Poverty and International Adoption in Ethiopia: 8 Questions Answered
Due to decades of poverty and other factors, Ethiopia has one of the largest orphan populations in the world. In the past decade, Ethiopia has become one of the most common countries from which U.S. citizens can adopt children. However, Ethiopia’s ban on international adoption in 2018 has affected thousands of Ethiopian children living in poverty. International adoption in Ethiopia is an extremely complex process. Netsanet Waal, an international adoptee, explained to The Borgen Project that after she lost both her parents to AIDS, she and her little sister Mekdelawit lived in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Their adoptive parents, Rhonda and Tracy Waal, adopted Netsanet and Mekdelawit in 2007. Here are eight questions and answers about international adoption.

8 Questions and Answers About International Adoption

  1. How did international adoption become so common in the United States? As Europe’s refugees fled to the United States after World War II due to post-war developments, the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 helped introduce international adoption and migration into Western culture. During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of international adoptions surged, notably among families compelled to adopt for religious reasons. Media coverage of global crises in impoverished countries increased in the 1980s. As a result, adoption became a more promoted practice in American culture and society.
  2. What are the benefits of international adoption? Every child deserves to have a family and international adoption provides a way for children to feel loved, safe and supported. When middle-class and upper-class families adopt children from impoverished countries, a child’s quality of life typically increases. Even more, international adoption improves foreign relations by facilitating dialogue between countries. International adoption also has a meaningful impact on those who come in contact with adoptees. In small towns with little diversity, adoptees can reshape many U.S. citizens’ perspectives on different cultures. 
  3. What are the negatives of international adoption? The cost of international adoption is extremely high. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, international adoption can cost between $20,000 and $50,000. The high price of international adoption makes it inaccessible to many families, suggesting that many capable families cannot adopt for financial reasons. Additionally, as immigrants, children adopted from other countries often enter communities that do not resemble their own. Therefore, adoptees can struggle with discovering their identity and personhood until later on in their lives, if they ever do. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Waal spoke about how her upbringing in the small rural town of Mount Vernon, Ohio affected the way she perceived herself as a black woman. Waal explained that she did not have any Ethiopian influences around her, and she struggled to connect with the culture of her home country because she grew up in a predominantly white town.
  4. How did Ethiopia become a country known for orphan adoption? Ethiopia’s food shortage from 1983-85 caused an estimated 1 million deaths and forced millions more into extreme poverty. The AIDS epidemic devastated Ethiopia as well. AIDS started spreading in Ethiopia in 1984; about 12% of women and 8% of men in Ethiopia were HIV positive by 2000. Children and youth also became more likely to contract HIV during the early 2000s through mother-to-child transmission. When BBC reporter Michael Buerk traveled with World Vision in 1984 and reported on famine and poverty in Ethiopia, it inspired Americans to aid the country. Waal explained how her adoptive parents had witnessed the famine on television as children. The parents felt that God was calling them to adopt later in 2007. At the time, Ethiopia was the fourth poorest country in the world. The Waal family wished to help by adopting two of the 4.9 million orphans in Africa at the time, and they were not the only family considering such a decision.
  5. How does poverty affect Ethiopian children today? Ethiopia had a 24% poverty rate in 2016, which means that thousands of kids grow up without access to education and resources. Less than 20% of children living in poverty can finish elementary school, while less than 25% have received basic vaccinations.
  6. Why did the Ethiopian government ban international adoption recently? The Ethiopian government banned international adoption in Ethiopia in 2018. Ethiopian officials pursued this course of action as they believed it would protect orphans; officials were worried about the psychological problems and physical abuse that adoptees could suffer. When asked about the benefits of international adoption, orphanage administrator Abebayehu Fikad explained, “Even if we are poor, it’s better to be with our society,” in an interview with NPR.
  7. How did the ban of international adoption in Ethiopia affect orphaned children? Ethiopia continues to face an orphan crisis. Today, 800,000 of Ethiopia’s 4.5 million orphans have lost their parents to AIDs, and there are specific orphanages aiding children in such situations. Many of the children will likely live in orphanages until they age out of the system.
  8. Who is aiding Ethiopian orphans? NGOs including Save The Children are advocating for Ethiopian orphans and children. Save the Children has touched millions of lives through its work on the ground and its child sponsorship program. Save The Children has also assisted more than 1 million parents in helping their children and provided protection for more than 800,00 children experiencing crises. In addition, Save the Children has established programs to enhance education, literacy and career-building skills for unprivileged children.

Looking Ahead

Although international adoption in Ethiopia does have negative aspects, millions of children in Ethiopia do not have basic access to family, shelter or food. Although the international public cannot adopt in Ethiopia, individuals can still support Ethiopian children living in poverty by donating to the Save the Children cause.

– Abby Adu
Photo: Flickr

International adoption
As the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs stated, “Intercountry adoption is the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently.” International adoption has been an apparent phenomenon between countries since World War I and World War II. This type of adoption developed as an aftereffect of war and migration that made orphaned children more visible to U.S. citizens. The subject of international adoption contains insights arising from scenarios of rooted controversy.

5 Facts About International Adoption

  1. Intercountry adoption can grant foreign children the chance to escape poverty. It aids small groups of children worldwide to reduce child poverty nationally. Intercountry adoption is a micro-solution for world poverty that primarily affects the adopted child and their community. It is a requirement that countries’ policies and independent agencies respect children’s best interests in regard to adoption.
  2. International adoption lacks general oversight for children across countries. It exclusively takes place between independent agencies across countries. All agencies have different standards to execute the process of international adoption. Agencies have limited restrictions and additionally do not require accreditation. The lack of efficient governing for this type of adoption opens possibilities including child abuse, homelessness and continued unethical behavior involving a child with adoptive parents.
  3. Rehoming internationally adopted children is a process that is becoming a commonality surging through the U.S. for unwanted children. It leads children open to becoming once again impoverished or without a parent if there are no other means of adoption. It also puts the child at a disadvantage of being in a foreign country with less familiarity with the culture.
  4. Some international adoption practices receive classifications as child trafficking. This is because of the exchange of a child from an impoverished country to a rich country. For instance, there are records of children being adopted abroad and stolen from their birth parents. However, often the parents who fall victim to this crime do not have the money nor means to launch an investigation. Practices of this variety vary based on the validity and policies of specific adoption agencies.
  5. International adoption has declined by over 72% since 2005. Some key reasons are the misrepresentation of impoverished children, child abuse and humiliation. Nearly half of international adoptions happen for parents in the United States. Multiple claims of child abuse and exploitation of impoverished children occur within the United States. As a result, countries have improved ways to execute the process of international adoption. Cost is a significant restriction affecting international adoptions, which reaches at least $20,000 for a child.

What People Know Today

The process of international adoption is currently undergoing a reform that lowers the overall rate of abuse toward those children. More exploitative cases of intercountry adoptions happen where impoverished, kidnapped and orphaned children in their own countries are advertised solely for monetary gain. While the demand for intercountry children is still high, the supply still exists but is significantly more controlled than before 2005.

– Trever Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Abandoned Baby Rate in South Africa
The abandoned baby rate in South Africa is often a touchy subject. Rather than speak about it, most people simply tend to donate their money to those children in need while others support the charities that provide for them. In some cases, a select few people will engage in hands-on volunteering, whether it is volunteering their time or their services to assist these abandoned babies in South Africa.

However, how often do people come across a clothing boutique that does all of the above? Fab’rik is an Atlanta-based franchised boutique that has more than 40 locations nationwide. The boutique has an in-store line, Asher, that strives to give back to abandoned babies in South Africa with the proceeds it makes from each garment sold.

Abandoned Baby Rate in South Africa

South Africa has approximately 18.5 million children and 4.5 million of those children do not live with their parents. Over the past decade, approximately 5.2 million children in the country were orphaned, showing a 30 percent increase in orphans. About 3,500 children survive abandonment each year according to a study that the Medical Research Council conducted in 2018. The study found that for every child that was alive, at least two were dead. The same research concluded that 65 percent of abandoned children were newborns and 90 percent were under the age of 1.

The abandoned baby rate in South Africa is increasing at an alarming rate. Even more alarming are the places that people are leaving these babies behind. The research found that others have previously underestimated the rate of abandonment because of where the culprits are dumping babies. They are disposing of babies in toilets, landfills, bins, gutters and other places where the probability of others finding them is unlikely. People seldom find the baby bodies that some flush down drains or animals eat.

Why Are Some Abandoning Babies in South Africa?

The rise of the abandoned baby rate in South Africa is in part due to the legalization of abortions. Though abortions are legal in South Africa, there remain many African communities that chastise women who resort to having late abortions or abortions period. In turn, African women who have unwanted pregnancies must undergo unsafe and illegal abortions. Other reasons some abandon these babies are because of poverty, high levels of HIV and social conditions.

What is the African Government Doing to Help?

The South African government has not done much to reduce the abandoned baby rate in South Africa. Abandonment is, unfortunately, not on the government’s radar and it is a problem that has plagued the country for years with no apparent decline. Due to the lack of government-based research, there is no research that the African government has conducted to date to track abandonment rates, just as there are no measures in place to counter it. The government currently does not consider baby abandonment in South Africa a violent crime, nor does it include it in the country’s crime statistics or list it as a cause of death in South African mortuaries. As a result, there is no sure way to tell the accurate number of babies who die from abandonment each year, making it difficult to depict the impact and length that the abandoned baby rate in South Africa extends.

Fab’rik CEO Has the Vision to do Good in Africa

The CEO and founder of Atlanta-based boutique, Fab’rik, seeks to help decrease the abandoned baby rate in South Africa. In 2002, Dana Spinola left her corporate America job to open up her first boutique. Not only is Mrs. Spinola the CEO and founder of clothing boutique Fab’rik, but she is also a philanthropist. In 2011, Spinola launched the Asher collection, a clothing line in her stores. The clothing line has the name of her daughter who Spinola adopted in 2004 at just 6 months old and is from Ethiopia. The boutique owner found the baby abandoned by the roadside which inspired the clothing line. The proceeds from the Asher collection go towards the adoption process of orphaned children in Africa, and for Spinola, it is an affirmation of her belief that clothing does change lives.

Asher’s Proceeds Create Opportunity for Abandoned Babies in Africa

On average, mothers abandon a total of hundreds of babies each month. They leave these babies in African hospitals, police stations and even outdoors. The prevalence of abandoned babies in Africa has spiked. However, the Asher clothing line has sought out to be of assistance to them. Asher is a collection of women’s clothing that allows its buyers to look good and do good. The Asher collection fights to face the reality of baby abandonment.

With the Asher Babies Program, the clothing line’s proceeds allow space for a safe, loving home, health care, development therapy and educational opportunities to abandoned and orphaned children in Africa. Every store that sells Asher merchandise has the opportunity to pair with an Asher Baby. That store is then able to write, video message and eventually meet its Asher baby. Each garment that the Asher collection sells goes toward a specific baby to fund their specialized needs and to assist in finding them a forever family and a forever home through adoption.

The Asher Babies program continues to provide for the babies through childhood and into their adolescence. There is a dire need for people like Dana Spinola and the Asher collection, whose primary focus is to help decrease the abandoned baby rate in South Africa and to provide forever homes to the babies that others too often discard and forget.

– Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

Helping Orphans in RomaniaUnder Nicolae Ceaușescu’s rule, many Romanian orphans were neglected by their caretakers and often abused. Though Ceaușescu’s rule ended in 1989, many still suffer from the effects of the old regime and can only survive by stealing, begging or prostituting themselves. However, helping orphans in Romania has become an initiative for many entities.

How AFFEO Is Helping Orphans in Romania

In April 2016, the organization A Family for Every Orphan (AFFEO) started a project to help Romania’s orphans get adopted. One child they helped was a Romanian girl named Maria who suffered from a congenital skin disease. If Maria was not soon adopted, she would be sent to a special orphanage for handicapped children.

Through AFFEO’s help, Maria was soon adopted by a couple named Dan and Dana. The couple has three other children as well and will be able to provide for Maria’s needs through their promising careers. AFFEO presently takes donations for their project to help more Romanian orphans find new homes.

An Optometrist’s Free Services to Romania’s Orphans

Since 2004, Dr. Michael McQuillan (a Camarillo, California optometrist) has traveled nine times to Sibiu, Transylvania to help hundreds of Romania’s orphans. In February 2017, he planned to buy a new vision screener that would allow him to treat more children during his trips. A GoFundMe page was also created to help him raise money for buying the screener and additional equipment before his next visit to Romania.

After visiting the Romanian children, Dr. McQuillan notices the reactions of children who can see correctly for the first time in their lives. “There’s lots of big smiles and hugs,” says Dr. McQuillan. “They thank me, and then they ask why would I leave the comfort of home and see someone like them.” Dr. McQuillan’s answer to that question is that a book he read, The Purpose of Divine Life by Rick Warren, inspired him to provide free optometry services to Romania’s orphans.

Paws2Rescue Makes a Difference in Romanian Orphans’ Lives

Founded in 2013 by Alison Standbridge, the charity Paws2Rescue has continued to help Romania’s abused dogs and neglected orphans. In October 2017, Standbridge recalled how many of Romania’s children arrive at their orphanages behaving like the abused dogs in public shelters. “They’re scared, they shy away, they don’t know how to talk and they cannot be touched,” she said.

Paws2Rescue is helping orphans in Romania every Easter and Christmas. The charity is supported by TV personality Ricky Gervais, who raises awareness of Paws2Rescue through social media and donations. In October 2017, Paws2Rescue also held donations for Christmas gifts to be placed in shoeboxes. The charity planned to send them to Romania and give the gifts to orphaned children in the first week of December.

New and Safer Orphanages in Romania

Romania’s children were often neglected in the country’s socialist-era orphanages. In January 2018, the Robin Hood Centre (RHC) announced plans to build two family-style residences that would provide Romania’s orphans with care, education, emotional support and counseling. Romania also plans to close down its socialist-era orphanages for the sake of giving children safer living conditions.

The organization Hope and Homes for Children (HHC) is helping RHC in its initiative. When HHC began its work in Romania during the 1990s, there were 105,000 orphans confined into the country’s state orphanage system. “We have now brought that down to just over 7,000,” said HHC’s chief executive Mark Waddington in January 2018.

The age of Romania’s neglected orphans is steadily coming to an end through the continuing work of these organizations, charities and individuals. Helping orphans in Romania will be an ongoing effort that could inspire the aid of other entities as well. Work will continue being done to improve the lives of Romania’s orphaned children.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

International AdoptionAngelina Jolie made international adoption trendy, but humanity’s capacity to love is never out of style.

International adoption is not simply a child coming to the United States; it is so much more. The adoption process is an exchange of cultures. The journey to a happy family is a grueling and emotionally painful two to three years. The prospective parents remain at the mercy of the birth parents, a foreign court system and lawyers. This lack of control can be hard to bear.

In order to understand international adoption, the transformation and eventual reformation of orphanages within the United States is imperative to grasp.

In the 19th century, orphanages became important in the United States due to the financial hardships and violence of the era. The Civil War claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and diseases many more, orphaning children throughout the country. Not only were orphans created due to the death of their parents, but also due to the financial inability of parents to support their children. As a result, hundreds of orphanages were established throughout the nation. Orphanages were responsible for providing children with shelter, food, clothing and education.

Eventually, it became common knowledge that children in orphanages were often abused or neglected. As a result, the United States shut down many of the orphanages found guilty of such crimes. The government shifted its focus to the foster care system in order to protect orphans from abuse.

Today, some improved and modern group homes exist for orphans. Despite the many news stories of horrific foster care situations, it is considered to be a better alternative than a group home. Nothing can replace a family.

Although the system in the United States is still lacking, institutions monitor children’s safety and health. Laws are in place to enforce good living conditions in both orphanages and foster care. But how does this system compare to international adoption? Why would someone adopt abroad?

When discussing the idea of international adoption, many critics respond by pointing out the thousands of children in need in the United States, but there is no right or wrong choice of where to adopt from. Each type of adoption is right; it simply depends on the prospective parents.

Another factor to consider is that governments in developing countries do not have the same standards and laws governing orphanages. These children often live in very dangerous situations caused by overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of healthcare. Foster care often does not exist and cultural norms make adoption very rare in foreign states.

Three examples highlight the conditions in some of the worst international orphanages: Nanning Orphanage, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute and others in China in the 1990s, Ungerini Home for the Incurable in Romania and Mazanovsky Orphanage in Russia, 2013.

Orphanages like Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute specialized in the “holocaust” of female infants. Due to China’s one-child policy enacted in 1979, the proportion of female infants abandoned, aborted or murdered by their parents rose drastically. Those daughters who survived wound up in these orphanages, where they often died of neglect.

In Romania, Ungerini Home for the Incurable left children with significant illnesses for dead in “dying rooms”. Orphans suffered from malnutrition, lack of healthcare, abuse, neglect and often torture. One child suffering from polio was tied to a crib, causing him to develop deformities requiring thirteen reparative surgeries. Romania’s abuse was so significant that the Romanian government allowed the United States to investigate.

In Mazanovsky Orphanage, beatings were rampant. Throughout Russia, orphanages have maintained a strong reputation for abuse, overcrowding, malnutrition and neglect. The Russian government recently halted the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

One person can make a huge impact on the world, be it positive or negative. However, in order to become the best version of ourselves, love and nurturing are needed in our formidable years. When the world is chaotic, family is your only constant.

Love crosses all barriers. International adoption is a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak future of children suffering all over the world.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

In September of 1997, Gloria Nieto and her husband, Angel, adopted a baby girl from China. They already had a 4-year-old biological daughter and wanted a second child. Adoption from a developing country seemed like a great option.

Adopting baby Irene was an arduous process—more than they believed it should have been. One big legal issue was that the Spanish government did not understand that the adopted children would have to become Spanish citizens.

When Gloria and Angel came back to their home in Spain, they met with other adoptive parents and decided to start a non-governmental organization that would help future Spanish adoptions from China. The group of adoptive families met in Madrid and made the NGO official. ANDENI translates into English as the National Association for Defense of Children.

There are two avenues for foreign adoption in Spain. One is through the government, the other is with private adoption agencies. ANDENI helps families adopting through the government.

The organization has a central office in Madrid. A small number of administrative people work there for a salary. The remaining workers are volunteers. Each part of Spain has its own leader that serves as a spokesperson and a source of guidance for families. Instead of having to contact the government for help, parents can contact their section leader.

Parents who begin the process of adopting from China join ANDENI by donating every three months or so to the organization. Donations are based on what the family decides it can pay—there is no obligatory donation amount.

The organization provides families with adoption assistance for every step of the journey. They learn what has to be done in Spain before they go to get their child as well as what has to be done in China. The organization helps parents fill out adoption papers, prepares them for their trip to China and provides them with a translator and a safe travel agency.

After parents successfully adopt their child, they become a part of the ANDENI community of adoptive families. The group supports each other and their adoptive children as they grow up. Both of Gloria and Angel’s daughters, Aida and Irene, now work with grown adopted children. Irene counsels teenagers on how being adopted affects their identity.

In its 18 years, ANDENI has helped 4,500 families. Spain is second to the U.S. in the number of children adopted from China. Proportionally, they are #1. Spain is currently home to 18,000 adopted Chinese children.

In recent years, Chinese adoptions have been slowing worldwide. There are fewer children in orphanages and the Chinese government gives priority to national adoptions. People that began the adoption process in 2006, are just now starting to get their children.

This is great news for orphans in China and suggests a positive outlook for poverty levels there. Yet for ANDENI, it means fewer families are joining and fewer volunteers are needed. Volunteer numbers have fallen from 2,100 at its peak to just 1,600. Many families have stopped paying since they have lost their jobs due to the Spanish economy.

To adapt, ANDENI began to focus on orphans and people living in poverty in China. They started collecting money to send to Chinese orphanages to pay for amenities like washing machines, air conditions, food, clothing, etc. One of the poorest providences in China, Yunnan, received enough money from ANDENI to build four schools and hospitals.

In total, ANDENI has raised and sent one million dollars to China. The organization collaborates with the Chinese government to ensure that the funds are doled out appropriately.

As for the future of ANDENI, Gloria’s family sees it collaborating with other NGOs helping orphans and others in need living in third-world countries such as Sierra Leone in Africa.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: ANDENI, ANDENI Valencia
Photo: Flickr