Today I’m revisiting Ethiopia. It is a country I have never been to, nor will ever go to in real life. It is a country so corrupt, so rife with destruction, oppression and exploitation at all levels, that I am mystified how any one interested in adoption can miss it, overlook it, ignore it or condone it. Perhaps it helps if you believe you are doing god’s work, saving orphans or are in some way suffering cognitive distortions. This is the ugly side of adoption – please read if you are able.
To many people land is much more than a resource or corporate commodity to be bought, developed and sold for a profit. Identity, cultural history and livelihood are all connected to ‘place’. The erosion of traditional values and morality (which include the observation of human rights and environmental responsibility) are some of the many negative effects of the global neo-liberal economic model, with its focus on short-term gain and material benefit. The commercialisation of everything and everybody has become the destructive goal of multi-nationals, and their corporate governments manically driven by the desire for perpetual growth as the elixir to life’s problems.
Poor countries make easy pickings for multi-nationals negotiating deals for prime land at giveaway prices and with all manner of government sweeteners. Contracts sealed without consultation with local people, which lack transparency and accountability, have virtually no benefit for the ‘host’ country (certainly none for indigenous groups), and as Oxfam (2) make clear “have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods”.
Ethiopia is a prime target for investors looking to acquire agricultural land. Since 2008 The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government has leased almost 4 million hectares, for commercial farm ventures. Land is cheap – they are virtually giving it away, tax is non-existent and profits (like the food grown) are smoothly repatriated. Local people are swept aside by a government unconcerned with human rights and the observation of federal, or international, law. A perfect environment then, where shady deals can be done and large corporate profits made. In their desperation to be seen as one of the ‘growth gang’ and “ to make way for agricultural land investments” , the Ethiopian government has “ committed egregious human rights abuses, in direct violation of international law,” OI state.
Some official information on adoption from Ethiopia and some views from the ‘frontline’ –
Biological parents who are unable to provide adequate medical care for their children, either because of special needs, HIV/AIDS, or another medical condition, are permitted to relinquish their children under Ethiopian law, even if both parents are still alive. When a child is found to have two HIV/AIDS-infected parents, or one living HIV/AIDS-infected parent, and the living parent(s) are unable to provide ongoing care for the child, the Government of Ethiopia sometimes classifies the child as an orphan and facilitates the placement of the child in institutional care.
All morning, I have been thinking about the story that will be told in court today….my child’s story. Left alone, abandoned. It is a bitter sweet moment for me. On one hand, my heart aches because someone left you alone without any connection to who you are or who you were. I wonder what have your eyes seen, and what have your ears heard. But then I am reminded that you were not alone, God was with you. For His word says, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you”. John 14:18. He was watching over my precious angel. He had someone in place at the right time to hear your cry for help. When I think of how He saved you, my heart becomes overwhelmed with joy. It also makes me think about how He saves each one of us each and every day. In a sense, we are all orphans that God wants to adopt into His family, His kingdom. He wants to save us from the sinful nature of this world. Just as bad as I want to hold you, he wants to hold all of us. He wants to take our burdens away and carry our load for us. He wants to see us do great things and live a long and prosperous life. The things that He wants for us, I want the same for you. While I may feel that you were alone, God never left your side. He knew your story before it was ever written. And I am honored that he chose us to be apart of your story.
Th tragedy of adoption trauma and loss clearly showing on the face of this Ethiopian boy – so many photos, so little caring about sharing his grief and his trials of endurance and so much insensitivity!
Whenever anyone asks us how things are going, I always end up saying, “She’s crazy!” Because she is crazy, and we’re crazy about her. She is all good things wrapped up in one beautiful, high speed, 25 pound package. I am so thankful that we found each other. Our family would have never been complete without her. She was the missing piece. She always was. We are honored to be the ones to scrape the potting soil off her tongue and to whisk her out of the path of speedy, big tricycles.
She had a good family in Ethiopia. They were strong, and smart, and they love her very much. Now, with their permission, we get to be the family in the second act of her short life. We have been blessed. We will try to cherish every blessed, crazy, exhausting minute
The CBS investigation is not the first to reveal child trafficking in Ethiopia’s corrupt adoption system. In September 2009, Mary Ann Jolley of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Aunty [ABC]) reported that the adoption agencies do not go to orphanages to get children for adoption but “harvest” them in the countryside and commoditize them :
There was something incredibly disturbing about seeing international adoption en masse. All these [Ethiopian] children about to leave their country to begin a new life in a faraway place, disconnected from their heritage and culture… 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 [marketing promotions] in villages asking families to relinquish their children for adoption. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘harvesting’ and it’s shocking to see…There are more than 70 private international adoption agencies operating in Ethiopia… Almost half the agencies in Ethiopia are unregistered, some doing whatever they can to find children to satisfy the foreign market… 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.
Partly based on the ABC investigation, in November 2009, the Australian Attorney General “decided that the Ethiopia-Australia program should be suspended because of concerns that Australia can no longer conduct intercountry adoptions in Ethiopia in a manner consistent with its obligations under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.” In a curiously phrased statement, the Attorney General explained, “A key reason for the suspension is a new requirement of the Ethiopian Government that the [intercountry adoption] program enter into a formal agreement to provide community development assistance.” In other words, an agreement for a child trafficking-extortion racket in which development assistance is exchanged for Ethiopian babies!!
The documented fact is that there is a not-so-hidden cottage industry in Ethiopia that trades and traffics in children under the benign cover of charitable adoptions. The ruling dictatorship has been aware of the problem for several years but has failed to undertake a single investigation of the allegations in the media and individual complaints of adoptive parents, or identify and prosecute those involved in child “harvesting”, trafficking and sale. It is inexplicable why the matter has failed to attract the slightest official attention: Could it be a manifestation of the regime’s depraved and criminal indifference to the human rights of these children? Could it be because the regime does not believe it has moral responsibility for the welfare of these children? Or could it be that some powerful individuals are involved in the “harvesting” and commoditization of children?
the regime must also sign the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (“Palermo Trafficking Protocol”, entered into force, 2003). The Protocol, among other things, requires signatories to criminalize the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, facilitates return and acceptance of children who have been victims of cross-border trafficking, and provides for the confiscation of the instruments and proceeds of trafficking and related offenses to be used for the benefit of trafficked persons. Some 118 countries have adopted the Protocol including Kenya, Uganda, Djbouti, Niger, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Rwanda, Burundi, The Congo, Sierra Leone and dozens of other countries.
The Huffington Post has the last word – If it is any comfort to Katie and Calvin Bradshaw, they should know that it is not only their three children who “grieve and cry and scream and melt down from the bottom of their souls over the loss of their country and their family.” There are 80 million others with them who also grieve and cry and scream and melt down from the bottom of their souls over the loss of their country…