We recently found out that things are slowing down in Ethiopia...again. Estimated wait times for adoption from Ethiopia (for a healthy child between 0 and 3, with our agency) are now 36-48 months once paperwork arrives in country. (Our paperwork has already been there for 22 months.) There are several reasons this slow-down is happening:
1. The PAIR process, which began in 2013 to ensure ethical adoption practices, has added several steps to an already lengthy adoption process. There are a limited number of officials who can carry out and process this paperwork. Paperwork is also scrutinized and simple clerical errors (such as spelling errors) could cause paperwork to be rejected and the need to start completely over. Initially, it was hoped that the PAIR process would streamline and speed up the adoption process. Instead, it has sort of bottlenecked the process.
2. The PAIR process requires the country to prove orphan status of a child. This is wonderful because it protects against human trafficing, stolen children, and biological parents who don't really understand the terms of adoption. However, this makes things extremely difficult when a child has been abandoned. There is no one to relinquish rights of the child. There is no one who knows the child's story. This makes proving orphan status difficult. Ads about the child have to be placed in newspapers several times in several places before anything can move forward. Typically, no one comes forward with the child's story because abandoning a child has severe legal consequences. The next step is to launch an investigation and oftentimes, these cases are not resolved, leaving an orphan stuck because they cannot prove orphan status.
3. Government officials in some areas of Ethiopia are refusing to sign final documents to complete international adoptions. Some officials believe that the country needs to preserve Ethiopian culture by pushing for domestic adoption in Ethiopia. I love all forms of adoption, and I would love it if Ethiopian children could remain in Ethiopia, but the country does not have adequate funds or resources to rely solely on domestic adoption to solve the orphan crisis. Because of the refusal to sign documents, adoption agencies are forced to work in other areas of Ethiopia, which limits the number of orphanages they can work with successfully.
4. International adoption is a lengthy process with several hoops to jump through and red tape to overcome. Combine that fact with the fact that Ethiopia runs on "Africa Time," and the result is an even longer wait. Government offices shut down several times a year for holidays, the rainy season, etc. It is also perfectly acceptable in Ethiopia for paperwork to remain on desks for months at a time awaiting a single signature.
Because of these issues, several adoption agencies have closed their Ethiopia adoption programs. Ethiopia is an expensive country to operate in, and the added wait times and added steps make it even more expensive. We are thankful to be working with an agency that is committed to staying on the ground and working in Ethiopia when so many others have pulled out.
The orphan crisis in Ethiopia is greater than ever. Agencies have closed their doors, officials refuse to sign paperwork, and people don't want to wait 3 to 4 years and pay thousands more dollars to adopt a child. Many people at our agency are transferring to other country programs. The effects of these things are millions of children who are stuck, without hope, without the love of a family.
We firmly believe that we have a son in Ethiopia, and we will continue to wait and hope and pray, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many hoops we have to jump through. God puts families together, and he is still working on our family.
Pray with us.
On a more positive note, last night we were able to celebrate Ethiopian New Year (a day early) with some dear friends who are also waiting to bring their son home from Ethiopia. We have been amazed at the number of people God has brought into our paths who are traveling/have already traveled the same journey. I tried my hand at Ethiopian cuisine for the first time, and it was delicious: doro wat (spicy chicken stew), kik alicha (split-pea stew), and injera (pancake-like bread used to eat with instead of utensils). Our house still smells like Ethiopian food this morning, but it was definitely worth it! Someday we will be able to celebrate the holiday with our son. Until then, we will celebrate in honor of him. Happy New Year! It is now officially the year 2008 in Ethiopia.