Upon hearing Tesfaye’s story, New York-based couple Jennifer and Ray Hatch knew they had to do something.
Originally from Ethiopia, Tesfaye was adopted by a family in Idaho in May 2013. However, after 11 months, Tesfaye’s adoption was disrupted and he went to live at Ranch for Kids. It was there that Ray and Jennifer, who had been working with an adoption agency at the time, first heard of Tesfaye. After many discussions and prayers, the duo decided to adopt.
For the first four months before meeting in person, Jennifer and Ray would have multiple phone and video calls with Tesfaye. At first, Tesfaye was shy and would look to RFK staff members to answer questions for him. But over time, Tesfaye was able to slowly break out of his shell.
“He opened up to us a little bit more each time we had a Facetime call,” says Ray. “Toward the end, right before he came home, we got to see more of his sense of humor shining through. It was definitely a good relationship-building time we had over those calls.”
Along with the calls, both Ray and Jennifer say Ranch for Kids was instrumental in preparing Tesfaye for life in New York.
“It was amazing how Ranch for Kids was able to help Tesfaye become comfortable with us to where we could start having actual conversations with him. It was fun,” they said.
As for when it first came time to meet Tesfaye in person, Jennifer says she was very emotional. Ray and Jennifer flew from their home in New York to Ranch for Kids, anxious to meet their son.
“I was incredibly nervous, which was funny because I never thought I would be nervous to meet a 13-year-old,” Jennifer says, laughing. “But at the same time, the second I saw him, I had tears well up in my eyes and I couldn’t hold it back. I saw him in person and thought to myself, ‘This is my son!’”
For the next week, Jennifer and Ray spent every waking minute with Tesfaye. They went out to dinner, interacted with other kids at the ranch and explored the best that Montana had to offer. For Ray, spending time with his son was a blessing – a blessing that would not have been possible without Ranch for Kids, he says.
“You know, I think Tesfaye was happy to see us, but the staff at Ranch for Kids were just absolutely, I don’t even know the word, they were just in tears to see us and meet us.” He reminisces. “You could see that they cared so much for Tesfaye and I think they knew that it was a true blessing for him. They were so great and caring and loving to him and that is something I will always be grateful for.”
Eventually, the three of them went back home to the east coast.
Now, almost eight months after being adopted, Jennifer and Ray say Tesfaye is just like many other kids his age. He loves playing soccer, playing video games and watching movies – even if his mom has to sometimes say no to certain titles.
“I think the biggest challenge that we face is really just protecting Tesfaye from the bad things in this world, like movie ratings,” she says. “I never realized how bad PG-13 movies could be until we had a teenager in the house.”
Despite the challenges, Jennifer says she would not trade being a parent for the world. She says her favorite part of being a parent is simply being there for Tesfaye.
“I love being involved in different things with him,” she notes. “He is in a public school now, he is in sports, he is a great soccer player… I love seeing him participate in those things. He is living the life of a typical teenager, and watching him grow in that has been just amazing to watch.”