Of the estimated 5,000,000 orphans in Ethiopia, only 1725 were adopted into the United States in 2008.
For a child to qualify for adoption, it must be determined the child is legally adoptable under US and Ethiopian law. This status is conferred on a child who either has no living parent or whose parents are living but unable to meet the child’s basic needs.
The determination as to whether a child is adoptable can only be made by a court through a formal, detailed legal process. It is not a determination made by a humanitarian aid organization, an adoption agency, or a child’s community. It can only be made by the Ethiopian judicial system.
For children who have one or more parent alive but who is unable to care for them, the parent must first initiate the process by taking them to a children’s home licensed by the government of Ethiopia. The children’s home decides if it is in the best interest of the child to take the child or refuse to take them into their care. If a parent requests adoption, the staff at the children’s home is responsible to counsel the parent on their rights and explain in detail, in the native language, the meaning of adoption.
For parents who elect to place a child for adoption, an investigation is done by the children’s home, the police, the Kebele (local elected officials), and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA). The police and the Kebele are responsible for investigating the relinquishing parent’s claims.
For children who are abandoned or have no parents, someone can bring the abandoned child to the police or a children’s home licensed by the government of Ethiopia to shelter and care for children. The child stays in the shelter while the police look for the child’s family. There is a minimum two-month waiting period before the Kebele (local officials) may declare the child abandoned.
The children’s home refers a child directly to CWA who finds potential adoptive parents. CWA then notifies Christian World Adoption Ethiopia (an Ethiopian NGO), and CWAE gathers all of the child’s information from the children’s home, police, Kebele, MOLSA, and the court.
MOWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs) then reviews all of the paperwork and makes a recommendation of whether or not to allow the adoption. If they do recommend the adoption, MOWA sends a recommendation letter to the federal courts.
The federal court then has a hearing where the birth parent is interviewed. If the birth parent does not show up, the hearing is delayed. If the birth parent never shows up to Federal Court, the child has to go through all of the steps as if he were abandoned.
At any time before the final federal court determination that the adoption is final, the birth parent can take the child back.
After the federal court approves the adoption, they send letters to the Department of Vital Statistics (where a new birth certificate is issued for the child with the child’s new last name of his adoptive parents), to the Department of Immigration, and to the US Embassy. The child is then taken to a physician who is approved by the US Embassy to get a physical.
After all of these steps have been completed, the adoptive parents come to Ethiopia to pick up the child. They must meet with the US Embassy to testify that they want to adopt the child, and the Embassy finally issues a visa for the child to come to the United States.