to Cut Foreign Adoptions by Up to 90 Percent
Peter Heinlein | Addis Ababa March 04, 2011
is cutting back by as much as 90 percent the number of inter-country
adoptions it will allow, as part of an effort to clean up a system rife
with fraud and corruption. Adoption agencies and children’s advocates
are concerned the cutbacks will leave many Ethiopian orphans without the
last-resort option of an adoptive home abroad.
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs has
issued a directive saying it will process a maximum of five
inter-country adoptions a day, effective March 10. Currently, the
ministry is processing up to 50 cases a day, about half of them to the
A copy of the directive provided to VOA says the reduction of up to 90
percent in cases will allow closer scrutiny of documents used to verify
a child’s orphan status.
Ministry spokesman Abiy Ephrem says the action was taken in response to
indications of widespread fraud in the adoption process.
"What we have seen so far has been some illegal practices. There is
an abuse. There are some cases that are illegal. So these directives
will pave the way to come up with [safeguards]," said Abiy Ephrem.
Investigations have turned up evidence of unscrupulous operators in some
cases tricking Ethiopian parents to give up their children, then
falsifying documents in order claim a part of the large fees involved in
inter country adoptions.
American couples often pay more than $20,000 to adopt an Ethiopian
child. Such amounts are an enormous temptation in a country where the
average family earns a few hundred dollars a month.
U.S. State Department statistics show more than 2,500 Ethiopian orphans
went to the United States last year. That is more than a ten fold
increase over the past few years, making Ethiopia the second most
popular destination for Americans seeking to adopt overseas, after
Child protection professionals generally welcomed efforts to clean up
Some, however, questioned the motive behind the cutback. One adoption
agency representative who asked not to be identified called the policy
"ridiculous", and said it appears to be in retaliation for
recent criticism of the government’s lax oversight of the process.
Abigail Rupp, head of the consular section at the U.S. Embassy in Addis
Ababa says the cutback is likely to result in a drop in adoptions to the
United States from last year’s 2,500 to fewer than 500. She says the
biggest concern is for the estimated 1,000 children currently in the
adoptions pipeline, who may be forced to wait more than a year for their
cases to be considered.
"We share the government’s concerns about the vulnerabilities in
the process. But certainly we have concerns about children who would be
waiting longer for their adoptions to be final. That would mean they
would be in an orphanage or transition home for a longer period of
time," she said.
Rupp said adoption agencies in Ethiopia should take the directive as a
cue to be accountable for each case they bring forward, including
knowing exactly how children in orphanages came to be there. She said
government officials have indicated they may close as many as 45
orphanages as part of the effort to clean up what critics have labeled a
Ted Chaiban, head of the Addis Ababa office of the U.N. children’s
agency UNICEF, called the new rules “an important step” in rooting
out irregularities in the system and finding family-based local
solutions for what the government estimates are 5 million Ethiopian
"What is important is that any child deemed to require care be
looked at in terms of a range of options starting from family
reunification all the way through inter country adoption. In that
respect the work being done by the ministry needs to be strengthened and
supported," he said.
U.S. Embassy officials late Friday indicated they are posting an
adoption alert on the State Department’s website addressing the
concerns of Americans who will be affected by the Ethiopian government
directive. The alert can be seen at www.adoptions.state.gov
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