Thursday, February 18, 2010

Regarding Ethiopian Adoptions

Earlier this week CBS featured a negative and one-sided story about Ethiopian adoptions. I have been heavy hearted all week as I have mulled over the story, read many responses, and thought about how I would respond myself.

I feel as though I am wimping out by not writing a long and articulate response myself, but I don’t think that I can do any better than what this mother, working on her second adoption from Ethiopia, has written. Please take a few moments and read her blog post here. I agree wholeheartedly.

The adoption agency highlighted in the report, Christian World Adoption, has issued a well-worded response to the story. Please go here to take a look at that also. For the record, they were interviewed by CBS as well, but nothing from their response was mentioned in this sensational story.

Please take note that, as the CBS story states, there were 2277 Ethiopian children adopted by Americans last year. However, CBS doesn't mention that there are 5 MILLION orphans in Ethiopia. Only 0.4% of these children were adopted. The rest still live in orphanages, alone and without parents. Believe me, there is no need for children to be purchased from birth parents - especially hard-to-place, older sibling groups, such as the ones featured in the story.

What grieves me most is that certainly there are many individuals out there who have considered adoption from Ethiopia, but saw this story and changed their minds because of it. Perhaps they were nervous about adoption and the challenges that it would bring and were looking for a “valid” excuse to choose not to adopt. At one point we were in that place. We were halfway committed to the idea, but we had lots of fears. Something like this may very well have caused us to change our minds.

Let’s remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the Evil One. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He does not want children who live in orphanages and have no one to care for them to be adopted by families. Adoption is becoming more and more common among Christians, and he HATES that. He would love to shut down adoption from Ethiopia and to discourage the families who are considering it.

Adoption is a picture of what God does for us when he saves us. We are his ADOPTED children, invited into his family and given all the rights of a son. We learn about his love through adoption. Satan hates that too.

I will not pretend that corruption doesn’t ever exist in Ethiopian adoptions, or in adoptions from any country for that matter. Where there are people, there is sin. If you are considering adoption from any country, it is absolutely imperative that you work with a reputable, Christian adoption agency.

Our agency, America World Adoption Agency, has never had an adoptive family to discover that their child has been purchased or coerced from their birth family. (I know this because I asked this question directly.) They work only with three orphanages in Ethiopia because they are very careful about the integrity of the agencies that they put trust in. They have put the following policies in place to safeguard against fraud and corruption:

•America World will not engage in any practice that could be perceived as self-serving, but will always operate in the best interest of the orphaned child even to the detriment of our own organization.

The referral of orphans to families will NOT come from an organization or individual that has a fee-per-child arrangement and is involved with the birth mother or family in any way.

•America World will only work with licensed organizations that are approved to provide social services to the birth mother, the birth family and abandoned orphans. These organizations will NOT receive compensation from us on a per-child basis but based on the needs of their ministry as a whole. A guarantee concerning the number of referrals of children in exchange for donations made will NEVER be attached to agreements with these organizations.

• The referral of orphans to families will NOT come from an affiliated organization or individual who is controlled through a board, agreement, compensation or some other arrangement. Referrals will ONLY be accepted from separate licensed organizations whose mission it is to serve birth mothers, the birth family and the orphaned child, and which is in no way involved with adoptive families. We will uphold the standards of the IRS 501(c)3 code which limits self-dealing through our affiliated non-profit foundations and fee-for-service non-profits.

In addition, I want to share some detailed information about how the relinquishment process works. (As in, a living birth parent choosing to give a child to an orphanage.) Three different agencies must investigate the situation of a living birth parent to determine whether the parent is actually able to care for the child or not. Then before immigration takes place, the U.S. government investigates each child's status as "orphan" before issuing a visa. (The following information is taken from the CWA response.)

In Ethiopia, a relinquishing caregiver who seeks to have a child declared an “orphan” and available for adoption initiates the process by appearing before a local court with three witnesses. These four individuals must swear to the court that the child either has no parents or that the child’s surviving parent does not have the financial ability to care for the child. Should the local court make a finding of need based on the testimony of these four individuals, an investigation is triggered by Ethiopia’s social services department called “Ministry of Women’s Affairs” (MOWA). MOWA is then responsible to conduct its independent investigation as to the need of the child and render its findings, together with those of the local court, to a higher court for yet a third review into the need of the child.

This entire process is undertaken by the Ethiopian government, without any involvement by international adoption agencies. Most often, the entire process is completed before international adoption agencies are even made aware of the child. Finally, before a child can immigrate to the United States, the entire adoption, including the “orphan” status of each child is investigated by the United States government through the U.S. Consular’s office prior to a child’s visa being issued.

Well, this post has grown to be longer than I had planned, but I hope that it has been informative and helpful to someone out there. If you have considered adoption from Ethiopia, please do not let this scandal dissuade you. If you have any questions about adoption, you can always email me at family @ duboisadoption . com


Alli said...

Very well said! We are a new AWAA family and I have been so depressed by this story as well. Would you mind if I link back to you on my adoption blog?

LIfe A Bit Sweeter (Michelle) said... thoughts exactly...very well said.

Betsy and the Boys said...

I appreciate your thoughts. My heart has been very heavy this week as well. I did want to mention that I have a personal friend who was done very very wrong by CWA, so I would like to see them clean up or shut down, but I agree that the report was a poor reflection of all the wonderful matches being made in ET right now. I have been praying that there will not be any negative consequences from this type of reporting.

I Support Adoptions said...

This is great information and I want to thank you for it and your passion for Ethiopia!

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