No to corruption. Yes to families.

14 03 2011

by Rebecca Harris, Director of Programs & Services

The following as an excerpt from our newsletter, Mbali’s Message.  Sign up to receive it by clicking here.

Already in 2011 we’ve seen Ethiopia move to reduce intercountry adoptions by 90% and Kazakhstan officially suspend adoptions in anticipation of their ratification of the Hague Convention.  Haiti and Ukraine are on what we’ve termed our “high alert” list – countries that show indications of closing in the next 12-months. This is a scene we’ve seen play out over and over again, in country after country.  And every time a country has chosen to suspend or close intercountry adoptions, children suffer.  It’s a scene that is quite frankly, confusing, unneccessary, and very disturbing.
In allowing this to occur, we’ve failed the biological families who need preservation services, we’ve failed the children who legitimately need intercountry adoption and we’ve failed our global community.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of failure.  I’m tired of seeing children, like Addison, become “collateral damage” in the battle against abuse.  Allowing children to die needlessly and alone is simply unacceptable.

Over the last ten years we’ve fought the good fight.  But we’ve lost too many times.  And every time we lose, children lose.  This month we’ll release a report about the systematic elimination of intercountry adoption and the decrease in services to children.  And we’ll ask you to join us in changing the tide.  We’ll ask you to rally your friends and family to stand up and say “No” to corruption and “Yes” to families.  It’s not enough to just stop bad things from happening – we have to make good things happen too!

So, be on the look out over the next month – in your inbox and our website – I hope you’ll join me in standing up and demanding the fulfillment of every child’s right to a safe, permanent and loving family.  Join me in speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.





Ethiopia: Washington Times Article by Andrea Poe

13 03 2011

Author and journalist Andrea Poe published Ethiopia Adoptions May Be In Peril in the Washington Times on Friday, March 11, 2011.  See below or click here for the full text of the article.

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NEW YORK – Ethiopia is poised to overtake China as the number one country of origin for foreign adoptees in the United States.

Young residents from the Joshua Youth Academy in Debrezeit, Ethiopia, an orphanage for children whose parents died of A.I.D.S. (Photo: The Washington Times)

Matches between orphans and families have been on the increase in what’s widely been recognized a one of the most successful intercountry adoption programs in recent years.

However, many adoption experts are now pointing to signs that that may soon be changing.  There’s a danger that the window for adopting from Ethiopia may be closing as so many other intercountry adoption programs have done.  Although American agencies are still processing dossiers and the Ethiopian government remains open to these adoptions, there is a general unease about what may happen in the near future.

Winds of Change

Prospective parents should give great weight to a statement by Doug Webb, the chief of child protection at UNICEF in Addis Ababa, who in December said, “The next 12 months are going to be crucial.”

As with other countries whose programs have been shut down (i.e. Nepal, Vietnam, Guatemala) to Americans, there have been accusations of child trafficking and the presence of unscrupulous actors who trade on the misfortune of birth families for profit.  There have been allegations of coercion of birth mothers to relinquish babies.  On the orphanage side, there have been accusations of fraud, in particular, reports that some Americans have been misled about the age of the child they’re adopting.

Further, many American agencies that facilitate adoptions are under review by the Ethiopian government.  In December one agency, the Minnesota-based Better Future Adoption Services, had its license revoked by the Ethiopian government amid charges of “fraud.”  Families who were working through this agency have seen their adoptions halted and have been advised by the U.S. State Department to seek legal counsel.

Susan Jacobs, U.S. Ambassador and Special Advisor to the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State, has urged all agencies working on intercountry adoptions to be Hague-accredited, including those operating in Ethiopia.  And recently the Ethiopian government has reversed its course and announced that it plans only to work with Hague-accredited agencies going forward, although the government has given no timeline for this change.

Separately, the U.S. Department of State recently reported that it has concerns “about reports highlighting adoption related fraud, malfeasance and abuse in Ethiopia…”

The U.S. Embassy has issued notices to American adoption agencies telling them to expect delays up to several months or more as investigations are initiated into individual cases.  The  State Department warns parents not travel to Ethiopia unless their adoption agencies has confirmed that they have a visa appointment, which means their child has been cleared to be brought into the U.S.

A current State Department posting reads: “We understand that this may result in a longer period before parents are able to bring their adopted children to the U.S.  However, this additional scrutiny is required to ensure that the adoption is legal under both U.S. and Ethiopian law.”

To Hague or Not to Hague

Ethiopia has not signed the Hague Convention.  There is international pressure on the Ethiopian government to ratify the treaty.  Although it has not done so yet, it has begun to study the effects of the implementation of the safeguards that child protection advocates have lobbied for.

On the surface, additional safeguards for children and the crackdown on corruption sound like positive steps.  And they will be if indeed the current discussion results in actual implementation and a streamlined process.

However, experience in other countries has shown that all too often these steps do not result in improvements, but rather in the slowdown and ultimately shut down of intercountry adoptions.

If these signs on the horizon in Ethiopia do wind up indicated what many in the international adoption community fear — the beginning of the end of Americans ability to adopt from Ethiopia– this would be a tragedy.

The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that there are 5.5 million orphans, children who are the casualty of poverty and illness, especially since AIDS deaths are on the ascent in the country.

Although for the 2010 fiscal year, the U.S. State Department reports that there were only about 2,500 adoptions from Ethiopia, that number reflects a significant uptick over the 284 orphans adopted by Americans six years ago. These rising numbers mean that fewer children are destined to spend their lives in orphanages or living on the streets.

Conditions in Ethiopian orphanages tend to be poor—many go without running water– and, in some cases, dangerous with reports of beatings and sexual abuse.  Every child who is adopted is one more spared a childhood spent in these overcrowded conditions.

As the international community has intensified its scrutiny, Mahadir Bitow, the head of the Ethiopia’s Child Rights Protection Agency, has responded by announcing that she intends to close 25% of Ethiopia’s orphanages.  She does not say where these orphaned children would go.

All prospective parents looking to adopt from Ethiopia should pay close attention to the rapidly changing conditions.  And the entire world should keep watch.

A shrinking intercountry adoption program in Ethiopia, a country where there is an extremely limited domestic adoption program available, will be a dangerous sign that once again adults –even those with the best of intentions — will once again stand in the way of helping children.

Read more Red Thread: An Adoptive Family Forum in The Washington Times Communities.





Notes from Dept of State Ethiopia Call

11 03 2011

Following are our notes from the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues conference call regarding Ethiopian adoptions.  These notes do not represent nor are they  in any way attributable to the Department of State or US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  We are providing the notes with respect to those adoption service providers who could not participate in the conference.

We extend our thanks to the Department of State for conducting the conference call and to US Citizenship and Immigration Services for their participation and contributions.

The Department of State is Actively Involved
•    The Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs announced a reduction in the processing of intercountry adoption cases from 50 per day to 5 per day, effective March 10, 2011.
•    The Department of State is actively involved in discussions with the Government of Ethiopia, other governments and stakeholders.
•    A coalition of countries is preparing a proposal to assist the Ministry increase its capacity.
•    Embassy suggested that children with special need’s cases should not be delayed.
•    The US Embassy officials have a scheduled meeting with the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs for Monday, March 14, 2011.
•    There are areas of concern related to intercountry adoption, however the reduction is disproportionate.

Adoption Cases
•    Currently there are no implementation guidelines for in-process cases.
•    For adoption cases registered with the Ethiopian court, the best estimate is a one-year delay.
•    The staff change at the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs has been confirmed as taking effect the week of March 13, 2011.  The impact this will have on adoption cases is not known.
•    It is estimated that between 800-1,000 adoption cases are currently on the docket of Ethiopian courts.





Ethiopia Update 3/10/11

10 03 2011

Processing Limit
It has been confirmed that the new policy of limiting the number of adoption cases processed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs went into effect today, March 10, 2011 with 5 cases being completed.   While a staffing change at the Ministry was confirmed as having occurred earlier in the week, this did not affect the implementation of the new processing limit.

Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children
To date, over 29,000 concerned individuals have signed the petition requesting a reconsideration of the new policy.   We continue our daily dialogue and will respectfully present the signatures, petition and letter to the Government of Ethiopia early next week.

Briefing by the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues
We, along with other key stakeholders and adoption service providers licensed by the Ethiopian government to provide intercountry adoption services, will participate in a briefing by the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues, on Friday, March 11, 2011.  An update will be published sometime after the meeting.

Ongoing Discussion
It is our understanding that discussions regarding the new policy and its impact on children living without permanent parental care continues within the Ethiopian government and amongst all stakeholders.

We remain hopeful and continue to support the Ethiopian government’s efforts to increase the capacity for oversight of adoption cases, regulation of service providers and provision of social services to vulnerable families and children.





Ethiopia: AP Article by David Crary

10 03 2011

Associated Press National Writer David Crary published Ethiopia Moves to Sharply Reduce Foreign Adoptions in various media outlets earlier today.  Click here for the full text of the article.





Ethiopia: Campaign Update

9 03 2011

In only 24-hours, over 11,000 concerned individuals have joined our Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children by signing our petition. We extend our thanks to all who have supported this initiative by signing the petition, distributing the campaign information and expressing your support of child protections and ethical adoption.

Today, we have continued our communication with the Ethiopian government and respectfully brought the outpouring of concern to them. We believe that there may have been positive developments and will provide further updates as information is confirmed.

 

 





Statement on Children and Family Services in Ethiopia

9 03 2011

March 9, 2011

Statement on Children and Family Services in Ethiopia

The work of Joint Council on International Children’s Services includes the development and implementation of the highest standards and ethical practices, the support of children living outside of family care and advocacy for permanency.  As a leader in the international child welfare community, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of Ethiopian children and the integrity of the intercountry Read the rest of this entry »








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