Family provides new home for two Ethiopian children

By Miranda Snyder

The Matlock family poses with their newly adopted children Nen and Achole on Friday, March 16 at KCI Airport.

Miranda Snyder

Sarah Fulton, managing editor

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Rushing to find a hiding spot, freshman Jordan Matlock helps her new three-year-old sister, Ava Achole, hide in the closet, while her new brother, eight-year-old Joshia Nen, attempts to conceal his feet behind a curtain. Games like this started in March when Jordan’s family brough home Ava Achole and Joshia Nen from Ethiopia after a two-year adoption porcess.

Jordan’s family began the foreign adoption process in August 2010. Jordan’s mother Sherri Matlock explained that after three years of consideration, the decision to adopt was not easy.

“I had been thinking about [adoption] for a few years. But we just hadn’t decided where we would adopt from. Would we do it domestically or internationally, are we too old to do it?” Sherri said.

According to Sherri, it was after her husband, Craig, and her son, former student Braxton, came home from a mission trip to South Africa in August of 2010 decided to adopt internationally.

“We decided if our goal was to help children and to have children to love, it did not matter what country they came from and Ethiopia has a very healthy international program,” Sherri said.

The Matocks then began the adoption process at the domestic level by submitting to a series of home studies, financial checks, health checks that allowed them to qualify to adopt internationally. Then on Oct. 15, 2010, they filed paper work with the Ethiopian courts.

“Your life becomes an open book to these agencies,” Sherri said.

After being approved by the courts, the Matlocks should have received a referral that would allow them to be matched to children. However, previous to receiving their referral, the group in charge of Ethiopian adoptions announced that they would be limiting the number of adoptions.

“It was at least a six-month period where things came to a grinding halt,” Craig said. “[I was not afraid that] it was not going to fall through, but that it was going to take years and years. It is a totally helpless feeling.”

Jordan agrees.

“I was upset. I wanted my potential brother or sister…home, quickly,” Jordan said. “It is hard being patient, but that’s what you have to do with adoption, be patient.”

After six months the Matlocks finally received the referral, and found Nen and Achole on their adoption agency’s website.

“As soon as we got the referral…I kind of screamed for joy,” Jordan said. “When we saw their pictures it was a moment of happiness.”

The Matlocks then traveled to Ethiopia in December 2011 to meet the children, who were living in transitional housing, and to be approved by the Ethiopian courts.

“It was kind of funny at first because…there was no one that spoke English. So they kind of just pushed into the court yard. We looked at them and said is that them?” Sherri said.

According to Craig, once they figured out that it was Achole and Nen, they had to show restraint.

“You are struggling between wanting to go and grab these children that you have been loving in your heart and having some restraint,” Craig said.

After approval from the courts Craig and Sherri were legally Nen and Achole’s parents, but could not bring them home until they were also approved by the U. S.

“It was difficult because…we understood that we would be coming but they didn’t,” Sherri said. “That was the worst part, not being able to communicate that we would be back for them.”

The Matlocks pushed for clearance by sending emails to the officials conducting the final interviews. Then on March 10, they gambled and left for Ethiopia before receiving clearance in hopes for returning home with Nen and Acholle. After five days in Ethopia and almost two years total, the Matlocks finally brought them home. However, according to Sherri, she did not know what to expect.

“You do not know exactly what to expect,” Sherri said. “I expected their sleeping to be more difficult and they are awesome sleepers.”

Jordan has changed her sleep schedule.

“We have to get up at 6:15 a.m., because they are up playing hide and seek. They are kind of loud, and they bang,” Jordan said. “It is fun. Sometime I wish I was younger so I could stay home and play.”

According to Craig, communicating has been interesting because Nen and Achole speak almost no English.

“[The hardest part is] the language barrier, definitely. With Achole it is not as hard, she is little. With [Nen] it has been harder because he is shy anyway,” Sherri said.

Craig says that they have learned to look for gestures Achole and Nen make to say things like yes.

“It is these small little gestures, they do this eyebrow flub and head raise but it is so subtle,” Craig said. “We have been playing a lot of charades.”

According to Sherri, communicating with Nen and Achole about their heritage is important.

“[To preserve their culture] we are going to a lot of talking, a lot of reading. One of the things that is important to me is to honor their birthparents,” Sherri said. “We will talk about their birth family with them so they know that we don’t expect them to forget about their birth family and their heritage. It is very important to honor them and remember them.”

However, the Matlocks are still waiting to learn much of Nen and Achole’s story. They know that before they were moved to the care center they were living with an aunt and that their parents are deceased.

“We do not really know much of their story,” Craig said. “We hope to learn more as they grow up. It is up to them to tell it.”

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