Organization Pushing for Local Adoptions in Ethiopia
By Meron Tekleberhan
Addis Ababa, July 20, 2011 (Ezega.com) - It has repeatedly been said that one of the greatest problems that Ethiopia is facing as a nation is the Orphan Crisis. According to one statistics, of the estimated 143 million orphans worldwide 5.5 million live in Ethiopia. KIDMIA foundation is a non-governmental organization with the vision to see orphaned and vulnerable children released from physical, economic, and spiritual poverty, and to help them reach their highest potential. KIDMIA is a word play in Amharic for ‘priority’, clearly establishing the organizations motivation to prioritize the cause of orphans.
For years, there have been various attempts to address this issue individually and collectively. International adoption from Ethiopia, for example, has increased considerably in recent years. There are also a large number of national and International aid organizations operating and sponsoring orphanages in all parts of Ethiopia. However, at current rate, it is estimated that it would take 5.5 million families 125 billion US dollars and 2,500 years to solve Ethiopia’s orphan crisis through international adoption alone and Institutional care is understood to be a last resort by all.
A more obvious, but little utilized option to stem the orphan crisis is generally believed to be domestic adoption. Many are quick to claim that adoption, in the sense of legally and emotionally taking responsibility for adopted child, is alien to Ethiopian culture. Ato Aschalew Abebe, shown above with wife Ruth and son Fikir, who is the Country Director of KIDMIA Foundation, however firmly believes that wide spread domestic adoption is not only desirable but viable.
Ato Aschalew has a BA in Sociology and Social Administration from Addis Ababa University and studied for his Masters degree in Regional Development Planning and Management in both Germany and Chile. He has worked for World Vision and local non-profits in child focus programs for over 10 years. As the country director for KIDMIA, he feels an even stronger calling to advocate the cause of the orphan and the fatherless.
“Serving the vulnerable is part of faith in action. KIDMIA has 25 children in institutional care in our Child Transition Center in Gunchire, Ethiopia, and an additional 35 children in the surrounding community. While foster care is a good alternative to institutionalized care, we hope to encourage fostering with the aim of adopting. Towards this end, we are working with various groups to create awareness of the need for domestic adoption,” says Ato Aschalew
From May 31st to June 09, 2011, KIDMIA organized a workshop for religious leaders, predominately from the evangelical community, in Addis Ababa, Hawassa and Nazareth. The main purpose of the workshop was to create intensive awareness on the level of the Orphan Crisis in the country and design an appropriate and implementable joint response.
‘On day one of the training we met Hareg (shown in left picture), a sweet woman who told us that she had been praying about how she could help care for orphaned children. After the first few sessions of Seed Adoption, she was even more determined to find a way to show her concern. She inquired as to whether we knew of any children who needed homes. I showed her the pictures of two young Kidmia kids. Within the day, she had committed to adopt both. In all, at least 35 pastors and their wives told us of their commitment to adopt as a result of Seed Adoption,” Ato Aschalew recounts the encouraging results of the workshop.
“There are many international adoption agencies working in Ethiopia but none are actively working in promoting or facilitating domestic adoption. Local orphanages that work with these organizations are reluctant to make children available for domestic families because of the large amount of money that is involved when children are adopted internationally. One particular director let us know in no uncertain terms that it ‘was a survival issue’ as they depended on the money from international adoptions to maintain their institutions.
There is an understanding, theoretically at least, that domestic adoption is an important element in solving the orphan crisis. The Ethiopian government strongly supports such initiatives, but there is still a need to create a supportive system and a social standard. According to Ato Aschalew, there needs to be an independent body to facilitate adoption procedures and make impartial decisions. Such an institution will have the mandate and the right to study the options available to orphaned or vulnerable children and decide on the appropriate choice on a case by case basis.
“Orphanage directors make calculated decisions primarily based on what is beneficial to the institutions and not with the best interest of the children at heart. It is only by creating and empowering a national adoption Agency that we can change the system that allows orphanages to arbitrarily decide the fate of the children. We need to be able to make changes on the policy level as well as increase the capacity of the organizations dealing with adoption both governmental and non-governmental. Policy changes that favor and facilitate the processes for domestic adoption and increase awareness within existing institutions are paramount. There is also great need for increasing the capacity of personnel dealing with and interpreting the principles of adoption. KIDMIA is currently working with its partners to influence these changes at all levels,” says Ato Aschalew.
KIDMIA is processing the adoption of the 35 orphans that found adoptive parents through the seed adoption workshop by working jointly with Kingdom Vision International, American World Adoption, and Bethany Christian Services.
“The children that are up for adoption have their own background that is usually bad. Consequently adoptive families require training to accommodate to their emotional and psychological needs as well as their physical ones. We hope to organize continual training opportunities including post placement follow up. We are also in the process of forming an association of domestic adoptive families that will serve as a support system,” concludes Ato Aschalew.
If you are interested in finding out more about what KIDMIA is doing in advocating the cause of Orphans in Ethiopia, please go to www.kidmia.org.
Meron Tekleberhan is Addis Ababa based reporter for Ezega.com. She can be reached by sending email through this form.