Is There Hope for Ethiopian Orphans as International Adoption Declines?


A recent article by writer David Cray reports that the number of foreign children adopted by American parents declined by 18% last year.

China remains the country with the most children adopted, but adoptions from Russia, normally third (after Ethiopia) in amount of children adopted, sank sharply due to a recent ban by the Russian government against American adoptive families.

Ethiopia had 993 adoptions to the U.S last year, down from 1,568 adoptions in 2012.

It would be nice to think that this slow down in foreign adoptions is due to an upswing in domestic foster care adoptions, but statistics show that nearly 400,000 children are still in foster care here in the US.

I am not an expert on international adoption. The only country I have any first hand experience with is Ethiopia. We are extremely fortunate in that we have an open adoption and are in frequent contact with the surviving members of our children’s’ birth family. We are extremely grateful the information we were given by our adoption agency was true.

There are many armchair adopters ready to advise you on your adoption plans—Yahoo Groups/Facebook Groups and blogs are full of people who have been-there-done-that. It was always surprising to me when somebody would post a statement like “Knowing what I know now, I would never adopt from Country X, Y, Z.” Easy for you to say, I would think, with your adoption complete and a beautiful child in your arms. Curious as to the current climate in Ethiopia, I contacted our adoption agency and learned immediately that our agency’s Ethiopia program had been shut down. Upon further investigation, I learned the big established agencies were pulling out of Ethiopia. Almost to the day that I called our agency for an update, an indictment came down for four members of the agency IAG in connection with their Ethiopian adoption services. Testimony reveals extreme corruption and heinous crimes.

Speaking with a social worker I trust, I learned that Ethiopia has huge issues right now. There are still children who would benefit from adoption. There are still children in orphanages that need homes, but corruption on the orphanage/agency/government level is real.

If like me, Ethiopia is the country your heart is set on, where you feel your family is located, I would consider contacting AHOPE for children. AHOPE takes in children who are HIV+. They make every attempt to reunify these children with family. When they can’t, they help them live and get treatment in their transitional homes. I personally know the director of AHOPE and many of AHOPE’s board members. From what I can tell they operate with the highest standards and ethics. From director Julie Walder:

AHOPE has some children who are paperwork ready for adoption. They live with us, but if there is an opportunity for reunification, we seek it and we have successfully reunified and supported reunified families. Our goal is, first, keeping children with families, second, keeping children in their communities. If we can’t service them in that way through the community development center then they come live with us. IF they are over the age of 7, generally they live in a family setting in our family homes. Generally over 13 live in our youth transition homes learning life skills to live successful lives in Ethiopia. Most of our kids do not get adopted. If someone inquires specifically about a child at AHOPE that is eligible for adoption, we will trace back all necessary paperwork before we refer a child to a licensed agency. We only work with licensed agencies that are vetted both here and in Ethiopia.

Cray’s article about this steep decline in international adoptions is very disheartening to me. It is sad when a program closes for political reasons (like Russia), and heartbreaking when a program closes due to corruption. It would be great to think that these programs are closing because better options are being developed for children in need, within their own countries. Sadly, I don’t see this to be the case.