Hello IAN Families,
As many of you know, the Embassy has been making numerous changes to their process over the last few months. While we agree with their intentions, and know that these changes are all in the best interest of the children, there have been some challenges. The Embassy, Ethiopian Government and Agencies are all working to improve the adoption program.
The following is a letter that was presented to the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia from the many adoption agencies working in Ethiopia. The letter clearly outlines the frustrations that agencies are having and requests input to work these frustrations out and improve the overall Ethiopian adoption process. There has been no response as of yet to this letter by the U.S. Embassy, IF and when a response is given, IAN will do its best to post it on the blog in order to keep families in the loop. This letter has not been edited or modified from its original format.
The only way to make positive change is to work together towards a common goal. We are happy to see these positive changes and improvements being made with the Ethiopian adoption program. We all want to ensure the orphans of Ethiopia have an option of finding a forever family, and want the entire process to be as ethical and smooth as possible.
Also, please note the US Embassy posted a new adoption Notice for Ethiopia on their website at www.adoption.state.gov in regards to their case review procedure.
Few Comments by US Adoption Agencies on the US Embassy prescreening process
It is evident that Us Embassy has greater responsibility in ensuring the US immigration law is full enforced in the issuing of visas to adoptable children. We also feel that we all have the same purpose of finding permanent home and loving families for children with dire need.
Having this common objective the US Adoption agencies with the unreserved support they received from the US Embassy had placed more the 9000 children during the past 7 years (2004-2010)
From our understanding of the Embassy in the past we have been encouraged to share concern and bring any question to the table in order to create more understanding and cooperation.
To this end we recently had a meeting to discuss on the Embassy’s prescreening process that has been put into effect since some time now.
Here is summary of the comments forwarded by participants in our meeting we had on August 27, 2011.
· The new Embassy screening process came into perspective without enough preparation from the government side. As a result getting responses for some of the questions asked by the Embassy were not that easy.
· These include posting announcement for finding birth parents of abandoned children, information on abandoned children, information on witness which include statement, signature, occupation, and death certificates or burial letter, life history based on the new form, etc.
2. Agencies requested to do things beyond their mandate
· Agencies are requested to put public notice to find parents who abandoned their children. The truth is that Agencies are not mandated to put notice to find the parents who abandoned their child. Anyone who abandoned his or her child is simply criminal by the Ethiopian law and searching for criminal is the right reserved for the law enforcement institution which the police, not for adoption agencies.
· It took a lot of effort and time to convince the Embassy that the Ethiopian law did not recognize the parent-ship right of step fathers/mothers.
· In some cases the Embassy Adoption Unit ask Agencies to bring amended court decision, Court decision as we know is the final step and should not be amended or altered unless there is a major error committed in the approval process.
· Eg. One Agency had a court decision on a case of abandoned child. The court decree says’’ Abandoned Child” but the Embassy Adoption Unit asked the Agency to correct the court decree by saying” Child abandoned by the mother”. The unit could have seen the details from other documents attached in the Embassy paper work instead of asking the Agency to get the court decree amended.
1.3 Knowing the Context
· We believe it would be helpful to know the context to give proper judgment on adoption cases. Although it is true that the Embassy’s current practice would definitely contribute to the effort being made by the government to improve the adoption screening process it would also be important to know the country’s situation and the practices carried out at different levels in order to set relevant criteria for reviewing cases.
· Sometimes the requested additional documents are not obtainable within the law of the land. So in such situation the best way Agencies can do is provide explanation on the case and bring documentation that can be provided within the law of the land. However in most of the cases the Embassy did not seem to give attention to the explanations.
2. Document Review Process
2.1 Issue related to consistency
· Agencies have noted some inconsistencies in the document review process. This problem is further revealed when similar cases are reviewed by different Embassy staff.
· Further sometimes the Embassy’s adoption unit gives documents back to Agencies without providing enough explanation, only stating ‘’ something is missing”.
· There have been situations where cases were cleared the next day after Agencies submitted copy of announcements for abandoned cases while it takes some weeks for the Embassy to clear some other cases even after it has received copies of the announcements.
2.2 The need to give comments exhaustively and oversight in reviewing documents
· Agencies have experienced that some time comments are not given exhaustively, as a result Agencies are called by the Embassy now and then to provide additional information for the same case.
Such practice has become a cause of delay in processing the paper work at the Embassy leaving many adoptive parents to despair and frustration
· Agencies are sometimes asked to provide additional information while the same information is already available in the attached documents submitted earlier.
2.3 Conclusions not based on general practice
· Sometimes conclusions are drawn based on single or few experiences that do not represent the overall agencies’ practice in Ethiopia.
· It is true that all Agencies are not the same; it is possible that irregularities could be seen more in some Agencies than others, However it would not be correct to assume that agencies are dominantly corrupted.
2.4 Birth parent or Relinquishing Care Takers’ interview
While many of us realize that the Embassy must do its own version of investigation we feel that the Embassy needs to consider some situations when planning to interview birth parents.
· Birth parents or relinquishing care takers travel a lot, from Kebele, Woreda to Federal level, to process the paper work, coming to Embassy for interview would be additional burden for them.
· In most cases birth parents come from remote areas, from entirely different environment. The interview apparently will create some stress especially when they are persuaded to say what the Embassy staff would like to hear from them.
· Some birth parents find it difficult to travel to Addis Because of different reasons, like chronic health problem, physical disability, and older age problems etc.
In summary we would like the Embassy – Adoption Unit to consider the following
1. We believe there should be lead time between the initiation of a new procedure and the execution of the same so that we could prepare ourselves and our stakeholders who in most case are not receptive to changes, This period will also help to explore areas where the new procedures needs to be improved or changed before they are enforced.
2. Although we know it is partly the responsibility of Agencies to keep the government stakeholders informed about changes of procedures and polices it will also be helpful if the Embassy takes the initiative to create awareness on changes of procedures and policies among relevant government bodies, This will obviously help all involved in the service have informed understanding and better cooperation in their duties intended to address children with dire need.
3. We are asking the Embassy to make the interview process birth parent friendly if this tool is considered to be indispensable in the prescreening process.
4. It is our hope that the document review process would be more consistent, comments are given exhaustively at one go to save our time and all agencies are not judged based one or two specific cases.
5. We all believe we are learning agencies; we should be ready to learn from our mistakes. We are asking the Embassy to give us more time and opportunity to discuss on our issues and irregular practices before these are communicated to the government regulatory bodies.
6. We believe training should be an integral part of the pre-screening process so that we all provide the service with capacity and efficiency.
Otherwise we very much appreciate the Embassy’s effort to make sure that the adoption cases are ethically processed and children who qualify for the service get a permanent home and loving families in USA.
US Adoption Service Providers in Ethiopia.