An update on efforts for children in Ethiopia

This text was copied from an email from the Joint Council of International Children’s Services. It gives a good overview on efforts for children, including domestic and international adoptions of Ethiopian children. I couldn’t find this info on their web page, but wanted to share.
During the month of August, Joint Council on International Children’s Services will be hosting a delegation of Ethiopian officials in the United States. They will have the opportunity to receive training in multiple cities and witness the positive impacts that intercountry adoption has made on children from Ethiopia. The delegation will also address permanency planning including the challenges to the intercountry adoption process and solutions to those challenges to ensure the children’s best interests are served.
Status of Children
The CIA World Factbook records that there are 5 million children having lost one or both parents in Ethiopia. Some of these children lost their parents to the effects of a severe drought followed by constant, heavy rainfall, which happened earlier this decade.[1]  In addition, 650,000 children are reported to be parentless due to AIDS.
In a June 2010 study, Family Health International, under the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s Affairs with United Nations Children’s Fund and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, conducted a study on institutionalized child care in Ethiopia. The study recognized that HIV and AIDS were among the primary factors contributing to the large number of children lacking parental care. Other major factors include HIV related diseases and poverty. The study found that the majority of the country, from community members to even some officials, holds a “positive perception of institutional care” for children in need and that these individuals “are not aware of the negative effects caused by institutionalization.”[2] As a result, alternative care options, which include kinship care and foster care, have not developed at the same pace that child care institutions have.
Governmental Initiatives
With these challenges in mind, Ethiopia has made significant strides to address them accordingly. By addressing the causes of parentless children, the Ethiopian Government works to prevent institutionalization through family preservation programs that target “parent education and family income strengthening.”[3] Moreover, foster care has proven to be a culturally acceptable form of alternative care. Additionally, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is emphasizing the need for family based care and working to promote an understanding for domestic adoptions. By promoting awareness, the government hopes to develop a more robust system for family permanency by developing a stronger prevalence of domestic adoptions.
A positive aspect in the plight of parentless children in Ethiopia is that this country is open to intercountry adoption. Despite the recent declines in intercountry adoption globally, the number of placements from Ethiopia to the United States has increased over the last five years. In 2005, there were 442 placements in US homes, but by 2009 there were over 2,000 children placed in the United States. While this number only puts a small dent in the parentless population of Ethiopia, it makes an impact in the lives of those children that were placed. Intercountry adoption is one valuable avenue that ensures children in need live in permanent, safe, and loving families. While there is still much work to be done to provide children in Ethiopia with care, the government has demonstrated an effective commitment to mitigating the problem. 

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