Ethiopian children exploited by US adoption agencies

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Ethiopian children exploited by US adoption agencies

Unread post by ኦሽንoc » 22 Sep 2009 16:55

Ethiopian children exploited by US adoption agencies

Andrew Geogheghan reported this story on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 07:22:00

Scroll down for the video and audio report, A list of Adoption agencies

This transcript is a record of the Radio National broadcast. It will be replaced by the updated local radio broadcast at 10am.

TONY EASTLEY: In Australia, international adoptions are handled by the Government and are highly regulated, but that's not the case elsewhere in the world.

In the United States international adoptions are a big business, where a large number of private international adoption agencies are paid on average $30,000 a time to find a child for hopeful parents.

The number of Americans adopting Ethiopian children has quadrupled, especially since American celebrities adopted African children.

Angelina jolie with zahara

A Foreign Correspondent team has been investigating American adoption agencies operating in Ethiopia and has uncovered some alarming practices.

Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan reports.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Famine, disease and war have orphaned around five million Ethiopian children. It's not surprising then that the business of international adoptions is thriving here and Americans in particular are queuing up to adopt a child.

EXCERPT FROM DVD: This is Yabets. He's five years old and both of his parents died; it says they died of tuberculosis. Can you smile? Oh, nice smile.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: This is the sales pitch from an American agency Christian World Adoption. In a remote village in Ethiopia's south the agency has compiled a DVD catalogue of children for its clients in the United States.

EXCERPT FROM DVD: Father has died. I'm not certain what he died of and this is the mother. Hoping for a family who can provide for them, they're just really desperate for people to take care of their children.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Incredibly though, many of the children being advertised are not orphans at all. American Lisa Boe was told by Christian World Adoption that the little boy she'd adopted was an orphan, but she soon had doubts.

LISA BOE: There was a picture of the people that had found him, and there's a man and a woman in the picture. I point to the woman and he calls her mamma. I would never, never have brought home a child that has a mum. Never.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: At least 70 adoption agencies have set up business in Ethiopia. Almost half are unregistered, but there's scant regulation anyway and fraud and deception are rife. Some agencies actively recruit children in a process known as harvesting.

EXCERPT FROM DVD: If you want your child to be adopted by a family in America, you may stay. If you do not want your child to go to America, you should take your child away.
An Ethiopian mother recounts the grief of having no
information about her adopted child. (Foreign Correspondent)

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Parents give up their children in the belief they'll have better lives overseas. But many have little understanding of the process or that that they may never see their children again.

EYOB KOLCHA: It was considered good for the children in the community and the people came.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Eyob Kolcha worked for Christian World Adoption before quitting in December 2007.

EYOB KOLCHA: There was no information before that time, there was no information after that.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Did their parents realise that they were now legally someone else's children?

EYOB KOLCHA: They didn't understand that. I don't think most people, most parents understand even elsewhere in Ethiopia right now.

MUNERA AHMED (translated): I have no words to express my feelings and my anguish about what happened to my children and what I did.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: After her husband left, Munera Ahmed gave up two sons - one 12 months old and the other five through another adoption agency.

She has had no word about her children since she handed them over; that's despite guarantees that she'd be kept informed. The agency has now closed.

MUNERA AHMED (translated): As a mother not to be able to know my kids' situation hurts me so much, I have no words, no words to express my emotions (crying).

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: About 30 Ethiopian children are leaving the country every week, bound for a new home, new parents and an uncertain future.

This is Andrew Geoghegan in Addis Ababa for AM.

TONY EASTLEY: And you can watch the full story tonight on Foreign Correspondent at 8pm.

Click here to see A list of Ethiopian children adoption agencies and their address

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Heartbreak in Ethiopia

Unread post by ኦሽንoc » 22 Sep 2009 17:00

Heartbreak in Ethiopia

By Mary Ann Jolley for Foreign Correspondent

Sit for any time in the foyer of the Hilton Hotel in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, and you'll see a procession of Americans and Europeans wandering from their rooms across the marble floor to the restaurant or swimming pool with their precious new possessions - babies or infants they've just adopted.

I'd never really thought a great deal about international adoption until I was confronted with the scene as I checked into the hotel in September last year.

I'd arrived to film a story for ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program about the drought-induced famine.

The longer I stayed, the more I started to think about the adopted children - where they were from and how they must feel to suddenly find themselves alone with someone whose skin colour doesn't match theirs and whose language they don't speak.

They're dressed in alien attire - a brand new Red Sox baseball cap and T-shirt with some cute and cheery foreign slogan plastered across the front - and in an environment like none they've ever seen, when just out on the street is the one they know so well, where their extended family and fellow countrymen reside.

There was something incredibly disturbing about seeing international adoption en masse. All these children about to leave their country to begin a new life in a faraway place, disconnected from their heritage and culture.

Out on the street where poverty and hardship prevail, my attitude softened. While I was filming at the produce market in Addis Ababa a little urchin appeared beside me.

She had short hair and was wearing a torn, faded dress with sash tails hanging loosely from the waist at both sides, and shoes with no laces.

Her toes exposed where the leather had worn through. She would have been about nine or 10, but she was already working; her job was to sweep up the rubbish in the markets.

"Miss," she said, "Americana?"

"No." I nodded with a smile as I rushed off to catch up with the crew.

"Where are you from?" She was at my side again.

"Australia," I replied, thinking in my ignorance that her next question would be, "Where's Australia?" But, no, she knew it was the land of the kangaroos and wanted to know if I could take her back so she could go to school.

"I would love to," I said, impressed by her request. "But unfortunately I can't." I was hoping, I must admit, that would be enough to send her and her friends back to work, but she persisted.

"Do you have any pens for me?"

"Sorry, I don't," I replied, quite surprised she was asking for pens and not, as is usually the case, money.

"What about paper? Do you have any paper for me for school?"

I didn't have anything on me because I'd been told to leave my bag in the car to avoid pickpockets. I felt terrible that I couldn't help her.

Here was this child desperate to write and learn, but instead of being at school she was dragging rotten fruit and vegetables from the mud and slush between the stalls.

What obvious potential she had. Imagine what she could achieve if I could take her back to school in Australia. Perhaps adoption is the answer, I thought to myself.

But that was an emotional reaction. It would be almost a year before I would have the chance to dwell seriously on the subject. In July I was on a plane heading back.

Seedy underbelly

Ethiopia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, which requires international adoptions be used only as a last resort after all domestic adoption options have been exhausted.

There is overwhelming evidence to prove it is far better for a child to remain with its family or, if that's not possible, with another family in his or her own country than to be shipped off overseas. But in Ethiopia today it seems it's not about what's best for the child, but rather meeting the demand of foreigners wanting a child.

There are more than 70 private international adoption agencies operating in Ethiopia. None of them are Australian. In Australia, international adoptions are a Government affair and strict regulations help to keep the process transparent. Almost half the agencies in Ethiopia are unregistered, some doing whatever they can to find children to satisfy the foreign market.

While there are more than 5 million legitimate orphans in Ethiopia, a large proportion of these will never be considered for international adoptions.

Foreigners prefer younger children - babies to five-year-olds. Older children or those with health problems are more difficult to pitch. So while many children languish in underfunded and overcrowded orphanages, some international adoption agencies are out spruiking in villages asking families to relinquish their children for adoption.

It's a phenomenon known as "harvesting" and it's shocking to see.

A DVD sent to families wanting to adopt by an American adoption agency, Christian World Adoption, shows one of the agency's workers in full flight surrounded by families and children in a remote community in the south of the country, where the vast majority are evangelical Christians.

"If you want your child to go to a Christian American family, you may stay. If you don't want your child to go to America, you should take your child away," she says.

The DVD goes on for some hours with the woman introducing each child offered for adoption one at a time. They sit on a bench in between her and their parents or guardians.

"Here are two brothers, but only one is available at the moment," she says for one family. For the next she tells how "it's very hard for a widow to care for her children in this culture".

"Oh no, you mustn't pick your nose," she says to a child. She then points out a rash on another's face and reassures the viewer it isn't permanent and that it can be healed with treatment. All children are asked to sing the alphabet song made famous on Sesame Street. It reeks of a new colonialism. It's hard to believe it's happening in the 21st century.

Parents are often unaware of what they're doing when they offer their children for adoption. They're led to believe they'll hear from their children regularly and their children will be well educated and eventually bring the family wealth.

But in reality, the parents and families never hear from their children and receive little information about where their children have gone. We filmed a room full of grieving mothers who gave their children for adoption after agencies promised they'd be given regular updates.

Some were even told the agency would help support their remaining children. Their stories are gut-wrenching.

No one disputes there is a real need for international adoptions, but for the sake of the children and adoptive parents there needs to be some protection from unscrupulous agencies who purport to be driven by humanitarian interests, but in reality are stuffing their pockets with dirty cash.

-Watch Foreign Correspondent on ABC1 at 8pm tonight. Read the full version of A Heartbreaking Assignment at

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