Cover Story

Life or death

"Life or death" Continued...

Issue: "Orphaned no more," July 30, 2011

The agencies say they have found cases that need further review, but they haven't found cases of blatant fraud. And Ruiter says when Bethany grew concerned about one orphanage's inconsistent paperwork, the agency stopped working with the orphanage.

With UNICEF estimating as many as 5 million Ethiopian children have lost one or both parents, only a small percentage of Ethiopian children will find adoptive homes. Agencies are working to help non-adopted children, too. Indeed, adoption agencies say that international adoption should be the last option for Ethiopian children: The first priority is to help families keep children.

Holt International reports it helped 3,400 Ethiopian children last year, serving half through family preservation programs that include education, nutrition, and micro-business, according to Lauer: "Everything from capital for a small roadside store to an ox to plow fields to a donkey to move goods to chickens to produce eggs."

Bethany conducts child welfare projects in Ethiopia. AWA helps single mothers develop life skills, and the agency is developing a domestic adoption program. Kjersti Olson of CHSFS says her agency has provided two schools for local children-one serves 625 students in a rural community with no other school. The agency also runs a maternal and child healthcare clinic that serves 40,000 patients a year and conducts family development projects. "A lot of it is family preservation," says Olson. "And a lot of it is trying to break the cycle of poverty as well."

Agency workers say newer adoption cases have moved at a significantly slower rate since the announcement. And while they hope the program doesn't slow even more dramatically, they support the government's desire to make sure they are processing adoptions correctly.

The U.S. State Department says that it's committed to the Ethiopian program and that the agency is considering a pre-approval process that would add another layer of investigation before cases reach the U.S. Embassy for final approval. Adoptive families, who already pay at least $25,000 per adoption (including travel costs to Ethiopia for two adults), can do more by making sure they choose agencies with good track records and with clear policies on how they review the backgrounds of orphans.

Back in Washington, DeFilipo says he hopes a resolution comes quickly so that children eligible for adoption can avoid spending more time in institutions. For children already struggling with health issues in the impoverished country, more time in an orphanage could produce long-term problems.

For families like the Baylys, they've seen what an adoptive home can mean for an Ethiopian child like their son Tate. And they're hoping to adopt again: The couple decided to continue with plans to adopt another Ethiopian child just days after the government announced a potential slowdown. Mrs. Bayly says contemplating the possibility of a long wait is difficult, but they've already seen the rewards of waiting for their first son: "You start to process every delay by knowing that this is God's sovereignty directing us to the child that He wants to place in our family."

Back in Greenville, the Andersons say they saw the same dynamic in their own family when they brought Grace home. "It's very clear that she knows who her parents are," says Mr. Anderson. "And there's not a hesitation in the world."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD.

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