May the children in need not be forgotten. May the Ethiopian families get answers about the children they placed for adoption. May adoptees find their truths and their families.
After months of speculation, since an official suspension in May 2017, the Ethiopian Parliament has voted to end intercountry adoptions. Some in the adoption community will rejoice in the news, saying the ending is long overdue, given concerns about trafficking and abuse of adopted children. The case of Hana Williams has haunted so many, and has indeed been cited as a reason for this ban on adoptions.
Some will mourn, especially prospective adoptive parents somewhere in the process, including those misled by adoption agencies recently about the imminent reality of no more adoptions.
I’d guess adoptees and first/birth parents will have a range of emotions. I have no doubt that adoption was a salvation for some adoptees, and a nightmare for others. The bribery and corruption that vividly colored adoption are well-known. For the Ethiopian parents who placed their children and were misled by adoption agencies (purposely or inadvertently) about the reality of adoption being a legal, permanent end of any ties or obligations, and for those who (like some American first parents) saw adoption as offering their children more than they could provide—well, I believe these parents are too often the most forgotten in the whole adoption process.
My biggest concern at this point is this: the end of adoption does not mean the end of the needs of vulnerable children in Ethiopia, whether they are in orphanages, on the street, or with their families. Can and will Ethiopia step up to address their needs in a humane, effective way? What will the end of millions of dollars for intercountry adoption mean for the government and the children? Will adoptive parents around the globe try to help children via nonprofits working to promote literacy, jobs, clean water, and health care—or will they sigh and turn away?
Will adoptees—tens of thousands around the world—be fully recognized and welcomed as part of the diaspora?
Ethiopia is in great political flux now: perhaps prisoners are being released from horrific jails, perhaps the government will allow more freedom of the press, perhaps protestors are being suppressed and killed, perhaps roads are safe to travel, perhaps the unrest will be addressed rather than repressed and crushed.
And heaven knows we have plenty to focus on here in the United States, in terms of the needs of vulnerable people.
Adoption is one solution for the care of children who need families, though anyone in the adoption community recognizes how damaged the process has become: so much fraud, corruption, mistreatment, lack of oversight, lies, and abuse. That said, I’ve known many Ethiopian adoptees who were indeed genuine orphans, who were adopted along with siblings, and who are certain that their lives are far better as a result of adoption.
Adoption helps a small portion of children who need families, or, more likely, whose families need help to keep their children. The focus must now be, as it always should have been, on orphan prevention, in country adoption, and family preservation.
My fellow adoptive parents: don’t throw your hands up. Make sure your children have strong, genuine connections to Ethiopia and, whenever possible, to their Ethiopian families. And please don’t forget the children who remain behind. We have a deep obligation to them, as much as to our own beloved adopted children. All that money, time, and energy we put into the adoption process: let’s put it into the protection, safety, and future of the other, equally important children we may never know.
I’ll be talking to Ethiopian adoptees about this in the days to come. Meanwhile, I have written before about ways adoptive parents and others can help, and I will continue to write about those organizations doing good, important, transparent work. Don’t close the door on vulnerable children: adoption may have ended, but the children still need us.
Here are links to the announcement: