Do you ever wonder how there can be millions of orphans in the world, yet there are families like ours that have been waiting for years to adopt?
It’s been nearly three years since we started our adoption journey. Does this wait bother me? Yes. Am I frustrated that we still don’t have a referral? Yes. Am I upset that for the last three years, our future child has been doing who-knows-what in Africa instead of adjusting to life here in the States? Yes.
You know what else bothers me? The stories I hear about what is going on with Ethiopia adoptions. The story I heard about an American family who got home with their older child, and once their child spoke English well enough to communicate, told her new parents how she had been stolen from her birth parents. The stories I’ve heard about orphanages bribing birth parents to give up babies to feed the Western adoption system. The system there is flawed. Checks are being put into place to stop these things from happening. The reputable agencies are banding together to stand up against these very unethical practices. But still, they happen.
Here’s how adoptions in Ethiopia usually work: Before a child is referred to an America family, they live in a state or privately run orphanage. The adoption agencies partner with these orphanages. The agencies pay the orphanages a monthly fee that is supposed to go towards expenses including school uniforms, formula, diapers, salaries, maintenance, etc. In return the orphanages are to work ethically and to process referrals in a timely manner. Once a child is referred to a family, they are moved into a short-term orphanage run by the agency. The problem is that monitoring the state/private orphanages’ ethics is very difficult. Often, problems aren’t discovered until they’re big problems.
Our agency recently had two very concerning things happen with two different orphanages:
1. A new orphanage they had just partnered with earlier this year had a referral for a family with our agency. The family was preparing to travel for their first trip when our agency discovered that their child had also been referred to another family at another agency and in fact was already living in the States with them. The orphanage director was not remorseful and started asking for his sponsorship money. Our agency reported him to the authorities and no longer works with this orphanage- but besides that, there’s not much they can do.
2. Our agency partnered with another orphanage over a year ago and had not received any referrals. The director was uncooperative and not responsive. About a month ago, our agency’s in-country staff received a call from the police telling them that the director was nowhere to be found. The drove six hours to the orphanage and met the officials there. They wrote…The condition has been worse than we thought. All the children..look like they haven’t eaten or drank, bathed, or changed their diapers for days. We couldn’t control our tears. The orphanage staff told us the director lives in the capital and hadn’t provided anything for weeks. We stayed with the children until they had been washed, changed, and fed…. From there, the Ethiopian government took the children to another orphanage. These poor children belong to the government, not our agency, so our agency can’t just take them and place them for adoption.
Although there are millions of orphans in Ethiopia, it is hard to find good ethical orphanages there. All of the reputable agencies are experiencing the same problems. (The unreputable ones? They are working with these unethical orphanages, paying them money, and encouraging the poor practices.) The reputable agencies are working with the Ethiopian government to install better standards and to put into place a 5-year action plan. But these ethics come with a price- a longer wait time for families.
So yes, adoption is frustrating and yes, I’m so tired of waiting. Honestly, a lot of my naive excitement about adoption is gone and now I just want it to happen. But I want it to happen the right way. I don’t want to bring a child or children home and then find out that they were not orphans at all, or that the orphanage we paid and supported was neglecting them. And so we wait.