Ethiopia first opened its intercountry adoption system in 1999. War, poverty, famine, drought, and disease has led to the premature deaths of many of the country’s parents and resulted in an astounding orphan population. The condition of these orphans is bleak in light of the country’s suffering economy. This is largely due a vast amount of Ethiopia’s funds being diverted to military activities over the last century. First, Ethiopian combined with Britain to defeat Italian fascist forces in the early 1940s. This was followed by a thirty year period of civil unrest, beginning in 1974 when a military regime known as the Derg Committee gained power by deposing the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. The first popularly elected form of government was installed in 1995 as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Three years later, Eritrean forces seized control of Ethiopian territory along the border of the two countries, which spurred a two year conflict. This war alone resulted in the loss of 70,000 lives.
Nearly doubling between 2006 and 2007, the number of orphans in this country is estimated to be roughly 12% of the countries’ children. The AIDS virus is attributed with directly causing an estimated 750,000 parentless children. The Children and Youth Affairs Office, encompassed by the Ministory of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA), charged with overseeing Ethiopian adoptions, labels children as orphans whose remaining parents are living with the virus.
To address concerns for these children, Ethiopia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990 and in the same year, ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) to further implement and clarify the application of the CRC in Africa. The ACRWC was the first regional treaty to address the rights of the child to be adopted by the African Union (or former Organization of African Unity (OAU)). Ethiopia is not a member to the Hague Adoption Convention and of the non-member countries, it sends one of the highest numbers of adoptees to the United States. Other laws related to adoption include the Revised Family Code of Ethiopia, wherein a court is required to certify that an adoption is in the best interests of the child before granting its approval.
Improvement of the condition of families to allow children to remain in their homes as well as cracking down on child trafficking has also become forefront among government policy agendas. Because the cost of adopting a child in roughly twenty-six times the average yearly income of an Ethiopian, monetary incentives underlie concerns regarding the recruitment of children from birth parents by adoption service providers. This led to Australia’s ban on Ethiopian intercountry adoptions last fall. Similar apprehensions spurred the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia to bolster the protections in the visas processes for adoptees. In effect since May, adoptive parents must appear at a court hearing in the country before the adoption can be approved. The government has also recently revoked the licenses of nine orphanages and moved the children living in those orphanages to other accredited orphanages throughout the country.
While a small foster care system exists in Ethiopia, the majority of the children available for adoption are found in orphanages. Since the inception of the country’s intercountry adoption system, there has been a significant increase in the number of children adopted to the United States over the past decade, from less than 50 to more than 2,000 in 2009.
Central Authority: Ministry Of Women's Affairs (MOWA), Children and Youth Affairs Office, Adoption Team (CYAO)
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Ethiopia also has the following eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents.
Age Requirements: If single, the prospective adoptive parent must be at least 25 years of age. If married, there is no minimum age. There also is no maximum age limit for adoptive parents. However, Ethiopian Government practice is to limit the age difference between the prospective adoptive parent and the adopted child to no more than 40 years.
Marriage Requirements: The Ethiopian Government has shown a preference for placing children with married couples who have been married for at least five years. Ethiopian government policy regarding adoptions by unmarried women is one of the issues being studied as part of the government's overall review of adoption regulations and practices. It is unclear whether Ethiopian government's policy about single adoptive mothers will change, and if so, when it might change. Thus, adoption service providers in Ethiopia may have different policies regarding whether or not they make referrals of adoptable children to unmarried women and under what circumstances. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa urges adoptive parents to contact their agency to clarify what their current policies are.
Income Requirements: Prospective parent(s) must prove financial ability as determined by the Ethiopian courts, although there is no set minimum income requirement.
Other Requirements: Ethiopian law prohibits adoption by gay and/or lesbian parents.