Ethiopia In-Review – Will adoptions continue?


For the past few months and even the past year, adoptions in Ethiopia have been scrutinized, praised, discussed and followed by many in the adoption world. We have seen a reduction in the number of adoptions from Ethiopia and many wonder the reasons. Our hearts and minds are confused for Ethiopia’s orphan population is in desperate need of loving families and yet, the process and those involved in it, have created barriers for these children to be adopted. Why the barriers? Unethical conduct, difficulty processing overwhelming amounts of paperwork and pressure from various NGO’s and governments to change laws.



Unethical conduct: I cringe at the thought of adoption professional’s unethical acts ruin opportunities for hundreds, thousands or children that need homes. These actions have also lead to pressure on Ethiopia to slow adoptions and change laws. We have seen numerous articles about adoption agencies processing Ethiopian adoptions that have crossed ethical lines. The adoption process for birth parents in Ethiopia and other African adoptions must be transparent and ethical.



Also, we have seen that there is a huge demand for adoptions from Ethiopia and now Ethiopia has indicated they will process less adoption dossiers each year (likely 60-80% less!). This will create additional barriers for adoption from Ethiopia and the waiting time will drastically increase.



Pressure to change laws to avoid child trafficking and unethical practices in international adoption. I am torn on this issue. As an attorney, I believe in the law and know the benefits of the law. I know the reality in any legal process or business (which adoption is part of both) there can be criminal activities. I also believe that no amount of laws will ever stop criminals. Criminals clearly have no respect for the law and in the case of adoption no respect for orphans or their birth families. It is hard to determine what laws protect and what laws just prohibit even the good adoptions to continue. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption has a clear purpose in protecting children and their best interest. However, implementation of this convention may be impossible for some countries due to the needed infrastructure and resources.



The U.S. State Department often encourages countries to become Hague in an effort to streamline adoptions for U.S. couples and U.S. government entities and in an effort to protect children. I am hopeful that someday this convention will be a benefit to international adoption in providing structure, guidelines and protection in the adoption process. Currently, the implementation of the Convention and pressures to become Hague or “Hague like”, has significantly decreased international adoption. I am hopeful that the future holds a different story for international adoption.



It is a difficult task for governments and adoption professionals to know the right balance in laws and the process that will help as many orphans as possible and protects them from unethical practices, trafficking and exploitation. Please join me in an effort to promote adoption and at the same time protect these vulnerable children. You can become involved by educating yourself, volunteering with non-profits that provide care and assistance to orphans and advocating for international adoption with your government representatives and U.S. State Dept.



We will continue to watch the Ethiopian adoption situation and all African adoptions. We know that Africa has an orphan crisis and adoption and orphan care/assistance can be a part of the solution to this crisis.




MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.