Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ethical Adoptions in Ethiopia

On Dec. 6, the State Department issued this release regarding ethical adoptions in Ethiopia:

Adoption Processing at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa

December 6, 2010
The Department of State continues to be concerned about reports highlighting adoption related fraud, malfeasance, and abuse in Ethiopia, and acknowledges the concerns expressed by families over the integrity of the adoption process.  The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa actively tracks all adoption visa cases, incorporating information provided by adoption agencies and the Government of Ethiopia, to ensure that the adoption process continues to operate transparently and ethically.

The Ethiopian government requires that adoptive parents must appear at the Ethiopian federal court hearing for their adoptive child in order for the adoption to be approved.  If there are two adoptive parents but only one parent can attend the hearing, special permission from the federal court must be obtained in advance,* and the attending parent must have a power of attorney from the other.  It generally takes three weeks or more after the court date for the adoption agency to obtain the documentation necessary for an immigrant visa application, including the adopted child’s birth certificate and Ethiopian passport.  Adoptive parents can expect to wait at least one month after the court hearing for a visa interview appointment.  

Adoptive parents should be aware that in all adoption visa cases worldwide, an I-604 investigation must be completed in connection with every I-600 application.  Depending on the circumstances of the case, this investigation may take several weeks or even months to complete.  Additional information may be required to determine the facts surrounding a child’s relinquishment or abandonment and whether a child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.   The Embassy strongly recommends that adoptive parents who return to the U.S. after the court hearing not travel again to Ethiopia for the immigrant visa process until they have confirmed with their adoption agency that the Embassy has scheduled a visa interview.  Those who plan to stay in Ethiopia between the court hearing and interview should obtain Ethiopian visas in advance of travel, and ensure the validity of their visas to avoid immigration proceedings and/or significant fines.

There's more to this notice, but the gist of it is that talks continue regarding the level of ethics in Ethiopian adoptions.  What does this mean for us?  Honestly, we don't actually know.  The unknowns in adoption are killers, but here are  the two main options:
1.  Adoptions continue as they are, with certain agencies/orphanages investigated.  These groups could lose their licenses to continue adoptions in Ethiopia.  We feel certain that our agency is doing everything above-board, so this is not a particular concern for us.
2.  Ethiopia adoptions authorities could decide to become Hague-certified.  This means that adoptions will be suspended for a period of time for the country and agencies to prove their ethical procedures, participate in training, etc.  This would be an excellent move for the kiddos in-country, as it is one more step on the way to making each and every adoption as ethical as possible.  Not sure what our next move would be if this happens--at this point, we do not have a back-up plan.
There is always the possibility of Ethiopia shutting down the program completely, but with ongoing talks and the opening up of additional orphanages to adoptions, it seems like the program will not be permanently closed at this time.  This is our hope.

Another article came out today, outlining additional ideas of the future of Ethiopian adoptions.  He actually refers to the process as the "baby pipeline"--yikes and dang.  I wish, very strongly wish, that some of these articles would include agencies that are doing the ethical thing every single time and families that will only accept (to the best of their abilities) ethical adoptions.  Adoptive parents never, ever want their child to question whether their adoption was legal and morally the right decision.
Wait times seem to have grown in the small time that we have been working on our adoption.  Not really sure what this means, or if it means anything at all.  So at this point, we are just trucking along and hoping against hope that adoptions continue, that wait times do not increase exponentially, and that discussions of ethical adoptions also continue to be productive. 


  1. Sigh.

    Naturally I'm all for completely 100% ethical adoptions but really...I am not sure how much longer I can be in limbo.

  2. I know. It's all awfully depressing. LC, if u check back here, are u hearing the same things? I'm trying to decide how much to freak out :-)