Adoption going local
The issue of foreign adoption of orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia was brought up in a discussion I had with friends and family this week and made me think about the issue a little further. It is well known that the Ethiopian government has recently put a ban on foreign adoption of Ethiopian children. Various media platforms such as the BBC indicate that debates about foreign adoption were triggered by a case of child abuse reported in the US in 2013. Although it might be argued that cases like the above and the risks of abuse by child traffickers may justify the bad on foreign adoption, I still have my reservations on the ban. My biggest concern is what will happen to the millions of orphans that may need proper orphanage facilities or financial stable caregivers who can provide love, emotional and material support.
It is true that, since the children are sent abroad at a very early age, they do not have the time needed to embrace the Ethiopian identity. And yet, they are forced to be part of a foreign society that resembles them neither in looks nor in culture. I do not believe that the identity shock that adopted children face are unique to these children. In my opinion, even the most mature adult travelling to the western world to live there faces identity shocks which makes one yearn to go back to their native country. So, I ask myself, is identify shock a reason enough to ban foreign adoption of Ethiopian children? You may disagree with me, but I do not believe identify shock is enough to justify the ban.
I do not believe that the adoption culture is developed in our country. People may want to sponsor children by paying for their education and material needs but without the obligation to cater for their emotional needs and without letting them live in their own homes. However, I believe that only few would want to raise like their own, in their own home, vulnerable children with no blood ties whatsoever. In my experience, most people who agree to “adopt” a child would generally use the child as a help. Although the child is made to live and grow in the house of the host family’s home, he or she is made to bear most of the housework. What I find surprising is that this kind of adoption where the child is the help in the house is most common in families with lower incomes. Isn’t it ironic that those who afford less take on more the responsibility of raising additional children? Adoption in the true sense may be common when the child has close family ties with the host family. Only in this situation do I see the adopted child being treated equally as the biological children of the host parents.
Maybe a lack of awareness about the possibility of adoption is one reason most people do not go for it. Advertisements on billboards (like the one standing at the roundabout of Megenagna) and the media have a lot to play in terms of awareness creation. Clear and reliable legal support could be another way to encourage local adoption. But in one way or another, if you ask me, I would say that a lot of work has to be done to convince and encourage Ethiopian families to raise like their own vulnerable children with whom their have no family ties whatsoever.