This is a response of adoptive parents, prospective adoptive parents, adoptees, and others with an interest and concern in the international adoption programs with Ethiopia to the formal statement issued by the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) on their web site on March 7, 2011 and their launch of a “Emergency Campaign” on their blog on March 8, 2011.
Both the statement and the “large scale advocacy, education and awareness campaign” are in response to the recent announcement by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWA) of their plan to dramatically decrease the processing of letters required to facilitate international adoptions beginning on March 10, 2011.
Although it remains unclear how this plan will impact international adoptions in Ethiopia or how likely the plan is to be implemented, JCICS concludes in its formal statement that the policy change “will result in thousands of children languishing in under-regulated and poorly resourced institutions for years.” Moreover, a petition issued by the organization as part of its Emergency Campaign calls the plan “a tragic, unnecessary and a disproportionate reaction to concerns of isolated abuses in the intercountry adoption process” and urges MOWA to “reconsider its plan and . . . avoid the coming tragedy for children and families.”
As individuals with an interest and concern in the international adoption programs with Ethiopia, we know all too well the negative effects of prolonged institutionalization on children. But we are also concerned with the long-term welfare of all of Ethiopia's children, whether they are raised in Ethiopia or adopted overseas, and believe MOWA’s decisions about how to allocate its limited resources to protect all of these children should be met with respect. We believe that both JCICS’s formal statement and the petition it issued as part of its “Emergency Campaign” advocate sustaining international adoption from Ethiopia at its current rate without proper deference to Ethiopia’s authority over its own children, and without appropriate concern for the growing evidence of corrupt adoption practices and irregularities in adoption processes in the country.
We wish for MOWA to have adequate resources to fulfill its mandate to protect Ethiopian children – especially the most vulnerable. Because some children’s needs may be best met by adoption, we desire the formation of an infrastructure that can adequately oversee each international adoption and ensure that every adoption is truly in the best interests of that child and has been done in accordance with Ethiopian law.
We applaud MOWA’s efforts to maintain international adoption as an option for children in need of international placement rather than closing to international adoption, and we support efforts to better align international adoption from Ethiopia with the process and purpose established by the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child.
We believe JCICS can make a deeply important contribution to the Ethiopia adoption program by assuring the ethical conduct of its members, and that its expertise is best deployed in this manner rather than by a petition that appears to be an attempt to influence the child protection authority in Ethiopia. We also believe that JCICS could best serve families and adoption service providers by providing factual information it obtains about any proposed changes to the process, and not launching advocacy efforts that portray worst-case scenarios and are based on incomplete information.
We remind JCICS of their expressed support for the values indicated in the Hague Treaty, and their own insistence that their response to adoption needs and challenges be “filled with humanity, morality, ethics and love” and “put the child’s best interest at the forefront of laws, policies, programs or services.” We hope that all of those concerned for children’s welfare – parents and prospective parents, respective governments, adoption service providers and JCICS -- can work together to realize the values indicated in the Hague Treaty and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.