Ethiopia is Ending International Adoptions: Today’s State Department Conference Call

Image result for Ethiopian map

National Adoption Awareness Month can be triggering for many adoptees, but it can also feel like a month of urgency to get involved and talk about adoption in a critical and transparent way. Today, I and other adoption community members, majority of them being adoptive parents (no shock there), engaged in a conference call held by the Department of State to discuss the current suspension of intercountry adoptions in Ethiopia.

While the conversation was enlightening, I couldn’t help but notice how so much of the conversations and questions was centered around advocacy efforts to push back against the Ethiopian government and to advocate on behalf of prospective adoptive parents. One person on the call even thanked the embassy for advocating for families. And for a moment, I caught myself gasping, because I thought to myself, yes adoption is a viable option for some, but shouldn’t we think about the impact it has on birth families and adoptees?

Why do adoptive parents continue to see themselves as victims when Ethiopia is pushing back on intercountry adoptions?

The State Department gave back instructions in April asking agencies not to make referrals for new adoptions, citing reasons for adoption coming to a halt due to corruption, the welfare of adopted children, and the lack of post placement reports. I would add another reason as an adoptee: the erosion of biological families, who are often left out of the conversation. However, prospective adoptive parents continue to hold a sense of entitlement and a sense of ethnocentrism which conveys that children are better off with them, and give no acknowledgment that Ethiopia’s efforts to end adoption might be positive.

Hopefully the Ethiopian government will work to reunify families and invest in family preservation efforts. As the call came to an end today, I decided to ask a question, based on the tone of the conversation, hoping that it would allow those fierce advocates for adoption to pause. My question was “Why does the State Department think Ethiopia has decided to end intercountry adoptions?” Their response walked a fine and diplomatic line, citing issues of severing cultural ties, welfare of children, and lack of post adoption reports.  I honestly asked this question to see how critical their response back would be. Again, it wasn’t surprising. While they acknowledged corruption, they didn’t cite possible trafficking, the murdering of adopted children, rehoming or displacement, because their job isn’t to critically educate people invested in adoption. It is to continue to push for adoption as a viable solution despite ethical dilemmas. Many of you might read this and ask me what side I’m on, why am I so anti adoption. I’m not.  Adoption has touched and impacted me in positive ways, but I and many adoptees have also been the victims of unethical practices that benefited many adoptive parents and caused birth parents pain and heartache that will last a lifetime and impact generations to come.

So my sense of advocacy comes from being a privileged adoptee who’s had the opportunity to reunite with my Ethiopian family and get answers regarding my relinquishment, but who also has spent hours on the phone with adoptees who have been harmed and paralyzed by the injustice of adoption. While I don’t know the intentions of the Ethiopia government, I hope that ending intercountry adoptions means providing services for families separated by poverty and for adoptees to have access to their birth records or any information. I’m no longer looking for the United States government to make a structural difference, despite having heard from numerous adoptees. I am sure that adoptees and their Ethiopian families need to be the ones to bring about long overdue change.

2 thoughts on “Ethiopia is Ending International Adoptions: Today’s State Department Conference Call

  1. You are not alone in your critical thinking of intercountry adoption. Please join our worldwide network of like minded adult intercountry adoptees who are joining together to have our voices heard and ensure that we don’t continue to blindly promote adoption as it has been done in the past. Also, you are not wrong with your thoughts on Dept of State. We had 2 meetings with them as adult intercountry adoptees re Citizenship (see our Advocacy section and our Perspective Paper on Citizenship) and I’ve never met a Dept so lacking in empathy or any ability to “WANT” to hear from or work with adult adoptees. The agreed outcomes are still sitting not done as they promised with no target date when we asked .. and they have removed me from their distribution list because we adoptees “dared” to show up at the meeting with Immigration and ask our questions at the call because they wouldn’t deliver us a meeting with Immigration as promised. Sadly, a Central Authority run by an adoptive mother who has invested her entire life in creating and promoting so called Ethical Intercountry adoption via The Hague, yet who constantly reminds everyone that they have “no jurisdiction over post adoption support” .. tell me, how can any country ethically conduct intercountry adoption in the thousands per year and not also ensure adequate post adoption support?! Not to mention ensure Citizenship! Not to mention “listen” to the adoptees who it’s all meant to be for. Not to mention most people don’t realise the USA is also a SENDING country for intercountry adoption. How does that even make sense as the world’s largest/richest superpower?! We are just a commodity to be traded. That is the value of our lives in the USA.

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  2. I so appreciate your post and your perspective. We are one of the prospective adoptive couples who waited for 2 years for a referral from Ethiopia, losing over $15,000 in fees in the process. My anger has nothing to do with Ethiopia’s decision but rather the notoriety of so many agencies that made this all happened in the first place, along with the fact that myself and hundreds of other families don’t get their money back if these adoptions don’t go through… As for us we went through our entire savings on infertility treatments and this adoption, and the agency (like most) pockets the change even if you don’t ever become a parent. I think that’s the real crime, adoption agencies’ unethical behavior that has affected people on both sides. As far as connection with adoptive and birth parents, my husband and I always wanted to have a connection with Ethiopian family members and wanted to return every year to visit them. But sadly there are so many people who think adoption makes them some kind of Savior – I see so many blogs where adopting parents never mention their child’s origins, and it confuses me so much. We are now pursuing domestic adoption (amen for our credit card to cover the fees since we have to rebuild our savings) which we weren’t allowed to do previously because we were doing fertility treatments simultaneously, and can’t wait to meet the birth mother who selects us. It makes me so sad that things are so messed up on both sides, and I truly hope for the sake of these kids that things work out as they deserve. And it would mean the world to me if laws would require that if a country closes their doors to adoptions that the agencies would be required to refund prospective parents their money.


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