>Mothers connected united

>It’s Mother’s Day. And I’m missing my daughter.

So, I’m stewing and reaching further and further the only way I can in my effort to bring my girl home. I’m sending this out to the world of moms, a plea that is relying on our connectedness, our unity as moms.

You see, you all know that we are having a hard time getting the right person to hear us. To HEAR us, see us, really look at this as a real live girl who is stuck away from her family, her mom….

And so today my mind is spinning..who can help people be heard? Who gets heard and seen? If Oprah Winfrey had a daughter stuck in this, would she be heard? Would Hilary Clinton be heard? Would Michelle Obama? Do you have to be a major world leader or celebrity to be heard or seen?

I don’t know….but I do know the power of connection.
I know the power of women to reach out to each other.

I know the amazing surprising connectedness of the blogosphere.

So, I’m taking a giant step. I’m posting this letter. It is a letter that was sent to join with other stories of the human cost of this policy. It’s about us. It’s about what this means to my family. This letter IS about us, our family, our daughter. However, this policy will snare other families, it already has and it will more. This policy has to change. So this letter is for the families coming behind us too.

And if you know anyone who might be able to hear and see this and make a difference, or just plain care….to try, to pray, to help – us or the next family snared by this..then please, pass it on.
Because we are united, we moms, I think…in wanting our children to be with us, safe, happy, ok. We want all the kids to be home, to find a home.
To come home.

That’s what we moms do….every day.

It’s long…but it’s real. It’s not meant to be along whining rant: it’s an attempt to show the layers of personal cost. Thank you for indulging a mom who will do whatever it takes to get her daughter home safe, now.

To whom it may concern:

We have a daughter in Africa, an AIDS orphan . . . placed in limbo by our own government. We are Tom and Michele Gautsch, we live in Tennessee. Tom is an Orthopedic Surgeon and Michele is a full time mom. We have a total of eight children now that we have adopted Marta (12 yrs old) in Ethiopia. Three of our children are biological and now five are adopted, three from the U.S. and two from Ethiopia.

We are very, very anxious to unite our family. We had the unfortunate timing of our court date being scheduled just behind the new TB screening regulations and we have been stopped in our effort to go and bring home our daughter, Marta, from Ethiopia.

We passed court successfully March 31, 2009, after just short of a year of work in the extensive adoption process. According to the Ethiopian government, Marta is our daughter in all ways, most certainly, legally. We know she is our daughter not only legally, but spiritually, morally, ethically – in all ways, she is our daughter. However, on March 23, 2009, the U.S. CDC began phasing in new TB SCREENING requirements, and it is the rigid interpretation of this protocol which is preventing us from bringing our daughter home, for at least two more months and possibly many more. Marta is a post tb patient, however her tb left a scar on her lungs, and thus on her chest xray. It will never be normal. The rigid application of this screening protocol doesn’t allow the panel physician to clear Marta to travel, even though she has a known tb status: post treatment. This protocol was for screening unknown tb status. Our Marta’s status is documented: adequate treatment, successfully completed.

The screening that Marta is being delayed for has never been proven to effectively reduce the rates of tuberculosis in the immigrant population. In fact, the vast majority of first world countries don’t do this screening at all, and the ones that do, screen the immigrants after they arrive in the country. If we were British, or French, or Norwegian, Marta would be home with us, right now. The CDC has arbitrarily decided to implement this policy in only twenty countries. There are seven countries with a higher endemic incidence of TB than Ethiopia, where the CDC does not require screening with TB cultures. If Marta was from China or India, both countries with ten times more TB prevalence than the U.S., she’d be home right now.

Our family was supposed to travel Saturday, April 25th to Addis Ababa to meet our daughter again and bring her home. We had an Embassy appointment for our visa scheduled on April 29th. On Friday afternoon, April 24th, the day before we were to travel, we were called by our agency and told not to come. This news, to say the least, was devastating. We had spent the past many weeks organizing and preparing for our trip. We had to make arrangements for the younger children to have a good caregiver in our home, plus of course prepare them for our time away. We had been gathering and organizing and packing our donations and humanitarian aid for many weeks. Thomas, the dad, had to make extensive arrangements to be away from his solo surgical practice, schedule patients for surgery around his planned trip in order to maximize their care as well. By Friday we were packed and ready to go, the excitement at the house was at a peak for all…until that call came. Then it all came crashing down.

In disbelief, Tom started manning the phones, trying to find a way, any way to talk to someone about this. Michele was simply devastated, crying, trying to console the kids while her heart was breaking. Tom spent until almost four a.m. researching the protocols, the actual risks of a post TB patient and learning the data on TB in immigrants in the US and around the world. He spoke with contacts at the CDC, as far away as Kenya, and everyone said, “This is silly, she should be able to travel, she’s post treatment.” So, until sometime after 4 a.m., the morning of the 25th, (we had to leave by 5:30 a.m.), we hoped to still make our flights and go meet our girl. However, we hit a wall of bureaucracy and were told, again, in the early hours of that morning, “don’t come.”

And so we did not go. Full stop. We have been wracked with worry over our daughter and depression over the situation. This manifests physically, in all the normal ways. It is hard to not be depressed, it is hard to kick back into the regular cheerful routines of a busy family life.

On a practical, material level, this has also had a tremendous cost. For Tom, he lost a week of work. When you schedule 10 days out of a solo surgical practice, it is not a simple matter to just fill your work schedule back up on the spur of the moment. You lose the days and the income that would have been generated. In fact, you continue to pay the normal operating expenses, but are not, literally, operating. This would have been a planned financial cost. But now, having to plan for an entire new trip, we will have to incur it twice. That is a very significant, large, financial burden. Of course our plane tickets, six of them, had to be returned, with penalties for cancellation and changes. Many other summer plans have had to be reworked and still have not been able to be figured out; this delay affects our children and extended families and their plans – put on hold – as well. Our bags of humanitarian aid remain stacked in our foyer. Our suitcases with personal clothes have been unpacked, but our smallest children still ask when we are going, confused.

For Marta’s health, she needs to come home and have adequate nutrition, safe surroundings and the love of a family to help her heal from the many traumas she has experienced in her life. Staying in an orphanage, half a world away from her parents and family, does nothing to help heal the heart and body of this child, our daughter. Even several months away from her family makes a difference to a child, especially one this age and with her life experiences.

The hardest part, perhaps, for our hearts as parents, is Marta’s experience. Marta is not a toddler or infant. She is an older child. She is twelve. So she has awareness of what is going on, but is not yet old enough to fully understand the details. Any older orphan, in particular, is going to really wonder if it could possibly be true: “do they really have a family? For real? Is it really going to happen?” Because to an orphan, one who has already lost both her parents and everything she ever had, ANYTHING can happen and NOTHING is forever or for sure. And this is what our Marta now has experienced: she wondered if we were really coming…they said we were. But – we didn’t show. And that was explained to her, they said, and they tried to make her understand the delays and that we would come as soon as we could. However, even if her head can hear and understand a bit of the explanation, what is imprinted on her psyche and her heart is the confirmation of her deepest fear: we didn’t show. Period. And that will have a long term cost to this young girl, and our family, that you can’t measure in computer data.

The CDC cannot measure the scar that is left by this. They can quantify the scar left on her lungs by the TB. But they cannot, nor do they care to, measure the scar left by this unwarranted delay. We can, we will live with it and try to help her over it. But this didn’t have to happen.

This can be changed with a simple decision to see Marta as an individual, as a patient if you like, but best, as a child. Marta is not a random immigrant who will vanish into the unknown masses in our country. She will not drain the country’s resources, nor will she be a risk to the health of the greater population. She is our child. She is coming into a family where her dad is a doctor. We had to prove we were willing and able to care of her, to the fullest extent, in every way and document this with Homeland Security, even before we were allowed to proceed with the long adoption process. We think you would be hard pressed to have a more documented or well tracked person come into the U.S. than an adopted child.

Marta is a child of U.S. citizens, her life and family is here. She is our daughter, and she needs to come home.


Tom and Michele Gautsch

44 thoughts on “>Mothers connected united

  1. >Dear Sweet Becca…yes, at this point, yes. Anything to creat a buzz, pass it on, for us, for others…that’s why I threw it out there, w/ real names and all!Thank you! Love Michele

  2. >Such a well written letter from a mothers heart. Praying for a miracle that will allow you to travel to bring your daughter home soon.

  3. >I don’t know you but I saw this on Becca’s blog, we are about to start the process to adopt from Ethiopia. I posted it on facebook, posted it on my blog, and when my husband gets home he has one of our senator’s email addresses and I will be sending this to him too. Praying praying praying! Happy Mother’s Day by the way, clearly you are a wonderful mom!

  4. >Very well said. Our hearts go out to you… all of you.. as you press on to bring Marta home. Not sure how we can help, but I will pass this letter on to a few people… and I will keep praying.

  5. >Oh friend…I wish that your family did not have to deal with this. How can you be expected to just go on with daily life?? You must fight, as you are doing. We fight for them because no one else will. I am proud of you. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.Lindsey Clevinger

  6. >I’m not sure my former comment showed up. I wanted to tell you that I am going to pass this along and be as proactive about this as I can. We will continue to lift your family up in our prayers. My heart is hurting for your family. Amy

  7. >I now this is SOO hard! There are a lot of us caght up in this. Are you involved with Project Hopefull? They are all working so hard to change these new proceedures and rules. I have friends I met my last visit to Addis who were there for emabassey ap. for thier 3 new kids…they spent 3 weeks there and had to leave thier daughter (HIV+) and take home the boys (HIV-)because of te TB testing. Our HIV baby has to have ng tube down his throat for three days for sputum testing and will not be home till at least 4 mos after passing court. His 6th cour date is 5/27. He was a month at referral and will be over 15 mos at homecoming. It is all very sad.Juleemom to manyincluding 10 from ETwaiting for HIV+baby now 10 mosand Down Syndrome toddler age 3 from ET who will be home sooner than the baby …good for him but sad for baby

  8. >Julee,YES. It’s NOT only us who are caught up in this, it’s all the HIV+ kids too and I know of that family w/ the sib group of 3 and it BREAKS MY HEART. And your situation too..it’s why we are fighting SO hard for this, not just for our girl even tho we want her home, but for this whole policy to change. We ARE working w/ Project Hopeful, this letter was written per their request, also EACH, we are working w/ them too…EACH’s work is the best hope for lasting, legal, change in this but it will take time as it needs legislation. But even so….i think we need to shout and shake the trees for ALL the families stuck in this, now, or soon to come, so that it can change. Period. Putting you on my prayer list. Thank you! Michele

  9. >Michelle:My heart is breaking for you and all the other families caught up in this new legislation. I’m going link to your blog this morning in hopes that someone that needs to see it does.If there is anything we can do, please let us know!Praying without ceasing,Robin

  10. >Thanks for commenting on my blog. I have to let you know that it was actually my wife who commented on your blog! She didn’t realize that I was signed in on her computer. (Of course, you’re welcome to stop by my blog at anytime!) My wife’s blog is:www.starshinereport.com

  11. >We are praying. We will pass your letter on. It was very well written! Hopefully it will reach someone, who can actually do something, so your sweet Marta can come home!Praying,Cami & Family

  12. >I wrote a letter also, not nearly so eloquent. My travel was delayed also…twice. My twins underwent sputum testing and now we wait…I hope our letters get read and I hope that even if it’s too late for our children, that the children that follow will not be put through this traumatic experience. Praying for your family and especially for Marta.Jenny

  13. >I’m in TN as well. I wrote to my US Representative as well as both of our senators and copied your letter along with my own 2 cents (OK, maybe more like 50 cents).

  14. >Michele,Tonight I have emailed TN US Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, as well as TN Governor Phil Bredesen and TN US Representative John Duncan, and US Dept of Health & Human Services Child Welfare. It took me a total of 5 minutes to email each of them. I will post the links on my blog for people to do the same. Do you have other emails that you want us to add? God bless you! We ALL are responsible for helping Marta! You are not alone. I will also add this to our agencies list serv.Theresa

  15. >Hi,I am Canadian, so I’m not sure there is much I can do but pray. Pray we will. We spent 8 months needlessly fighting our Canadian bureaucracy to get our daughter home. She, too, was legally our daughter in every way. It was for different reasons, but it was hellish and easy to get bitter and cynical. I had a meltdown of great proportions when we finally got her home. I felt betrayed by my country. You are not alone, and you will all heal. Tova

  16. >I wish I could do more, but I can pray for you. Pray for your family. You have the sweetest heart, for Marta, your children, and all other children out in the world.

  17. >will definitely pray … the letter is very well written from the heart and fact based … we do all have to stick together and lift each other up … we are called to community together and must walk the valleys and the mountains beside one another …

  18. >I am also from Canada so can’t do much in ways of petitioning your government….but I can and will tell everyone I know about your family and we will send out all the positive energy we have so your Marta comes home.Rana

  19. >I am so sorry – I will be praying for all of you, especially your sweet girl who is far away and should be here. There is nothing worse than missing a child who should be with you and isn’t.

  20. >Yes, while we were there (in ET) we met the most wonderful lady who also was in this same situation. She just came to visit her children b/c of it. She has a special needs child waiting and also an HIV/AIDS child waiting. It is horrible and SOMETHING needs to be done. They know what the problems are and I hate that they haven’t done anything to fix this. I am so sorry.

  21. >A friend of mine sent me this post and i had to leave a comment. Last year I got the phone call on Mothers Day that our baby girl in Ethiopia had TB. We were only 8 weeks from travel at that point. The CDC was rigid- lots of unknowns- lots of tears. I will never forget the pain i felt last mothers day… it was like my heart was torn in two (One rejoicing that i had children here in the US and the other part was with my sick daughter in Ethiopia). I cannot give any other help to you right now than saying I will pray that the God who can move mountains will bring these down before you and bring Marta home. She needs you and you need her! I am so sorry that you all are going through this and i can honestly say that i know how deep your pain goes. Maybe it would be helpful to meditate on the story about Jesus and Lazarus- MAry and MArtha probably wondered if Jesus would ever come to heal their brother because when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick he stayed where he was for two days and did not go right away. If he had gone right away then LAzarus would have never passed away. But the BIble says that he did that so that the Glory of God would be seen (as He raised Lazarus from the dead). Thinking of your situation in light of this- Though this is not what you would have chosen to happen, and though Marta is wondering if you will really come to her (just like with Mary and Martha)- God will use this to show His glory! God cares deeply for Marta and He is her Father. He is going to show his glory through all of these pains- now our job is just to trust him. Trust that He will work things out at just the right time. I hope that encourages you. I write to you with a heavy heart and one that is driven to prayer for your family. We join in the prayers to bring Marta home. with deepest care and concern, dana cordell

  22. >I wanted to let you know that my son, Squeeker and I prayed for your family tonight. When I told him what was going on, he got really upset and said it wasn’t fair. Tomorrow, he is going to write a letter to President Obama to see what he can do…….Gotta love the heart of a 9 year old……he about made me cry tonight!

  23. >I found your blog thru Jennifer who is also adopting from Ethiopia. I just brought my girls home from Haiti after a wait of almost 2 years. It’s terrible when governments and agencies, and particularly our own throw up these obstacles. Great letter and I will be praying for your family. We live near Atlanta. Your daughter and I share the same name. Praying her home,Marta

  24. >Hello, friend. I read this post on your blog and contacted my uncle who is a civil rights attorney. This is not his expertise by any means, but he did respond to my email with the following information that I thought I’d pass along. I hope that some of it is helpful. You’re in my prayers.1. If she has been LEGALLY adopted (notions of full faith and credit of Constitution and comity), then she is presumably a U.S. Citizen. Without reading the regulations, I am assuming (and you know what “assume” means) the CDC is screening her as if she were an immigrant. She is NOT an immigrant, but rather, a U.S. Citizen, which should be allowed to travel home, and either quarantined here or placed under observation until cleared. You wouldn’t, presumably, permanently exclude a US Citizen that left the US, went abroad, and started to return when TB was found. The US Citizen can’t stay permanently in another country, especially a minor. Instead of approaching it from a medical perspective (which certainly is important to prevent the spread of contagion), approach it from a legal perspective also. Legally, her place is here. So, what negotiations can be made to bring her back and still meet the concerns of the CDC. I hate to say this, but they probably need to hire a high-powered DC law firm that not only practices internationally, but also has political clout.2. At the same time, they need to meet with their senators and congressman. There is nothing that focuses a governmental agency on a problem like a congressional inquiry. And it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. You make the appointment with an aide at the local office (KY has two senators, and the parents will have 1 congressman), who you talk to, and at the same time you send a letter to all 3 (the letter is already written, it just has to be dated and addressed). After that, the congressman’s and senators’ staffs draft a letter over the congressman’s/senators’ names to the CDC asking for answers. It is a simple letter, but federal agencies consider it a “Congressional Inquiry.” In talking with the Congressional offices, you should emphasize that this child is a U.S. Citizen (or at least you consider her to be one). And Agencies have special sections devoted just to Congressional Inquiries, and tend to act quickly.


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