Ethiopia puts the lid on international adoption

(Mar. 17, 2011)   Ethiopia says it will drastically curtail adoptions of Ethiopian children by foreigners.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs has just announced it would reduce the number of intercountry adoption cases processed, from 50 per work day down to five a day, starting Mar. 10, 2011. It would focus resources on other priorities for vulnerable children.

In 2009 4,506 Ethiopian children left their country for adoptive homes abroad. If implemented as proposed, the reduction of 90% would dramatically reduce the number of adoptions from Ethiopia (and greatly slow processing existing cases).

The U.S. Department of State calculated that "if only five cases are reviewed per day, delays could be significant. Calculations based on rough estimates of cases in process (around 1,000) indicate delays of one year or more."

The Ethiopian government's plan to slash the adoption visa approval rate brought immediate reaction from the adoption community.

In a Mar. 7, 2011 statement, the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) advocated for continuing intercountry adoption in Ethiopia and maintaining "the overwhelmingly positive, ethical and legal services provided to children and families through intercountry adoption." It said, "The Ministry's plan is a tragic, unnecessary and disproportionate reaction to concerns of isolated abuses in the adoption process."

On Mar. 13, 2011 JCICS board member (and CEO, Worldwide Orphans Foundation) Dr. Jane Aronson sent an open letter (pdf) to former president Bill Clinton, urging diplomatic efforts to reverse the decision to reduce international adoption in Ethiopia. "There are children and adoptive families trapped in the last steps of the adoption process," she wrote, "We need some diplomacy to pry open the lid for a moment." If the decision is carried out, "the numbers of children adopted from Ethiopia will decrease, the time it takes to adopt will increase, and international adoption in general, and the children in particular, are the losers."

The slowdown in Ethiopia would only exacerbate the general decline in intercountry adoption. It's a decline which looks set to continue in 2011 and onward, Dr. Peter Selman of Britain's Newcastle University told Family Helper.

Dr. Selman, an authority on international adoption statistics, predicted that, globally, fewer and fewer children each year will be available for intercountry adoption, while more will be cared for domestically. Ethiopia is following that trend.

In 2009, the last year for which statistics are available, Ethiopia accounted for 15% of adoptions worldwide. That proportion could drop considerably.

Related links

Ethiopian adoptions may be in peril, Washington Times, Mar. 11, 2011, by Andrea Poe.
Summary of March 11 Ethiopia Conference Call, U.S. Dept. of State, Office of Children's Issues, Mar. 16, 2011.
Ethiopia Update 3/11/11, Joint Council on International Children's Services. Notes from a briefing by the U.S. Dept. of State, Office of Children's Issues, Mar. 11, 2011.

More on international adoption

• Adoptions from China are headed downward. This article explains why: "U.S. adopts the most Chinese children".
• For the future of adoptions from Haiti, see "When will Haitian adoptions start again?".
• The trends up to 2009 are covered in "Intercountry adoptions fall one-third in six years".
• For the future of international adoption: "Expert sees further slide in intercountry adoption".
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"From Family Helper,"