Speculation and debate have been swirling since the VOA (Voice of America - international news broadcaster) published a report on Friday, March 4, announcing that Ethiopia was to cut foreign adoptions by up to 90%. At the end of the report, it stated that U.S. embassy officials would be posting an adoption alert on the State Department's website (http://www.adoptions.state.gov/) to address the concerns raised by this directive.
To date, VOA is the only news outlet to report on this situation and the State Department has not yet issued an alert. (Update: As of about 5:00 pm, the State Department website has just issued an alert confirming that the Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs (MOWA) in Ethiopia is requesting to substantially reduce the number of recommendation letters they write each day to about a 90% reduction.) Speculation swirls, the fires of debate are more than smoldering, and heated words are being exchanged on both sides.
There is no doubt that corruption exists in any program, whether money is involved or not. It's an imperfect system created by imperfect people to address a crisis in an imperfect world.
Adoption can be the most incredible gift for a child needing a family - and for a family desiring to open their heart and their lives to a child. Adoption in that sense - is plain and simply B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L.
But on the other side are the situations where a child has been taken from their family and "sold" for adoption, for the financial benefit of a dishonest individual (trafficker) or an unscrupulous adoption agency. According to VOA, "Investigations have turned up evidence of unscrupulous operators in some cases tricking Ethiopian parents to give up their children, then falsifying documents in order claim a part of the large fees involved in inter country adoptions." (emphasis mine)
And when this happens, this beautiful GIFT of adoption becomes an unspeakable tragedy for the children and families involved. UGLY and EVIL.
There are many adoptive parents who are quick to point out that stopping 90% of adoptions because of a few tragic incidences will affect thousands of children who are legitimate orphans. Orphans who are in desperate need of a family that could end up languishing in orphanages until they are old enough to leave - without ever having known the genuine love and care of a family.
We can point to family after family, and child after child, who have been blessed beyond belief with the gift of adoption. And yet ... if even one child is taken from their family by force or by trick or by payment, can we justify the trajedy of a few for the benefit of many? No - we cannot! Should adoption from Ethiopia come to a screeching halt? No - definitely not! So the speculation swirls and the debate rages.
As an adoptive parent and an orphan care advocate, to me this really shouldn't be an "either/or" proposition (EITHER adoptions are slowed down dramatically OR children will continue to be trafficked) Instead - we shouldn't be pointing the finger at either side, we should advocate for both sides. Advocate FOR adoption and do whatever it takes to put the systems in place to make sure that children are not trafficked in order to feed an unscruplous and evil pipeline. Advocating for both sides is advocating FOR the children caught in this situation.
A family does not choose to adopt while weighing the odds that the child they adopt may have been stolen or taken from their family. This is as much a tragedy for the child as it is for the family that has been deceived - the birth family and the adoptive family.
The Bible makes it very clear that God has a special concern for orphans - He is a father to the fatherless and He sets the lonely in families. True and undefiled religion is defined as taking care of orphans and widows in their distress. We are called to protect ... and defend ... and care for ... and love the vulnerable, the "least of these". And the most vulnerable are orphaned children. Protecting them means adoption and provision as much as it means defending them from those who would exploit them.
Based on the amount of controversy swirling, one would think there are tens of thousands of children being adopted into the United States each year ... when in fact only 2,277 children from Ethiopia were adopted into the United States in the most recently reported year 2009.
That number has steadily increased from 442 in 2005, to 731 in 2006, to 1,254 in 2007, to 1,724 in 2008 and 2,277 in 2009. It's a large increase each year but with an estimated 4-5 million orphans in Ethiopia alone, this is just a fraction of a fraction of a percent. But again - if even a few of those children were taken from their family so that someone could financially gain, it is a tragic evil committed to the child, to the birth family and to the family that unknowingly adopted that child.
The orphan crisis is enormous and it's clear that adoption alone is not the answer. We need to be PRAYING about the situation in Ethiopia as it is being debated and discussed in the courts and embassies there right now.
I appreciated a blog written today by Tom Davis, President of Children's Hopechest, an organization that works on behalf of orphans all over the world as well as the two care-points I work with in Ethiopia, Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory. Please click on the link below to read his insight on the situation in Ethiopia and the big picture of orphan care advocacy and how we need to be working for children on all sides of this issue!