December 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: COS - Guatemala: Adoption: Detroit Free Press: Guatemala RPCV Carla Scott to adopt child in Ethiopia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ethiopia: Peace Corps Ethiopia : The Peace Corps in Ethiopia: December 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: COS - Guatemala: Adoption: Detroit Free Press: Guatemala RPCV Carla Scott to adopt child in Ethiopia

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Guatemala RPCV Carla Scott to adopt child in Ethiopia

Guatemala RPCV Carla Scott to adopt child in Ethiopia

Millions of Ethiopian children live in congested orphanages because of the ravages of poverty, war and the AIDS epidemic. It's not uncommon for abandoned babies to be found lying naked in the fields. Kesho Scott's own child, Mezekerta Tesfay who's now 4, had been found in a garbage bin. Some orphanages force the children to leave at 14 to make a living however they can, if they can."We are going to Ethiopia in May," Kesho Scott told her sister. "The adoption process takes a long time. At least begin the process so that if you decide to join us everything will be in order."

Guatemala RPCV Carla Scott to adopt child in Ethiopia

Mother and child

At age 41, a single Detroiter changed her life with a baby from Ethiopia

December 25, 2005



Caption: Ahamed Lile's hands frame Carla Scott and her new baby, Arline Carl Lile, as he takes a photo during a pre-Christmas gathering at home in Detroit. This has been quite a year for Scott, who adopted Arline from Ethiopia and became engaged. (Photos by KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press)

From the time she was 5, Carla Scott would say she was going to grow up, get married, have three children and adopt three.

But life doesn't always follow people's plans.

Scott went to college, served in the Peace Corps in Guatemala and became a pediatrician.

But the husband didn't happen. Or the children.

So when her sisters called 18 months ago to suggest she go to Ethiopia with them to adopt a child, her response was sure and swift.

"No! You're crazy, or you must think I'm crazy," said Scott, who's now 41 years old.

"But you're the one who always said you wanted children," said her oldest sister, Kesho Scott, a sociology professor at Grinnell College in Iowa.

Kesho Scott and her husband Tesfay Teklu, an Ethiopian native, adopted a child from Ethiopia while living there four years ago. She knew the ropes. Two years ago Kesho helped a friend adopt an Ethiopian child. And their youngest sister, Rachel Lovett, who lives in suburban Atlanta and had already given birth to two daughters, had recently decided to adopt an Ethiopian boy.

In the midst of making plans for Rachel, the sisters decided that Carla should adopt too.

"They ganged up on me," Scott says.

They listed the reasons:

# Carla loves children and always wanted her own.

# She can afford a child and is well established in her career. She works at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility.

# She would be a great mother.

Scott expressed her major concern:

"I'm not married. I want my baby to have everything a child should have, and I think a father is a critical thing to have. Our parents have been together for 54 years next month through the good, the bad and the ugly and they raised nine children. My father played a significant role in our lives. He was my mentor. He was active in our lives. I know how important it is to have a father because I experienced it firsthand. I'd want the same for my child.

"I know a lot of successful single parents, but I don't know if I'm up to that task."

A single retort from her sister quieted Scott enough to consider adoption. Kesho Scott said "I wouldn't be denying the child a father; I'd be giving a child a chance to have a life."

Millions of Ethiopian children live in congested orphanages because of the ravages of poverty, war and the AIDS epidemic. It's not uncommon for abandoned babies to be found lying naked in the fields. Kesho Scott's own child, Mezekerta Tesfay who's now 4, had been found in a garbage bin. Some orphanages force the children to leave at 14 to make a living however they can, if they can."We are going to Ethiopia in May," Kesho Scott told her sister. "The adoption process takes a long time. At least begin the process so that if you decide to join us everything will be in order."

So Scott began the process, which included home inspections, visits from a social worker to see if she and her home were fit for a child, a criminal background check and lots of paperwork.

But for months, the decision weighed heavy on her mind. Should she? Shouldn't she?

One Sunday morning in October 2004 Scott decided to join a friend at her church's early service. She overslept. Ordinarily, she'd go back to sleep because the early service is the only one she likes.

But something kept telling her to get up and go to the later service. As Scott was entering the foyer of Plymouth United Church of Christ she saw her friend, especially excited to see her.

"Carla, didn't you tell me you were thinking about going to Ethiopia to adopt?" said Andrea Roberson of Southfield. "There's a man here today from Ethiopia."

Scott sat with the man during the service. He encouraged her to go through with the adoption, describing the same dire conditions facing Ethiopian children she'd learned of from her sister.

The pastor, the Rev. Nicholas Hood III, began the service.

"He prayed about stepping out of your comfort zone, taking a leap of faith and doing things even when you're not sure about them and even when it's not the way your parents did it. He said take that leap knowing that God will protect you.

"I knew then I was going to go through with the adoption," Scott said.

And as if she needed confirmation, the service seemed even more as if it were designed for her benefit.

The man she'd met turned out to be a surgeon planning to go with the church on a medical mission to Ethiopia in May. Their time there would overlap.

Scott joined the church that day and left at peace with her decision to adopt.

A few weeks later Scott began dating a man she'd known for several years, Ahamed Lile, a juvenile corrections officer.

"I'd asked her out in the past, but she always said no," Lile recalls.

Before going out with him, Scott told him she was in the process of adopting and that she was trying to build a family, not play the dating game.

"I'm not scared," Lile said.

"So what are you looking for?" she asked.

"I'm looking for Mrs. Lile." he responded.

In May, Scott joined her sisters and several other friends and family members and headed to Ethiopia for a two-week stay that turned into a six-week roller coaster ride.

Their first obstacle came when an official told them Ethiopia no longer allowed independent adoptions. Only people working through an approved agency could adopt. And, the man told Scott, he certainly wouldn't consider a single woman.

The government was tightening its adoption procedures to help halt trafficking and abuse of Ethiopian children.

Scott and her sisters convinced the officials that their intentions were honorable and that they had the paperwork to prove they'd gone through the proper channels in the U.S.

After several days they were told they could proceed.

That meant visiting numerous orphanages in search of a child, which was heartrending.

When they'd enter orphanages, small children would walk up and reach to them, saying, "Mama, Mama," knowing they were prospective parents. "You had to turn your heart off or else you would have tried to adopt them all," Scott says.

She kept her mind focused. She was there to adopt a healthy baby girl. She'd already painted the nursery in her Detroit home pink and one of her suitcases was full of clothes for a baby girl.

During a visit to a particular Catholic-run home, one of the nuns learned that Scott was a doctor.

She asked if Scott would go to a hospital to look in on a 1-month old preemie who'd been abandoned in a field and was sick with pneumonia.

The hospital scene tore at Scott's heart. Men, women and children were crowded in a long corridor waiting to be seen. The pediatric ward was a small room where children lay on shelves with IV tubes taped to the wall.

Atop one shelf Scott found the little boy she'd been asked to check.

He was a month old, but weighed less than 3 pounds. "He fit in my hand," Scott says. "And he was very sick. He had no color in his skin."

She reviewed his chart with the doctor and determined he was getting good treatment.

Scott and her contingent decided to pay for the baby's medicines while he was hospitalized and she agreed to check on him during their stay.

They rejoiced when he was released from the hospital after 10 days and taken back to the orphanage, where he was supposed to be adopted by an Ethiopian woman.

But when the woman saw him, she refused to take him home.

"She said he was too little and sickly looking, and she could not care for him," Scott recalled. "I explained to her that he was fine even though he was small, and with love and good care he would survive."

Still the woman refused.

"At that moment, I told the sister, 'I'll adopt him,' " Scott says.

"Of course, I knew you were his mother the first time I saw you," the nun said. "I was just waiting for you to realize you didn't have to have a girl."

Scott says she realized she'd become attached to the baby boy the first time she saw him fighting for his life in the hospital.

"I called home and told my fiance to paint the nursery blue," she recalls.

"I was thrilled," Lile says. "I already have two adult daughters. Besides, I got a little scared at one point because she mentioned the possibility of bringing home more than one, including a set of twins."

Her sister Rachel adopted a 6-month-old boy a week later.

Carla Scott and Ahamed Lile named the baby Arline Carl Lile -- the middle names of each of their fathers and her fiance's last name.

His nickname is Anbessai, an Ethiopian term meaning "my lion."

"He really has the strength of a lion," she says. "He survived being abandoned, being born a preemie and pneumonia. I know how sick he was. I read his chart."

Now at 8 months old, the baby is a round, rosy-cheeked boy of 18 pounds. In the Boston-Edison home where her parents raised their nine children and which Scott bought after they moved South, friends and family members recently gathered to decorate Arline's first Christmas tree.

People took turns holding and hugging him in between stringing lights and garland around the tree and along the windows.

"It's a lot of work and I'm so appreciative to my friends and neighbors for coming by to help get the house ready," Scott says. "I'm so glad it's being done, especially for Arline's first Christmas."

Lile says he looks forward to taking Arline to the park when the weather breaks.

"My biggest worry was whether I'd be able to be as active with him as I was with my daughters," says Lile, 45. "But I think I have a renewed sense of energy."

Scott has always been an active and busy person. She ran for and won a seat on Detroit's school board in the midst of the adoption process. The possibility of having a child helped inspire her run. During one of the visits by the social worker, she was asked what neighborhood school her prospective child would attend. "My first response was, 'He won't go to any Detroit school.' Then I thought about, 'What am I saying about the community I live in?' I knew I had to get involved in the schools, to help make them better for my child."

Scott says her biggest adjustment has been the inability to be spontaneous. "When friends call and say let's go I can't just go," she says.

Scott and Lile have arranged their work schedules so Arline needs a sitter only three days a week.

"People tell me all the time, 'He's so blessed. He's a lucky little boy.' But I'm the lucky one," she says. "It's my life that's been enhanced," she says. "He's the best gift I've ever received."

Contact CASSANDRA SPRATLING at 313-223-4580 or

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