Friday, September 7, 2012

A Response to International Adoption Concerns – Part 2

by Joy Casey
Executive Director
Adoption Ministry of Youth With A Mission

What I want to accomplish more than anything else in discussing adoption concerns is to give a broader view of the dynamics of adoption. If one is diametrically opposed to adoption altogether, most likely nothing I say will ring true. If the reader is a mom who has had a less-than-stellar experience adopting a child overseas, she will naturally have a view of adoption based on her personal experience. Others have been dramatically influenced by media that conveys innuendos and allegations that may have slight elements of truth but are sensationalized and do not give an evenhanded picture. I have read many reports that simply were not factual and it was quite obvious what the agenda was: to cause alarm and make people afraid of adoption. Bear with me over the next couple of days as I attempt to bring some measure of balance to a subject that has become contentious. I will take a few statements that I have read and will talk about their implications.    
       ~Joy Casey
Part 2 of 5      Let’s work together to problem-solve

Ethiopia is home to over 5 million orphans. Try to wrap your mind around that number: 5 million. I can’t do it. I think of the largest sports stadium packed to the brim and this would only be a fraction of Ethiopia’s orphaned children. Keep in mind that this statistic is given by UNICEF and the latest figure from their office has been closer to 6 million children in Ethiopia without a family to care for them. The one thing that is true about children is that they cannot be put on a shelf for a later time. They are constantly growing and developing and they need food, love and care today. The world should be scrambling to find an answer for these children, and I propose that there is not just one solution. Can we possibly consider several ways to make a dent in a huge problem? How can the needs of millions of children be met?


International Adoption
International adoption is most definitely not the answer. In 2011 about 1,700 children from Ethiopia were adopted into American homes. That is only .00003% of the children that UNICEF labels as needing parental oversight. No, international adoption is not the answer. It can be a solution, but certainly not the answer.
It is a little baffling to me that so much negative attention is focused on the “large numbers” of children being adopted internationally, when in fact the numbers are miniscule compared to the need. Just because it is difficult to adopt internationally does not mean that there are no children needing homes. It means that governments just make it hard. It is necessary to have high standards and rigorous oversight in any adoption, but some of the restrictions countries put on adoption and adoptive families are outlandish and capricious. It would be wonderful if leaders could have one goal in mind: get vulnerable children into stable homes and do it with ethical oversight!

Domestic Adoption
I have been impressed with the Kidmia Foundation. They are seeking Ethiopian couples to adopt the children needing families. When I go back to Ethiopia this fall I am meeting with the Kidmia staff in Addis Ababa because I love this thrust! More than anything, I would like to see a huge number of orphaned children absorbed into the Ethiopian culture. Perhaps as Ethiopia’s economic situation becomes more stable (the country’s economy is growing fast) and as people become less desperate, we will see more and more in-country adoptions. This past year, Kidmia finalized six adoptions and I rejoiced over every one of them.

We are working closely with four churches and the pastors of those churches have attended the Kidmia Seed Adoption conferences held in Ethiopia with the purpose of going back to their congregations to ignite a passion for adoption in their church. Several of the pastors have adopted children themselves. We are hoping that we will have more and more success in educating and recruiting strong Christian Ethiopians to adopt the needy children in their midst. Just this past year we thought we had two infants placed in domestic homes. The babies were gone for about a week when they were brought back to the orphanage due to a variety of problems, the major ones being lack of preparation and commitment and unclear expectations. Kidmia is addressing some of these issues in their training and is one reason why I hope to learn more from their experience. Domestic adoption is an extremely good option, but not the solution for 5-6 million children. Domestic adoption can only address the problem in very small numbers at this point in time in Ethiopia’s history, but I am a strong advocate for this solution.

Foster Homes
UNICEF is pushing for more foster homes for orphans and their literature says that they have set up a network of 5,000 foster families in Ethiopia. This, too, is a viable solution. I have a few reservations about the government overseeing this, though. Traditionally, adopted children or foster children are treated more like servants in a home rather than full-fledged members of the household. Ethiopia does not yet have the infrastructure to monitor the foster homes for abuse or neglect. The government also does not have the monetary capability of financially supporting foster families unless they are underwritten by UNICEF. However, better a foster home than no home and I expect to see the number of foster homes rise.
Ebise Bekele & mother
In our Adoption Ministry 1:27 program (AM 1:27) we are not only encouraging adoption within the church but also strong, stable families who will take in an orphan as a foster child with AM 1:27 supporting that foster family. The Case Manager buys the extra food and clothing needed for the family to be able to feed one more mouth and the Case Manager checks in a couple times a month to see that the child is being well cared for. Temporary foster families are a good solution, but not as good as full-fledged adoption. Every child yearns for a family he can call his own, and being a foster kid does not give the same sense of permanency as adoption. But foster care is better than the streets or, in most cases, an orphanage.


You can read Part 3 here.
You can read from the beginning here.

Joy Casey started Adoption Ministry of YWAM as a result of her many years working with YWAM’s maternity home, New Beginnings*. Ten years ago, Adoption Ministry was licensed as a child-placing agency in Washington State. The focus of the agency has always been on birthmothers/fathers and children. YWAM finds families for children, not children for families. There are no agency fees for domestic adoptions and all agency services are provided free of charge for both the relinquishing birth parent(s) and adoptive family. Joy has also been a partner in starting the first ever maternity home in Ethiopia called Living Hope. Living Hope is on the cusp of opening the first crisis pregnancy center in Ethiopia (complete with ultrasound machine) and there is a vibrant ministry to single mothers who choose life for their babies. Adoption Ministry has established four Widows and Orphans Homes in Ethiopia, three of them in very remote areas where there have never been any social services. Some of the children in these centers have been placed for adoption. Adoption Ministry 1:27 has also been developed to focus on orphan prevention and family restoration in Ethiopia.
*Over thirty years, 85% of the women living at New Beginnings single parent their children and 15% choose adoption.


Missy said...

I am loving this series. LOVING it. I had a difficult international process in ethiopia. We are happy to see ethics being discussed by someone with your experience and your heart. Many times, by the time someone writes about it, the writer has already become anti-adoption, and that is not helpful to anyone. Glad to see knowledge behind your voice and am continually impressed with YWAM!

Here's a great ET reabsorbing project from the Benkert family in ET:


Amy FitzGerald said...

THank you for the many perspectives. It's a Muti-faceted issue of the upmost concern. Godspeed.

StacyM said...

Hello. This is an interesting post. My understanding is that UNICEF counts as a part of the 5 million to 6 million, children with only one parent usually just the mother. So it is totally misleading to characterize 5 or 6 million children as having no-one to care for them. Furthermore, the majority of these orphans is older and or has special needs; they do not make up the overwhelming number of the children that are being adopted internationally. Third if all parties concerned could come to see children as vital members of their families and communities (and not isolated from them) where these families and communities as a unit happen to be in crisis then international adoption would truly be as it should be a final drastic way to help that family or community and child who have suffered terrible losses. Finally the road to hell is paved with good intentions and International Adoption draws natural parents in destitute circumstances to have what amounts to an immigration avenue for their children, whereas, America as an example would never offer them the ability to immigrate with their children even via a work visa program but will gladly allow their children to emigrate with American parents - shameful, setting up a pattern of giving their children away which is wrong. In other words no parent in Ethiopia should feel forced to compete (even psychologically) with wealthy western parents for their own children or worst compare themselves and their worth as good parents to international adopters. And adopting nations need to cease trying to define for sending countries how they should care for their children; they have no right whatsoever to do that. International adoption is a very recent phenomenon which quite frankly, in my view, should be an occurrence that sending countries work toward decreasing as they are able to serve families and partner with people of good will and with capacity building competencies to help communities develop meaningful resources to sustain themselves. I do not believe that any child in Ethiopia or other country should be even eligible for international adoption unless 1). A destitute parent explicitly requests adoption (as opposed to being offered international adoption as an alternative) 2.) Authorities are able to verify that the parent's circumstances do warrant adoption (not necessarily international adoption at this point) 3.) If some other form of care or adoption is needed then first give that child the option of being adopted in country before any other adoption consideration is made 4.) Zero direct contact between agencies and orphanages and no direct receipt of children into agency care from orphanages as an approach to be pursued systematically - developed, resourced, and expanded - until fully realized. Having said all that I do believe that for certain families and their children international adoption may be the only valuable option for care in which case prospective adoptive parents should be found for this child. The current system of international adoption of "ordering" children and waiting for a child or children meeting that criteria to become available or worst, creating an orphan or not trying too hard to prevent or dissuade family separation is wrong headed, un-ethical, and foul. Having said all that children need to belong and be cared for in a family or community setting so when warranted international adoption should remain an option.

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