We have been watching the current state of affairs in Ethiopia with international adoptions. Sadly, Ethiopia has begun closing orphanages and reducing the number of international adoptions. Those adoptive parents interested in adopting a child from Ethiopia, are seeing a longer process and longer waits for referrals of children. These decisions not only impact and frustrate potential adoptive parents, but most importantly, they impact abandoned children in dire need of homes and families. A disheartening reality is that while governments declare they are making these decisions in the best interest of the children and to avoid child trafficking, the result is that children, who could otherwise be placed with families, now languish in orphanages.
While we do not want to discourage adopting from Ethiopia, anyone considering adopting from Africa may want to take a look at the Democratic Republic of Congo as another option. DRC has a staggering orphan crisis on its hands with an estimated number of orphans in Kinshasa (the capitol) alone to be 1,000,000 children. Why so many orphans? DRC’s past conflicts, war and poverty are the main causes. While many orphanages exist in DRC, the fact remains, that as the poorest country in Africa, these orphanages struggle with providing even the basic needs to the children. Infant mortality rates in Congo are high, with male infants dying at a rate of 85 per 1,000 and female infants at a rate of 75 per 1,000. DRC’s orphan population is staggering with many children in crisis and in need of homes. Those left behind face not only a life of poverty but also death. For those children who do survive with little education and opportunity, when they age out of the orphanage, the majority are faced with a life of crime or prostitution just to survive.
As the first agency to open an adoption program in DRC, we spent over a year researching adoption possibilities in DRC and speaking with government officials. Our program opened to families in October 2009. We began bringing children home in August 2010 and to date have successfully brought 84 children to be united with their new parents in the US. With a qualified staff in country, we ensure that every adopted child meets the US federal guidelines for the definition of an orphan.
While there are many children in need across Africa, including Ethiopia, the cold reality is that if the country’s political climate is not favorable to international adoption, prospective adoptive parents must consider countries that are favorable to adoption. Choosing a country to adopt from involves knowing that adoptions are possible and the children available are true orphans. With the orphan crisis in Congo and the current favorable conditions in DRC, adopting a child from DRC is a viable option for parents looking to adopt from Africa. In the meantime we will continue to monitor Ethiopia in hopes that decisions made moving forward are indeed in the best interest of the children and that they allow international adoptions to continue without roadblocks once again.