last October knowing they wanted to raise a family here. While they hope to have children of their own, too, they always knew they wanted to adopt.

Hurry up and wait

Since submitting their application in November, the Merritts have spent countless hours turning in paperwork, doing home studies and going through background checks. On May 31, they received their referral and the news that they were going to be parents to a baby girl who was abandoned days after her birth on April 19.

The couple now has to patiently wait to receive a court date — which could be months — to adopt their daughter by proxy in Ethiopia. After the date is set, they must pay the final bill and book their flights to Ethiopia — which will be about $1,500 a ticket.

Ross and Michelle found the program through Hope Adoption Agency in Olivette, Mo., thanks to Regina Montgomery, Michelle’s mom. Montgomery was visiting with co-worker, Todd Twigg, in April 2008. Twigg, who lives in Springfield, Mo., mentioned he and his wife Mendy, had three biological sons but recently had adopted their daughter, Bethlehem, from Ethiopia.

“It definitely takes a strong couple and a strong marriage,” Twigg says. “With a normal pregnancy you pretty much know what to expect, but this has a lot of unknowns.”

Costly process

For the Merritts, a lot of those unknowns have been figuring out how to pay the adoption fees. They’ve sold everything they can and are moving to a smaller house, but they realize they have a long way to go. Other families that have adopted suggested bake sales and fundraising dinners, but the Merritts felt that wasn’t really their style.

“A big to-do focused on us to raise money would have made us really uncomfortable,” Michelle says.

Michelle finally found the perfect fundraising project — rings made of wire and buttons — while surfing the Internet for jewelry ideas. She attended the Kansas City Art Institute for a year before going to Arizona State University, so she knew this was a much more enjoyable and personal way to raise money.

“Every time I make a ring, I think of her and know I’m doing it for her,” Michelle says.

Four months into making the rings, the couple have made about $2,000 but still have a lot to raise.

“We were so excited about the e-mail and picture of her; then the next day we get a $12,000 processing fee,” Ross says with a laugh.

Michelle has pre-made rings but can also custom make rings depending on button size and color. The rings can be bought for a $10 “donation” per ring and can be found on their web site, They are also available at Sizzors Inc., 600 Lawrence Ave.

Lifetime commitment

The Merritts’ families have been supportive and proud of the couple’s work to bring home their baby daughter.

“Michelle’s very creative, and both of them are thinking all the time of what they can do,” says Janice Merritt, Ross’ mother. “I just wish the wait was over for them.”

Montgomery, Michelle’s mother, says she knows Ross and Michelle have sacrificed a lot this year and it shows their dedication as parents.

“I kept saying to Michelle, ‘When you’re a parent ...,’” Regina says, “And finally Michelle said, ‘I am a parent, mom, I just don’t have her home yet.”


Paul R Getto 8 years, 11 months ago

Wonderful! It's great to see people willing to give youngsters a chance at a new life in America. Those of us who picked the right parents should be eternally grateful for our opportunities.

mriley 8 years, 11 months ago

Good luck, Merritts-- I hope you have your little girl here soon! What a lucky little one to get such creative and dedicated parents! Now I'd better go down to Sizzors and get my new ring...

randysavage 8 years, 11 months ago

Ahhhh.....I must have forgotten that there are no children that need adopting here in Kansas.

woodenfleaeater 8 years, 11 months ago

This is a true story. As sad as it sounds, it is true. My friends recently adopted their son, 5 year old Mengesha (spelling) from Ethiopia. He is very cute kid, learning his english daily, and giving high fives constantly. He was very protective of his new parents in the orphanage in Ethiopia. Anywho, I was visiting them a few weeks ago in Iowa, and they had a parade in their town. They gave Mengehsa a bucket to keep his candy in, and he said "Water?". How sad, but cute as well. He thought his parents wanted him to get water for them, but it was really for the candy. And boy, did he scarf the candy down!!!!

kmat 8 years, 11 months ago

randysavage (Anonymous) says…

Ahhhh…..I must have forgotten that there are no children that need adopting here in Kansas.

Thank you! Just what I was thinking.

See, the issue is so many people only want to adopt a baby. You have to wait a long time in the USA to get a baby. They could have easily gotten a toddler or older child from KS that just as desperately needs a home and is currently living in foster care.

But, no. Most people are greedy and only want little babies. Very few want to help those that are a little older.

I don't have very good feelings for people that will go these lengths to get a baby instead of adopting children from their community that need help.

aksnative 6 years, 9 months ago

Wow...have you adopted? Have you gone through the process? Do you know the expense, the life-long commitment, the risks, etc? Greedy?

Since you are not greedy, I suggest that you look into adoption in KS and maybe think about adopting.

Keep me posted.

Greedy? Whatever...

You don't have very good feelings? I don't have good feelings for people that criticize people that do adopt. If you have such strong feelings...ADOPT a child yourself!

By the in KS have a government that will take care of needs. In other countries, kids just die of starvation or disease. Have you ever looked a kid in the eye in an orphanage that had no hope other than you?

kugrad 8 years, 11 months ago

Best wishes to the Merritts; I hope your dream comes true. Your child will certainly be very lucky. Don't let the judgemental posters get you down. Adoption is a very personal process and no one knows your heart. Besides, I strongly doubt that kmat or randysavage have ever done anything to help, let alone adopt, orphans in their own community, which is probably a good thing. Hang in there! Best wishes

rubyslipper 8 years, 11 months ago

kmat wrote: "I don't have very good feelings for people that will go these lengths to get a baby instead of adopting children from their community that need help."

Good thing it doesn't matter to everyone what you think. I think any form of adoption is a great and wonderful thing. It's not something that people take lightly and it's not something you should judge. In the end a child is going to be in a loving home.

merritr 8 years, 11 months ago

Thank you all for the kind wishes, they really help us through this long process.

The criticisms are legit, even though they could have been delivered with a little more tact. We first looked into adopting an American baby. Unless we want an older child, or a disable child, then in many cases we had to prove we were infertile. Since this will be our first child and we're still relatively young, we wanted a healthy baby. Next time around, God willing, we will definitely do our best to adopt an American baby.

I'm just happy, and happily surprised, that there haven't been any racist comments yet. Thanks everyone!

coolmom 8 years, 11 months ago

i adopted a teen from the u.s in fact from kansas and she does have special needs due to what she suffered through but i think the world is our global community and any child that gets adopted into a family is all good no matter from where. good luck.

randysavage 8 years, 11 months ago

Informed (lol)...

I'm not hating on these people, I'm simply trying to point out that there are children here in Kansas and in the U.S. at large that would benefit from the kindness of the Merritts just like this Ethiopian child will.

Also, what matter does it make if I have ever adopted a child? Does that mean my opinion is worthless because I've never been through the adoption process??

Please take your dumb comments elsewhere.

Kugrad: "Besides, I strongly doubt that kmat or randysavage have ever done anything to help, let alone adopt, orphans in their own community, which is probably a good thing."....

Well, it seems to me that if I spent exactly 30 seconds volunteering at an Lawrence orphanage/group home that would mean I'm doing more for this community than someone adopting a child from Ethiopia, eh?

formerksteacher 8 years, 11 months ago

Some of you clearly have no experience in the adoption area. After a long time investigating adoption possibilities here in the U.S. and also trying to adopt a baby that someone ASKED us to take in, we found many, many snags and finally abandoned our hopes of having a child. One state doesn't work with another, many states' legal processes preclude each other, quite a few agencies want to make a killing off of their clients, and there doesn't seem to be a trustworthy clearinghouse of information. The system is a mess, and I don't blame people for going outside the states. As for adopting older children or children with special needs, it takes a strong person with knowledge and commitment to do so - why blame everyone in this world for not feeling that they are up to the challenge? I agree it is sad that people in the United States don't reach out more, but maybe if we would all be a little more caring and support other programs, we could avoid leaving so many of our children without parents in the first place.

malindi 8 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations! My older sister was adopted from Ethiopia and I wouldn't trade her for the world. I was excited to see your article in Go! Best wishes!

hayrokitty 8 years, 11 months ago

I would caution anyone casting aspersions and judgments towards a well intentioned adoption.

Adoption of any child is a complicated family decision. Families must make honest choices about what risks and issues they can handle.

Any adoption has legal, financial, and medical risks that must be honestly considered. Equally important are the losses of unfilled dreams and expectations by the triad of the adoptive parents, the birth parents and child. Decisions on how to proceed have enormous impact on how each member of the adoption triad is able to manage these losses for the rest of their lives.

A well intentioned adoption thoroughly and honestly reasoned by all stakeholders who are able will reveal the best adoption solution for all members of the adoptive triad.

Did the Merritt’s consider all their options and make the “best” decision for their family? That simply was beyond the scope of the article and beyond the ability of any reader to levee fair criticism of their family decision.

Do international adoptions unjustly displace potential domestic adoptees from loving domestic families? This is also is well beyond the scope of the article and our judgment. For those bold enough to conclude it does please save some of your admonishment for selfish domestic couples who defiantly expand their own families through procreation despite the domestic surplus of children waiting to be adopted. Criticizing your own biological parents would be a nice place to start.

coeangal 8 years, 11 months ago

randysavage - do you have children of your own? Why didn't you adopt? Because a family wants a baby doesn't make them evil or even selfish. It's their choice. Some people choose to have an infant by giving birth and others by adopting. Nothing wrong with that. If you think that's selfish then everyone should stop giving birth and only adopt until there are no more orphans.

As for adopting in the US. It's not that easy. You have to jump through far more hoops than you do to give birth that's for sure. Then you aren't necessarily approved. So until you start to help do something to help orphans in general you really have no business being so obnoxious and other words I can't put on here.

Go live your life.

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