There goes Ethiopia…of course!

As has been predicted, Ethiopia is the next target of those opposed to the “baby market.” See

The rapid rise in Ethiopian adoptions has set off alarm bells among children’s lobby groups. The U.S. State Department issued a statement this month expressing concern about reports of adoption-related fraud, malfeasance and abuse in Ethiopia.

The statement warns prospective adoptive parents to expect delays in the adoption process. It says additional information may be required to determine facts surrounding a child’s relinquishment or abandonment and whether the child meets the definition of orphan, under U.S. Immigration law.

Embassy consular officials say nearly two years of data collection has enabled them to identify individuals and agencies involved in unusual adoption activities.

U.N. Children’s Fund in Addis Ababa chief Doug Webb says the large amount of money changing hands in adoptions is a huge temptation in an impoverished country.

“Money is a powerful factor in this country,” Webb said. “We’re talking about $20-25,000 per adoption coming into the country. And, there is increasing evidence of irregularities within the system of various types of problems at different levels. And, these have been well documented by PEAR.”

Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform did a study of Ethiopia, this year, after detecting a pattern of troubles similar to those in Vietnam and Guatemala before they were closed to American adoptions. The PEAR study turned up evidence of unethical practices by adoption agencies and the use of coercive methods to persuade mothers to give up their babies.

Conditions in orphanages were found to be particularly severe. Some had no running water or sanitary facilities. Children are said to have suffered sexual abuse and beatings.

Ethiopian officials say their own studies confirm PEAR’s findings. Mahadir Bitow, head of Ethiopia’s Child Rights Promotion and Protection Director tells VOA one of the first priorities will be to close dozens of orphanages that appear to have sprung up to meet the demand for children.

“Before 6-7 years there were not a lot of orphanages, like there are now, so the increased number of adoption agencies brought about the increase in the number of orphanages in Ethiopia,” Mahadir said. “Most of these orphanages are not orphanages. They are transit homes. They receive children. They give to adoption. They are a (pipeline). So in the future we will not need all these orphanages.”

Mahadir would give no time frame for shutting down orphanages that exist simply to fill the demand in the United States and a few other Western countries for Ethiopian babies.

She acknowledges the plan to close as many as 25 percent of the country’s orphanages could create temporary havoc, as officials scramble to place thousands of de-institutionalized children. But she says taking away financial incentives should reduce the supply of babies offered for inter-country adoption.

Even Voice of America (!!) is using that crass descriptive language–prospective parents “paying for” children, the baby business, crackdowns, scandals…….For once, after all we have learned, couldn’t we see a reasoned, human rights based approach to problems that arise in devising international adoption systems? As is so typical, one could not differentiate in this article between those adoptions that were necessary and life saving, as opposed to those that did not need to happen, insofar as the children concerned could be “taken care of” adequately in the home country. There have been issues in the Ethiopian adoption system–but are we even close to ensuring that all abandoned children in that country will find permanent families? Once again, so predictably, so depressingly, we hear all the “market” discourse and none of the fact-based nuance……

What really gets to me is that it all sounds fine–ethical reform, fixing the system–but that is not what happens, and that is not the real agenda of the UN…..What happens in practice is that these countries do not reopen, and there is little if any work done on identifying children in genuine need of families so as to facilitate placing them for adoption. My prediction: That will not be the result of all this rhetoric–quite the contrary, in fact!!  Ethiopia will place far fewer children, and most children in real need will be forgotten by the international community.


3 thoughts on “There goes Ethiopia…of course!

  1. Thanks for saying some of what I was thinking about this…I haven’t had a chance to get into the details of it on my own blog yet. I do think the Ethiopia program grew far too quickly for appropriate oversight. When we adopted from there in 2006, there were only 7 licensed US agencies, now there are dozens. I would like to see the program repaired, but as you say, it’s going to get painted by the press and others as a hotbed of baby buying and children in need will be hurt.

    • Yes, such rapid growth leads to the potential for abuse–but based on the experience of other countries, it seems clear that the entire program will be tainted–the national government will be shamed–and Ethioian adoptions will be phased out. It seems to be the pattern in those few countries that even have programs any more…..The critics have prevailed….

  2. This mentality, the purist mentality, if brought to bear on all institutions, would close every government after identifying instances of corruption. We would have no police, no Senators, no fire depts, no social welfare organizations. Closing adoption to prevent corruption is not logic, is not humane, is not in the best interests of orphaned children. It’s insanity. Prosecute the perpetrators. Prosecute the perpetrators — do not punish the children. The thousands of children who have suffered and died because adoption has been closed or suspended is a crime against humanity.
    The criticism should be aimed at the perpetrators of crimes and at those who promote closing adoption as a solution. That group should be tried for crimes against humanity. We need Lawyers Without Borders to investigate and advocate for orphans.

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