Ethiopia Suspends Adoptions

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa posted a notice today saying they had been notified by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) that MOWA is suspending its processing of intercountry adoptions, effective immediately. At this point, I have seen no definitive information on the reasons for the suspension, or for how long the adoptions will be suspended.

This news is receiving a lot of attention on Facebook among adoptive families and adoptees. There is plenty of speculation about the causes: an investigation into an adoption agency or orphanage; a response to political events; a desire to ensure that children being adopted are genuine orphans and their reasons for needing adoption are accurate; a desire to change the image of Ethiopia as a country that needs to “export” its children.

Ultimately, of course, Ethiopian government officials are the only ones who know for certain, and it is entirely possible we will never know the reasons.

There is precedence for the suspension; adoptions were effectively suspended in a slowdown for a few months last year. MOWA was reorganized; required interviews were delayed. There is also precedence in many other countries for suspending, decreasing, or stopping adoptions. Examples which come quickly to mind are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Romania, Russia, Guatemala, China, and South Korea. Adoptions have slowed or stopped for political reasons, because of internal fraud and corruption, because of agency fraud and corruption, and because of a country’s shame in having to send its children outside of its borders. Keep in mind that the U.S. also sends children to other countries for adoption, primarily to Europe and Canada. That’s a fact that often surprises people.

I don’t think anyone following Ethiopian adoptions in recent years is surprised by today’s development. The role of money in intercountry adoptions is powerful and for years has encouraged fraud and bribery. With adoption agencies being investigated by the FBI or closing as a result of a U.S. Justice Department indictment, with agencies who had Hague Convention accreditation (the only official accreditation available) suddenly closing because of bankruptcy, with adoptive families finding out that their Ethiopian children have living parents, with Ethiopian birth families having been told they would receive reports and updates which never happened, and with the pendulum of child welfare advocacy moving toward family preservation over adoption–well, it’s a perfect storm of sorts.

There’s no question the numbers of children being adopted from Ethiopia have declined in recent years, as is true in many other countries as well. I wrote last year about what people who were lamenting that decline could do: there are many ways to help the children, and I truly hope anyone moved by this recent suspension will do all they can to work toward orphan prevention and family preservation.

There will always be children who could benefit from adoption, perhaps especially those  who are genuine, verified orphans; or those who have physical conditions or disabilities which are untreatable or fatal in their home country.

I so hope that there will be some good that comes from this suspension: efforts to reunite children with their parents and to support family preservation; accurate assessment of whether children are true orphans in need of adoption; and strong policies for family preservation programs, women’s job training, and literacy.

I wish Ethiopia would invite adult adoptees to return and would listen to their stories and ideas. They would hear from those who believe adoption saved their lives and from those who have suffered greatly. They all deserve to be heard. I wish Ethiopia would provide a forum for birth/first mothers to tell their stories as well. I wish the U.S. and other countries would provide the same level of pre- and post- adoption services to Ethiopian birth/first families as they do to adoptive families: the inequity is shameful.

Time will tell what will happen in Ethiopia. This could be a wonderful opportunity for promoting child welfare that is a model to the world, rather than an event that results in no genuine change for vulnerable children.

The State Department notification is available here.


8 thoughts on “Ethiopia Suspends Adoptions

  1. Pingback: Ethiopian Parliament Officially Ends Intercountry Adoptions | Light of Day Stories

  2. It has been clear that a good part of IA in Ethiopia has been fraudulent and corrupt since the late norties. A quick google search of the terms Ethiopia Adoptions Fraud Corruption should be enough to make even the most self deluded realise they are stepping into murky waters indeed.

    The pattern which occurred in Ethiopia is the common story shared between all poorly developed nations exploited for their children though IA. Find a poor nation with fragile state mechanisms, easily corruptible officials, then manufacture orphans with opaque or forged documents, the younger the better, market the newly available “orphans” to a wifully ignorant and complicit audience in the West. Next? Thats right, Make a motza. Then when the level of fraud and corruption becomes so visible that the Government is forced to close it down, move on to the next developing nation with a previously unrecognized orphan problem.

    Guatemala, Columbia, Romania, Russia, Vietnam, Congo, Laos, Ethiopia. I may have missed some. But I think you get the picture. The misery caused to families with little to no understanding of what constitutes the modern mercentile, ownership centric nature of late 20th/21st Century Western Adoption is incalcuable. I urge anyone considering IA to do some research and hard thinking.

  3. Pingback: Update on Ethiopian Adoption Suspension: All Cases Will Be Denied | Light of Day Stories

  4. Pingback: Today’s State Department Call About Suspension of Adoptions in Ethiopia | Light of Day Stories

    • I was present at the United States Ethiopian Embassy on April 26th, 2017. There were about 15 families present at this meeting with most getting close to obtaining their court decree or actually having a court decree issued. The embassy workers responsible for processing the visa’s for adoptive children said this stoppage was unprecedented. One of those present had worked at the Embassy for 8 years and had never seen an order come down from the Prime ministers office to stop issuing court decrees and vitals. However, the courts are still scheduling court dates and issuing court decrees, but they will not issue vitals. The reason they are still issuing court decrees is because it is a separate branch of government and the Prime ministers office can not force them to stop. So you can become the legal parent of a child but you will not be able to get a birth certificate under the adoptive parents names and this will prevent a passport from being issued. Ultimately, you will not be able to get a visa to take the child home and will become the legal parent without the ability to take the child home. The embassy workers that spoke at the meeting are incredible and are working nonstop to get this issue resolved. Although the embassy workers were careful to explain that they did not know exactly why the stoppage occurred, they did mention that the Ethiopian government wants to promote domestic adoptions.

      • Thank you very much for this information. Your experience sheds much light. This reminiscent of the situation in the DRC a couple of years ago as well. I continue to hope that children who need families will get them. So hard to know exactly what’s happening and why, or who things will resolve. Ethiopia has a great opportunity to promote a child welfare strategy that is genuinely helpful to all involved–birth/first families, adoptive parents, and, especially, the children. Thanks again.

      • This is not unprecedented, in fact it is almost exactly what happened in DR Congo. Hundreds of families had legal judgements, even passports with visas and were yet denied a letter allowing them to cross the border with their adoptive child. It took over two years to resolve. The thing to really watch in this situation is what the agencies do. If there are ethical ones, they will stop putting cases into court, even if the court will still issue a judgment. Instead, I predict they will do as they did in Congo-tell the parents it will reaolve quickly and keep pushing more and more cases through even though they cannot guarantee those kids will ever come home with their families. Anything to keep the bucks rolling in. The situation in Congo likely would have been over in 6 months had agencies not shown so much disrespect for the government of the country they worked in.

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