Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Two Cents to Both of You

As someone who has worked in Child Welfare both in Ethiopia and the US, I regularly am contacted by reporters from both countries. I find it interesting to see what the press, most likely influenced by what they perceive as public interest, desires to prove true, or at least report. When speaking with journalists I have gotten the impression that my responses have not been sensational enough. This post is intended for them.

Reporters in Ethiopia
Almost all the interviews I have done in Ethiopia were conducted to address organ selling and child abuse. I continuously am asked how much money adoptive families receive for the organs of the children they adopt. Those who have asked me this are convinced the selling of organs is a regular practice; why else would someone invest $20,000 or more to adopt a poor (sometimes severely disabled) African child?
My response is always: I am not aware of any organs of Ethiopian adopted children being sold.
The other question centers on the public's concern that these children are abused by their adoptive parents. A recent story about a young girl who died in Washington State served to fuel the erroneous perception of what happens to children who are adopted overseas.
My response? Even though extensive care is taken to ensure families meet the strictest guidelines, still it is true that some children may end up being abused. But just like there are abusive birth parents, there are also abusive adoptive parents. Most adoptive parents, however, and I emphasize most, are really great parents.

Reporters ask, "Isn't it just better to have children stay in Ethiopia than risk the chance of being abused overseas?"
My response: Though there are abusive dads, no one proposes that all dads be deprived of the privilege of fatherhood. As well, though great care is always taken to minimize the risk of placing children with families that may abuse their children, sometimes it happens. However, and this is vital to acknowledge and accept: adoption is a good option for a lot of orphans

Reporters in the US
Reporters in the US (and perhaps the public) are convinced that children are sold by poor mothers; why else would they give up their children so easily?
I have no evidence that supports this. Although it is tempting to think that if someone is poor enough they would sell their children for a goat or $20.00, most parents relinquish their children because they are unable to care for them and want them to have a better future and receive proper care.
Another question I am asked is about children being snatched from birth mothers, and adoption/child welfare professionals being paid ridiculous amount of money to "harvest" children. The biggest doubt people and reporters in the US have seems to focus on the overall adoption process in Ethiopia. They are convinced that every adoption originating in Ethiopia is completed unethically.
Well, I have seen bad practice in the world of Adoption. (For example, birth mothers who were not properly counseled, or a mother lying about being raped for fear of being denied the right to relinquish a child.) I have also seen bad practice in foster care. (Foster parents taking in children only to abuse them or use them as maids.) Further, I have seen bad practice in family reunification. (Children being reunified with birth parents who abuse them so badly that they severely injured them, or families who love but can’t or don’t want to care for their children and are forced to take them back.) 
When the focus is not the Orphan and we become religious about “only one option as best,” there is always a chance for bad practice.  
I have conducted hundreds of Orphan Status Verifications. Out of the hundreds I have verified, very few had falsified paperwork. Most of the cases had inconsistencies, but almost all of them had inconsistencies that were created by lack of education about the paperwork process. Cultural barriers also regularly contribute to what may appear to outsiders as bad practice.

So, as someone who has seen child welfare first hand both here in the US and in Ethiopia, I would like to make a public statement:
To those who voice concern about organ selling and child abuse: there is such a thing called Post Placement Visits and Post Placement Reports. There are some horrible cases, but based on the reports piled up at the Ministry Of Women Children and Youth Affairs, most of the children are doing well.
Do all adoptive families sell their adopted children's organs? NO! Are all adoptive families child molesters? NO! Are all adoptive families perfect, and thus not require home studies or post placement reports? NO! Should international adoptions be banned? Most emphatically: NO!
As the founder of an organization that conducts Third Party Orphan Status Verifications, I wish to speak to those who seem to, more and more, be labeling the children coming out of Ethiopia as non-orphans and a victims of bad practice:
Ethiopian children who are in need of families are worthy of being adopted; there is no amount of possible corruption that can alter this fact. 

However: are adoption cases from Ethiopia so clean and transparent that an adoptive parent does not need an Orphan Status Verification? NO. 
Simply put:  Adopt responsibly

All adoptive families should do their homework regarding the child to whom they are being referred. If nothing else, they will have the peace of mind knowing they did everything in their power to learn everything they could about their child. That way, when the time comes to pass on their child’s history, they’ll have something to share.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Our Clients Have Regrets

Our clients have regrets. Why? They regret that they didn’t hire us sooner. Seriously, if I had a nickel for every time an adoptive family calls me last minute, rushed and anxious ... Well, you get the picture.
Save yourself time, money and the fear of being sent to USCIS or getting an RFE (Request for Evidence). Allow EthioStork to help you do your homework; let us conduct an Orphan Status Verification for your adoption from Ethiopia.
Don't wait until you've wasted time and money using an “investigator” who failed to give you the information you need. Additionally, it really isn't prudent to hire us after you've passed court, even though we are happy to help at whatever stage you find yourself in. However, if you come to us first, you will save yourself time, and most likely, regret. 
Do you remember your high school or college days when you had an upcoming test? If you studied adequately prior to the test you likely had a good night's sleep before the big day. Now, do you remember how you felt when you ignored the pending test and then a couple of hours before the  you tried to cram? Stress, and perhaps failure.
If you take energy to have an Orphan Status Verification conducted, we can almost guarantee a good night sleep before you submit to embassy. Why? Because we empower you, the adoptive parents! Our team of professionals will take the utmost care in verifying the orphan status of your child. We will ensure that you know everything there is to know about your future adopted child so you can submit to embassy with your head held high and the assurance that your child is a true orphan. Most importantly, you will be prepared to answer any questions that are sure to come your way.
Don’t gamble with an “investigator” who doesn’t know Ethiopia and U.S. adoption laws, someone who does not know what to look for. Contact us at