Monday, May 18, 2009

Relinquished v Abandoned: explaining recent corruption

In Ethiopia, children are legally available for adoption for one of two reasons.

They are either:
  1. Relinquished (willingly surrendered to an authority, orphanage or gov't officer by their parent/immediate family member)

  2. Abandoned (deserted without any trail to a parent/immediate family member)

There are pros & cons to both situations, from the side of a PAP (pending adoptive parent) receiving a referral. If you receive a referral for a child who was relinquished, you have the opportunity to visit their biological family in the village they were born, speaking with your child's family members, asking specific medical history, and so on. The downside you face is the possibility of a delay in passing court. The courts require that a relinquished child's parent or family member appears in court on your assigned court date to sign off on their relinquishment. Should they live hours from town, are too busy, not care, become ill, among a host of other reasons to not show in court that day - you don't pass court.

The alternative is, your referred child was abandoned. You will most likely have little, if any, medical history, family history, information surrounding their birth, etc. These cases have passed court much smoother in the past, due to the lack of access to birth parents/families. Therefore it is not a requirement by the courts for them to attend.

Unfortunately, there has been a spike in abandoned cases being sent through the courts - all coming from the same area. This has raised a big red flag with the federal judge and MOWA (the Ethiopian government ministry in charge of women and children’s affairs). Is there "orphan trade" (not my words) occurring? Is there parent-coercion from outsiders? Whatever the reality, the end result is speculation of unethical practices by certain agencies, causing the courts to temporarily stop seeing abandonment cases that originate from private orphanages in the city of Addis. (our agency uses gov't run orphanages in and outside of Addis prior to bringing them into their own care facilities).

For purposes of this post, I've limited the info to the bare necessity needed to understand the situations involved with our adoption. Anything posted here is simply my view, based on information I received from our agency. Yes, I did a lot of research online and have read the statements - some believable, some absolutely absurd and some that have made me think. However, our agency has had such consistent communication with its families, I knew we would receive something from them addressing the current situation in Ethiopia. The email came yesterday.

They addressed the issues and didn't hide the fact that there are many articles out there right now spreading like wildfire re: alleged corruption in international adoption, with Ethiopia hitting the list. It's a very hot topic among the international adoption community right now and very likely to spill over into the mainstream. I wanted our family and friends to know that we are dealing with one of the most highly respected agencies in Ethiopia (among the courts, govt and various agencies). It is also one of the oldest agencies, with over 100 in-country reps on the ground in Ethiopia working hard for all the children in their care.

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