Belgium: International adoption banned Families stranded in Ethiopia

By Tesfaye Getnet – May 17, 2017

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has prohibited international adoptions after Parliament’s recent endorsement of the National Child Policy, which took five years to make.

After the ban, many children whose adoption were under process have been returned to their orphanages and the ministry has notified embassies in Addis Ababa not to issue visas to children in adoption cases; according to Solomon Asfaw, Public Relations Head at the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs.

Currently some 20 families who came from different countries to finalize the process and take their adopted children back home are stranded in Ethiopia since the government put a halt on adoption as of April 21 and the Ministry has stopped issuing the endorsement letter to the immigration to issue passports for the kids.

The stranded families are trying to resolve the unfortunate circumstances they find themselves in through their embassies.

Jozef Naudts Counselor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Belgium told Capital that Belgian citizens are among those that are affected by the new regulation. “One family has been processing to adopt a child for the last eight years, when it finally succeeded the new regulation came out. The family is devastated and is here waiting as they have completed all the court procedures and have legally adopted their two years old son. We are discussing the matter with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we are hopeful that we will find a positive resolution,” he said.

There is a screening, vetting and counseling that is undertaken in Belgium before a family is authorized to adopt a child, he explained as to why it takes that long for the adoption.

International adoption centers on their part have requested the government to allow children who have already completed the legal adoption process and started visa processing before the policy was endorsed to continue.

Most of the children who are adopted internationally head to the US, Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, Canada, Spain or Italy. The goal is to provide a better life for the children. Unfortunately there have been several reports of abuse and child trafficking that have come up lately. In addition, there isn’t much information on the whereabouts of the children after the adoption is completed and the kids have gone to live abroad.

In 2011 Ethiopia cut back on international adoptions by 90 percent. Before the ban an average of 50 children per day went abroad for adoption.

Ethiopia requires post-placement reports on the orphans three months, six months, and one year after the adoption. Annual reports until the child turns eighteen was also a requirement. But the ministry said this procedure was frequently not followed.

Solomon told Capital that the ban will prevent children from becoming victims of criminals.

“We are banning all international adoptions to benefit our children; we are not claiming all adoptive children are being victimized by their caretakers, but some are, and we are doing this to save children from future danger,” he said.

“We need our children to grow where they speak their own language and preserve their own culture and we do not want them to fall in a situation where sometimes they are stolen by somebody and sent abroad with people who make them miserable,” he added.

Solomon added that the government will work tirelessly to develop a local adoption program in which local communities participate.

“We have worked on a solution for orphaned children, where community based programs across the country will take orphaned children to NGOs or homes of people who want to raise them here in Ethiopia; so we will do our best to get many of these children into these programs,” he said.