Recently our agency (WHFC) shared information with us related to a couple of policy changes (one in place, one possible). Earlier this week we had a chance to talk with our case worker (during one of our regularly-scheduled monthly calls) about these, and it was great to be able to ask a couple of questions.
The first policy change is an internal one at the agency. WHFC has added a couple of additional screening steps prior to the referral of children. Essentially, WHFC is now taking the step to contact the birth family to ensure that 1) the information received from the government about the child is correct and that 2) the birth family understands the permanency of adoption and all that adoption means. These are steps that most agencies do not take, and we greatly appreciate the fact that WHFC has chosen to add additional checks and balances to ensure ethical adoptions. It’s especially important that they’re doing this after a child is referred to the agency but before the agency refers the child to an adoptive family. Given all of the recent discussion, I’m so glad to be working with an agency that chooses to take on more when it sees fit.
The other potential policy change we heard about is not in place; it’s just a possibility. Apparently there have been problems in Ethiopia lately with adoptive parents not taking their new children home with them, and essentially abandoning them. This has not been a problem with WHFC families, and the instances may not have even been American families, but apparently it has happened enough that the Ethiopian government is rightfully concerned about the situation. Keep in mind that adoptions from Ethiopia are finalized prior to travel, so these people are already the legal parents of the child. I cannot fathom who would do this, but as we all know, sometimes we have to create laws and protections to react to the actions of the lowest common denominator. So, the Ethiopian government is considering additional steps to ensure that parents will take their children home, and one possible way to address the situation is to require an additional trip to Ethiopia, possibly for the court date. Perhaps if the parents and child are able to meet earlier, some of this could be avoided. The leader of WHFC’s program in Ethiopia has been in discussions with Ethiopian officials about this situation and since WHFC is not an agency to get involved with the rumor mill, I take the fact that they shared this potential policy change with us to be a sign that it is a real possibility. I think a second trip would actually be pretty cool on a number of levels (plus it would make it so that our child is automatically a U.S. citizen without additional steps once we come home), but of course a trip to Ethiopia is not cheap, so the cost of a second trip would be significant. Our case worker told us that WHFC will continued to be involved with these discussions and that, as with all possible changes, the agency will advocate for its families as best as it can. In the end, of course, the Ethiopian government is the body with the decision-making authority.
I’m all for changes aimed at improving transparency and ensuring ethical adoptions. I never would have guessed a few years ago how complicated this international adoption stuff can be, but it’s necessarily complicated to protect the best interests of the children. Since we have a long way to go with our wait still, I suppose more changes could happen. It’s sort of hard not knowing exactly how it will all play out, but we know it will all be worth it in the end.