So, remember my post from last Friday, that said I had nothing to report on the adoption front? That there was nothing to say, that we’re just waiting along?
I totally jinxed it.
Later that very same day, a news article became the hot topic on all of the Ethiopian adoption forums. The headline, Ethiopia to Cut Foreign Adoptions by Up to 90%, was enough to make most people involved in Ethiopian adoptions shudder and gasp. And I admit, Craig and I were among those with nervous, shocked, “Holy cow [okay, “cow” might not have been the exact word used], what the heck [again, may not be the exact word] is going on here?” reactions. I also admit that several glasses of wine were consumed by yours truly Friday night, as I wondered if our dream of having a family was ever going to come true.
Please click through on that link above and read the article, if you haven’t already. Read it with your own eyes instead of taking second- or third-hand accounts of it, please.
Essentially, the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs (MOWA) issued a statement that it would be cutting down on the number of inter-country adoptions it processes each day, limiting the number to five. MOWA provides a very important letter regarding the eligibility of the child for adoption that is necessary for the courts to proceed with an adoption case. Presently, MOWA handles up to 50 of these letters a day.
As far as I know, this is all that MOWA said, that they’re limiting their processing to five a day. However, the article goes on to state that this will effectively cut Ethiopian inter-country adoptions by 90%. As far as I know, MOWA did not say that they’re cutting inter-country adoptions by 90%; the author of the piece said that. There is also a quote from someone at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, who speculates that this will cause significant decreases in the numbers of adoptions that are processed each year. This is a reasonable assumption, based on the fact that MOWA will be processing fewer cases each day. However, the numbers and the math in the article don’t seem to make total sense.
I didn’t put anything on the blog about this at first for a few reasons. First, I was in a bit of total freak out mode. Second, I didn’t want to cause others to worry unnecessarily. And third, we are having serious problems with our internet service at home, so I haven’t had a real chance to blog. But now I know that others are starting to hear about this, and I thought I had better say something already.
Our agency (WHFC) is cautioning us to not panic, and to stay tuned for more information. Its Director of African Programs is an Ethiopian who lives in Addis Ababa, and its Director of Programs is also in Ethiopia right now. As one of the longest-standing and most reputable agencies working in Ethiopia, WHFC has a seat at the table with MOWA and the courts when these types of changes are being discussed. They are already in discussions with MOWA and others about implementation and such. And I truly appreciate that. Our agency notes that these things take time to figure out, and that it might be a month or two until we really know what is going to happen.
I’ve said before that I’m a realist. I don’t like to sugarcoat things, and I also don’t like to envision the most dire possible outcome when I don’t have real reason to. In reading the article, and from hearing the response from our agency, I’m fairly convinced that a lot of what has been going around is based on speculation. All we know for sure is that MOWA is reducing their processing. We don’t know if this is a permanent thing or a temporary measure, and we don’t know if this is part of an overall intention to slow down adoptions across the board. We don’t know the how or the why.
It is quite possible that this directive has come from MOWA due to the significant concerns about the ethics of Ethiopian adoptions as of late. The fact of the matter is that some Ethiopian adoptions today are NOT ethical. Some families do not understand that their children are going away forever; some families are offered money in exchange for their children. Some adoption agencies are big players in this type of corruption. It absolutely must stop. If MOWA’s intent in slowing down their processing is to focus more on investigating each individual case, then I’m all for it. The scrutiny needs to be there. The bad actors need to be permanently removed. No question about it.
An ethical adoption is of the utmost concern to Craig and me. We are happy and relieved to be working with one of the most highly regarded agencies working in Ethiopia. Our agency does individual investigations on each child, including meeting with surviving birth family members, prior to referring children to adoptive parents. It facilitates and requires meetings between birth and adoptive families. It also helps adoptive families communicate and visit with birth families post-adoption. These types of things are in place to ensure, to the extent possible, ethical adoptions. But many – most, probably – agencies don’t do these things. While we can be reasonably assured that our adoption will be ethical [and that’s as far as I can go with that statement, because I don’t believe there’s ever a way that we’ll be 100% sure], the same cannot be said across the board. And instead of shutting down the entire program over ethical concerns, as has happened recently in other countries, I think additional scrutiny is necessary at this point.
At the end of the day (and at the beginning of the day, and in the middle of the day), the concern here has to be for the welfare of the children. There is no question in my mind that many children in Ethiopia have no hope other than international adoption. I remain hopeful that the Ethiopian government will make changes necessary to ensure ethical adoptions in a way that will not cause unnecessary delay for the children in true need of families and homes. It may well mean that we will have to wait even longer than we thought. And as much as that is sad and disappointing to me, because it delays our family coming together, I know that this is not all about me. It can’t be.
So, yes, we are worried. But we’re calm at this point. We’re riding out this storm, hanging in and holding on.