The Ethiopian Friendship That Forged A Tennessee Family

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The Hammons family unexpectedly doubled in size in just a few months in 2010. Image: Courtney Hammons

The Hammons family unexpectedly doubled in size in just a few months in 2010. Image: Courtney Hammons

When Courtney and Kenneth Hammons of Brentwood decided to adopt a child from Ethiopia, they didn’t expect their family to double from two to four in just five months. But when their five-year-old son, Tariku, arrived in 2010, he kept asking when “Teddy” would join them.

With help from an interpreter, the Hammons learned that “Teddy” was Tewdros Joshua, a little boy who had lived together with Tariku at the orphan transition home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Teddy (right) and Tariku met at The Transition House in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When Tariku was adopted by the Hammons, he kept asking when Teddy would join them too.

Teddy (right) and Tariku met at The Transition House in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When Tariku was adopted by the Hammons, he kept asking when Teddy would join them too.

“[Tariku] never got angry and he never cried and he never questioned us, he just said: When’s Teddy coming home?“ says Courtney Hammons, who slowly began to realize that if they wanted to grow their family at some point, Teddy should — by any means possible — be their second son. “Tariku would never have understood if we were to bring another child than Teddy to the house.”

A Remarkable Fast Track

Not only is it unusual to permit the adoption of two children of similar age, but standard procedure also typically requires newly adoptive families to be home for at least a year before requesting adoption of another child.

Inspired by Tariku’s insistence and with support from the adoption agency and the Ethiopian judiciary, the Hammons managed to adopt Teddy as well, shortly after Tariku arrived.

A Learning Curve

In addition to the emotional, legal, and financial challenges, the whole family had to learn a new way to communicate: American Sign Language.

Deaf from the age of three, Teddy arrived at the Transition House in Addis Ababa without a language. “Tariku was one of the few children that could actually communicate with him,” Hammons says. And so it is still, at least on the soccer and basketball teams Tariku and Teddy play for now.

Kicking a ball has been a big part of Tariku's and Teddy's lives, both in Ethiopia and in the US, where they play on a hearing soccer team. Image: Courtney Hammons.

Kicking a ball has been a big part of Tariku’s and Teddy’s lives, both in Ethiopia and in the US, where they play on a hearing soccer team. Image: Courtney Hammons.

Teddy gets help from an interpreter at school. And at the Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church, the family enjoys a supportive network of other families and friends, who share their language and culture challenges.

Two Boys And A Quiet House

“It’s not only the language, the deaf also have their own culture. So we are both embracing the fact that my boys are Ethiopian and that Teddy is deaf,” says Hammons. She smiles “I don’t realize that I have two children in the same respect as many of my friends do. When I have another hearing child in the house, I understand what it really sounds like for other parents of two. But my household is quiet for the most of the time.”

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You can follow the Hammons family at: http://hammonshouseunplugged.blogspot.com

Through the Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church, the Hammons met Marilyn Mays, who became Tariku's and Teddy's nanny. She has a deaf sibling and is fluent in American Deaf Language. Image: Courtney Hammons

Through the Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church, the Hammons met Marilyn Mays, who became Tariku’s and Teddy’s nanny. She has a deaf sibling and is fluent in American Deaf Language. Image: Courtney Hammons

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