There was a lot of talk about Ethiopia this week in the world of international adoption. To be honest, the discussions really rattled me. I actually feel like I’m a little late to the game to discuss this now, but I really needed some time to process things.
So, earlier this week, the Australian news program Foreign Correspondent aired a segment called Fly Away Children about some severely unethical adoption practices in Ethiopia. The video is about 30 minutes long, and is very difficult to watch in parts (just a forewarning if anyone is interested in watching). The video shows the practices of one particular agency (CWA) and suggests that child harvesting is being done (basically that they’re recruiting people to give up their children), that promises are being made to birth families that aren’t being met (like promising annual contact with their children, and so on), and that the agency is not being truthful in describing the medical conditions of the children to their adoptive American parents.
CWA has issued a response and of course they state that none of the accusations are true. It’s hard to watch the video, however, and see how any of it could be made up. And then of course Foreign Correspondent issued a response to CWA’s response.
Now, I know well enough not to believe everything I see on TV or the Internet. Of course. However, I also realize that there is usually some amount of basis for accusations like these. A number of things upset me about this whole situation. First, the thought that anyone is harvesting children is disgusting and despicable. Second, an agency that misrepresents to birth families what will happen should not be in operation. Period. These families need to understand what they are doing when they relinquish children for adoption. And, agencies must be as thorough as they can be in describing potential medical concerns to prospective adoptive families. We all know that the standard of medical care is lower in Ethiopia and that some things may go undiagnosed, but if a child is having seizures several times a day, for example, that should be mentioned to the adoptive parents.
The video and the responses led to a vigorous discussion – debate, even – on the Ethiopian adoption boards I follow. I read it all with interest but also with trepidation. How can we know that we’re not going to end up in the middle of an unethical situation?
Craig and I have a tremendous amount of faith in our placement agency, Wide Horizons for Children. They were one of the first agencies licensed in Ethiopia, and they are very highly regarded and respected. We know – as much as we can know, I guess – that they are doing everything above-board and in an ethical manner.
These agencies with unethical practices must be shut down. It simply must stop.
One of my fears out of this discussion is that these types of reports will cause Ethiopia to close to international adoption, like we’ve seen in recent years in Guatemala and Vietnam. Of course that would affect us, but it would also affect the children…
I’m sure the discussion on this issue is far from over.