Ethiopia: U.S. Adoption Agency Involved in Child Trafficking

February 10, 2011 4:10 PM
Posted by Michael Rey

Children in Ethiopia. (Credit: CBS) A Minnesota-based adoption agency had its license to work in Ethiopia revoked by the government there, according to a letter posted this week on the U.S. State Department’s website here. 
The letter, dated December 8, 2010, says the agency Better Futures Adoption Services (BFAS), “has been involved in child trafficking.” The letter is signed by the director general of the Charities and Society Agency. That agency and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which both oversee international adoptions of Ethiopian children, had been “researching” allegations into BFAS activities.

According to the letter the adoption agency was, “Falsifying documents of children with biological parents, in collaboration with orphanages involved in illegal acts to show that they are abandoned and using these documents to obtain final court decision for international adoption, on top of many illegal acts that are still being investigated, were confirmed [sic].”

BFAS has the motto, “The child you lift today will lift the world tomorrow!” and calls itself a “unique Christian international adoption agency focusing on adoptions solely from Ethiopia” and has been licensed by the government there as a non-governmental organization since 2007. The agency displays its motto

In e-mails sent to CBS News and posted on its site, BFAS says the accusations against it are false. One email, written by Agitu Wodajo, executive director of BFAS in Ethiopia, says the revocation letter is retaliation for a lawsuit they filed locally against the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and that the minister of that agency does not support the charges in the letter.

But the US State Department deemed the allegations strong enough to issue an adoption alert on its website, to notify American families who were using or planning to use the agency to adopt a child from Ethiopia. The alert “strongly recommends” that those Americans seek legal counsel. State Department officials did not respond to a request for comment.

There were 2277 adoptions of Ethiopian children to the US in 2009, up from just 731 three years earlier. As CBS News reported last April, that dramatic spike in the number of foreign adoptions from that country has opened the country up to cases of adoption fraud and trafficking in children.