By now, many of you have seen the update posted on the Department of State website regarding Ethiopia. You can find the article here if you have not already read it: http://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en/country-information/alerts-and-notices/ethiopia15-05-08.html . As some of you have reached out to your coordinator to further understand this update, we wanted to post a quick blog to explain the information to everyone.
The update starts by letting families know that the Department of State has been discussing with the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs the adoption delays various regions in Ethiopia is experiencing. In this update, the Department of State only speaks about the changes that affect adoption referrals in Ethiopia, and does not mention post-referral delays. First, they highlight the Tigray Region. While IAN used to work with the Tigray region, we have not had a working relationship with them for quite some time. We are no longer accepting referrals from this region as the Regional MOWA is no longer signing covering letters allowing the children to be adopted internationally. We do have a few children from the Tigray region that are currently in the process of adoption. These families should not worry as we received the children’s information before this region stopped processing international adoptions. We were recently able to bring home two boys from this region. There was a little difficulty in completing the final steps of their adoption because of a change in the process (i.e. A new representative to sign off on adoption decrees and birth certificates), but we were able to coordinate with the proper channels to advocate for these children to come home. As the process of adoption in Ethiopia changes frequently, we are always adapting and working as quickly as we can to comply with the latest update. As the article pointed out, changes in the region began showing around November 2013, so since this time, IAN has not received any referrals from the region.
The same holds true for the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). We facilitated our last adoption from the southern region last year. This little girl was able to come home almost one year ago. Since this time, we have not received any referrals from this region either. For the regions Addis Ababa, Amhara, Dire Dawa, Harar, and Oromia, we have not received confirmation from MOWA whether the bans on relinquishment are officially in effect. We are hoping to hear some input from MOWA soon. At the end of this paragraph, the Department of State points out something that is very important to keep in mind. They say, “In some cases, the supporting documentation…may not match the true circumstances of the child’s situation. In such circumstances, adjudication of the Form I-600 petition for the PAIR filing may take additional time.” We have seen this statement to be true as the Embassy recently took several months to verify the orphan status of some of our children. We even had a few families who were in the PAIR process for almost 1 year waiting for this verification. We are thrilled to report all of these families have finally received their PAIR letter and are waiting to receive a court date and finally meet their children! As all of these cases were abandonment, we have seen firsthand that Embassy is going to great lengths to verify the orphan status of a child. So please know that the PAIR process may take longer than expected, especially if the child you are adopting was abandoned. Don’t be afraid when we say that a few cases took 1 year to process, we have also had families clear PAIR in about 4 months as well! Whether the child is abandoned or being relinquished, know that USCIS and Embassy will still process the case. This potential ban on relinquishment cases only affects new referrals we will receive.
We know that adoption is a long and frustrating process. New changes in the adoption process can be hard for families to adjust to new procedures and know how that will impact their adoption. We appreciate your flexibility as you adapt to any new procedures or delays in process that you encounter. Knowing the end goal is to help provide a loving home for a child in need is a great way to remain motivated when it seems that everything is not progressing smoothly at the time.
Many families have asked about the slowdown of adoptions in Ethiopia, as we addressed in a previous blog. The climate of Ethiopian adoptions has changed over the years. We see that adoptions are being processed at a different pace than they used to be. This is why it is very difficult to give accurate timelines for your adoption. While things slowed down for a while, we are excited to see some positive movement in Ethiopia as well! We have received positive MOWA comments and court dates, which has been slow to receive recently. We are excited this seems to be picking up and that things are continuing to move forward. We know there are several families still out there waiting for their positive comment or their court date. We know the wait is frustrating, but know that we are doing everything we can to advocate for your adoption. We want to remind you to not give up hope yet!
Some families ask us to involve a lawyer to move their case along. While we have lawyers on staff and that we contract with, the way we are able to keep the process moving in Ethiopia is through relationships we have built. Our in-country director, Yared, has spent many years building relationships with all of key adoption personnel to help our adoption process. He has to be very respectful, and knows the cultural and ethical ways to advocate on behalf of our families. Overall, the officials in Ethiopia do not respond to the pressure of a lawyer as individuals culturally do in the United States. Because of this, we try to be respectful of the individuals we speak with so the adoption process can continue. Going outside of this can damage adoption for everyone. In the past, we have seen the negative effects of families pushing too hard with the Ethiopian officials, and this has in turn affected the process for everyone else. We try our best to move forward in a way that advocates for all cases and does not negatively impact other cases that are waiting.
There are a lot of steps in the adoption process, and a lot of people involved. When there is a delay in the process, it is not just one person holding up the adoption. The individual has supervisors who have people above them that they must answer to. We have to communicate with all of them to know exactly what is needed for your specific adoption. The adoption process can change at any time, and we must then address these changes as they come. Unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed in adoption until you are home with your child.
Through all of the changes and updates in the adoption process, know that we are doing all that we can to keep up-to-date with the process so your adoption can go as smooth as possible. We may not be able to update you with every change that happens, but we are on top of it and continuing to push forward. The update from Department of State was information that we have known for a while and nothing to worry about. We are very exciting for the movement that is coming out of Ethiopia and we look forward to seeing what Ethiopia has in store for us next!
On an additional note, MOWA has reached out to us with a request to assist the older children in Ethiopia who are not adoptable. They are trying to create a plan to help get these children off of the street and get them the care that they need. To get the program started, MOWA has requested that we donate $6,000 to one of our orphanages who has agreed to take in 20 children from the streets. This money will go to help provide them with shelter, food, clothes, and other essential necessities for one month, as well as help build the beginning stages of the program. With this money, MOWA hopes to create a stable program to provide more support for these children in need. If you are interested in helping us support this exciting new program, please reach out to your coordinator and let us know.
We hope that this update provides you will a little insight on what is happening in the Ethiopia program. We are hopeful for continued movement and exciting things to come from our Ethiopia program soon!
Over the past year or so the Ethiopian program has seen many changes, both with the US side of the process as well as the process with the Ethiopian authorities. As many of you know the PAIR process, which went into effect late 2013, has added several months to the processing times for our cases. Some families are unfortunately experiencing a greater wait time than others. Additionally, more and more paperwork is now required to complete an international adoption, both from US Embassy and for the Ethiopian authorities. While we support these measures as a way to cut down on unethical adoptions, we do understand that this is frustrating for families both on the waitlist and in process to see such a slowdown.
Here are few things to keep in mind as things stand now with Ethiopia:
- Wait times for referrals are getting longer. While we can’t say exactly how long the wait will be for a referral, we do know that all agencies in Ethiopia are experiencing a slowdown in the process. We can promise you that our staff is working very hard to gather all necessary paperwork and complete investigations in order for us to give referrals. There are several steps a child’s case must go through before they are available for international adoption. First, MOWA has to approve the child for international adoption, then the agency is referred the child, initial paperwork is gathered and then we refer the child to the adoptive family.
- The process is taking longer. We currently have families that have been in process with a referral for over a year. We are doing everything we can to keep the process moving forward as quickly as possible, but there are several steps that need to happen in the adoption process, and many of these steps are currently taking longer and requiring more to be completed.
- The process can change at any time. Both the PAIR process and the Ethiopian side of things can add or change requirements at any time. We do our best to keep up with and anticipate those changes, but sometimes they can add significant time to processing time. It is important to be flexible with estimated wait times and to know that your case may hit a bump in the road to extend your overall time in process. These additional changes are out of our hands, but we do the best we can to gather the necessary information as quickly as possible.
As of now we are still receiving referrals, though on a much smaller scale than a year ago. We are continuously working hard to continue adoptions in Ethiopia because we know there are children that need loving families. We have been assured that Ethiopia has no plans to officially close anytime soon, but it is no longer a quick or easy process. The slowdown, as far as we can tell, is a rather intentional move to minimize the amount of children internationally adopted in order to better regulate the process and verify orphan status.
We do not share this to be discouraging, but we just wanted to update our families on the current climate of Ethiopia. As always, please feel free to contact your coordinator for more details about any changes in the process or concerns you may have. We know this is not an easy process, and we will continue to work to make improvements to the process where we can.
In other news, we have learned of a small change that will make the process a little easier on our adoptive families! Now, whenever you apply to update your I-600A fingerprints, you send in your request, and they will send out an updated I-171H form with a new expiration date. You will not need to actually go to the USCIS office anymore to have your fingerprints taken again. So is great news! You will still need to submit an updated homestudy to extend the actual I-600A form, so please keep track of those expiration dates so you can update them when the time is right.
Finally, as many of you know, we have partnered with Project 143 to start a hosting program for older children in Ethiopia! We have had several families contact us to learn more about hosting and we are so excited to see the involvement from all of you! This is such a great opportunity for these children as they are often overlooked for adoption purposes. By hosting, the child gets to experience American culture while meeting several potential adoptive families in the process. If you decide not to move forward with the child’s adoption, maybe one of your friends will. We hope that through this program, we can promote older child adoption and find some of these children that have been waiting so long wonderful families! For more information about the hosting program and the children available, please visit http://www.projectonefortythree.com/ .
Hello all! To celebrate Gena with our Ethiopian children today, Heaven would like to share her memories of the holiday from when she was a child in Ethiopia. We hope you enjoy learning about these beautiful traditions.
Selam Gena, enkun dena metash!!
Well, where should I start?!
Here it goes a trip to memory land, Gena (Christmas) celebration in Ethiopia! Gena is one of my favorite holidays!!
The festivities for the children of Ethiopia starts two days before Gena. The preparation looks something like this, the neighborhood gang (groups of friends that play together) gather two days before Gena to work on our musical instrument (made up of beer caps & cloth hanging wires). The boys bring the hanging wires from where ever and the girls will gather bottle caps from our games (game called pepsi- another blog). We set up our equipment (stones) and beat on the caps to make them thin enough to create a hole in them. We straighten enough of them to have about 10 caps line up together. That usually takes about 4 hours to produce enough for 6-10 musical instruments (for most of the group). Now, the hard part of preparation has been completed. We take a break to play for the rest of that day.
On Gena eve, we start our day early (6am). We get together to find & cut our Gena tree from areas most of us would go to each year. We go with our musical instruments and an axe. The time of us walking to the location and returning home with our trees is some of the most fun (full of laughter, wishes, desires, hopes, jokes…). Right when we get home, most close friends (at least mine) would decorate the Gena tree together. Our parents usually buy us whole bag of candies for ornaments (candies = ornament in Ethiopia at least when I was there). These candies would be colorful – green, yellow, red, blue, purple, brown, orange, gray, black …..You get the picture!
Imagine this with me?! About 6-8 of us (children from the neighborhood) in one home. We break into groups, two people per job.
- Thread team – puts the thread on the candy and pass it on to candy team
- Candy team – Puts on the candies evenly colored
- Lights team – try to surround the tree evenly
- Tree team – make sure the tree stands
We do this house to house in the neighborhood until every house is decorated. Then on Gena day, everyone wakes up early and puts on their new clothes. Right after, each one of us (children) go outside of our houses to show off the new clothes. After the admiration of “wow, that’s cool, wow can I borrow that after Gena, wow make a turn, do circle for me, wow you are lucky, wow this is the best Gena ever….” We go back to our homes to get our musical instruments (that we made two days ago). Right after, we meet to go sing to the neighborhood. We go house to house with Gena songs for an exchange of money and blessings from the elders (forehead kisses with whisper of blessings – my most favorite part). Then around 11am we stop to eat breakfast. We eat breakfast and brag about how much money and treats we got to our families.
As you can imagine breakfast looked different in every family. In my house at breakfast, blessings get started by my grandpa. He starts blessings my parents then blesses me (the youngest). By the end there is joy, happiness, grace, and overwhelming cheerfulness. My family starts to get ready to go to our other family houses (where I make more money). After going from family to family houses and enjoyment of cousins, I would always end up in the arms of my dad passed out asleep.
This is my Gena. Please be mindful, this is written from an eye of child…. The festivity of Gena is different for people all across Ethiopia. If I start writing all the traditions that Gena entails, I would be here for days. But these are my happy memories that I wanted to share with you, and I wish you all a Melkam Gena!