Just to clarify what is going on with us and the children, we are currently fostering them but are pursuing legal guardianship over them. It really wouldn't matter to us what you call it, except that we have to be their legal guardians to travel outside Uganda with them.
It's been an interesting process going from fostering to legal guardianship, both in terms of paperwork and explanations to the Ik and Karamojong relatives. When we obtained fostering paperwork, we filled out some forms and talked with a Probation Officer. For legal guardianship, we're having to get a lawyer and eventually go to court to get granted guardianship by a judge. I've spent the past few months gathering paperwork for our lawyer. Last week we took another big step by bringing a few of the closest relatives to Kampala to make affidavits.
This was so huge because of the logistics involved in getting five people down to Kampala from 12+ hours away. Our vehicle was definitely not big enough so they had to take public transport (buses and trucks) and switch vehicles at several different stops. This was also a huge step to take because the lawyer fully explained to the relatives what legal guardianship would mean. The relatives were giving up rights over the children and transferring them to us. We've heard that some judges scare the relatives when they get to court in order that they know the full implications of their decision. The lawyers were trying to prepare the relatives for what was to come.
It took six hours of sitting around and entertaining two little children who were probably confused by the adults surrounding them (who are we going home with?), but at the end of the day, each relative made a statement and signed it that they would give us guardianship. I know it had to be especially difficult for the mother to make this decision. Some friends have asked us just why the girls cannot stay with their mother. The answer is that cultural practices dictate that the children must go to their father's tribe since the mother was paid for with a bride price. The relatives were just about to claim both sisters when we came along asking to care for the children. Another question: would it be better to leave the girls with their Ik relatives? Some might say 'yes'. But we saw the condition of Janet after she had lived with the Ik relatives for two years and she was not a thriving child. We did not want that to happen to Lemu as well. And, the girls would have missed out on many good things in life that their father & mother would have wished for them. So, we approached the relatives and asked to help raise the girls....and they agreed.
The next step is to get a court date. This will be up to our lawyers. We'll have to bring these five relatives back down to Kampala and they'll stand in front of a judge giving up their rights over the children. We pray that he'll go easy on them.
I guess you could say this is exactly like an open adoption. The girls know they have two mamas and daddies. They know they have black relatives and new white relatives. They're learning to respond to each relative as language and culture dictates. They will truly be cross-cultural children. It's not always easy figuring out how to interact with the relatives in the healthiest way, knowing that it could cause the girls pain and confusion. But we are finding that exposing them to their Ik & Karamojong families and talking about what's happened to them is better for the girls than bottling it up and keeping them away from their past. May God grant us grace and wisdom on this journey!
|L-R: Uncle Lojore, Uncle Zachary, Lemu, Mama Alice, Auntie Pirmina, Janet and Uncle Hillary|
|Janet & Lemu with their aunt and mother who raised them until three years of age.|