Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why Ethiopia?

There seem to be 2 big questions we are asked:

1) Why adoption?
2) Why Ethiopia?

First of all, we actually don't get the first question all that much. Quite a few people have told us that they are not surprised we wanted to adopt. And, we have been talking about it, at least on some level, for a long time. We have always wanted to adopt and it was always a matter of when, not if.

The more common question seems to be how we chose our country. Sometimes I think the country chose us.

When we first started considering our options, we first looked domestically. But we discovered that (1) it is difficult to adopt toddlers (usually just babies and children over 7) and (2) we were not the best candidates for a domestic infant since we have no infertility problems (obviously...) and already have 2 children. So the first agency we spoke with pointed us in the direction of international adoption.

Then our discussions were put on hold for awhile. Once we picked the topic back up, we started looking into different programs. Because I am bilingual in Spanish, we were leaning toward a Latin American country.

We quickly realized many programs were not options, either because we did not meet the country requirements (not old enough) or because the in-country stay requirements were very prohibative

Now all this probably sounds like Ethiopia was a last resort doesn't it? Well, the truth is we had not committed to adopting yet - still investigating, trying to determine what would work for us. We honestly can't remember exactly how we began discussing Ethiopian programs. What we do remember is that once we did ... it was all over.

There are many people and groups against international adoption. And it is true - international adoptin is NOT the answer for these countries long-term. It is a last resort. But right now - today - in Ethiopia and other African nations, there are millions of orphans at their last resort.

We've read that the money a family spends on an adoption would be better spent on a donation to in-country programs to support orphans. There is a place for such financial support. Ideally, Ethiopia would be a country that could heal itself and absorb its orphaned children within its own boundaries, without international adoption. But that is not a reality right now. In a country that has been terrorized by the AIDS pandemic, millions dead because life saving drugs are too expensive, there are many children without parents, aunts, uncles OR grandparents to take them in. For those that still have extended family members, those families are often financially stretched simply caring for their own families or other orphaned nieces and nephews. We hope that international adoption is not necessary for long. But right now, there are 4-6 million children in Ethiopia without one or both parents. More than anywhere else in the world.

Personally, we give the Ethiopian government a lot of credit - for a country that places an extremely high value on its children, it must have been a difficult decision to allow foriegners to take those children abroad. But the government recognized that its own resources were stretched and rather than allow these children to live on the streets or over burden already taxed orphanages, it has allowed international adoption. It takes a great deal of humility for the government to admit that the best hope for its orphans may not lie from within.

We feel that there really is no greater gift you can give someone that the gift of love, but not just that, the gift of love that a parent and child share. To think that you can offer that to a child without a family at all, really, to a child to whom you have no obligation to, is the greatest gift we can imagine.

~Cat and Markus~


Diane said...


I was just wondering where these "adoptive kids" are now? Are they in gov't run orphanages? Or some kind of foster care system? thanks! mom

Cat & Mark said...

According to UNICEF-

"Very few government services help orphans. The primary coping strategy for communities has therefore been the extended family. Increasingly, however, the capacity of the extended family to support the growing numbers of orphans is declining.

As more and more parents die, the capacity of the extended family to take care of orphans becomes smaller and smaller. In all countries where you have a big HIV/AIDS epidemic, at first you don’t see any orphans at all, as they are absorbed by the traditional systems. And then all of a sudden you seem to reach some type of breaking point and you start finding these children in the streets, you start finding them working in difficult conditions, you start finding even child-headed households."

Most of the actual orphanages there are run by churches or private non-profit agencies like ours. There is gov't oversite and a clearly defined adoption process. The children have to be granted orphan status by the gov't in order to be adoptable.

As for foster care, I don't think so... I think there is some financial assistance programs that some of the better orphanages (like ours) have for extended families to care for children and pay for schooling as an alternative for adoption.