• Ethiopia Update from Department of State

    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!