This issue comes up over and again in relation to what is best for an orphan. I know this is a hotly contested issue, but I wanted to post this article because it brings up some good points. Although it focuses on Ethiopia, the issue applies across the board in any country. I am an adoptive father myself, so I wrestle with what is right in regards to this. Read it, and tell me your thoughts:
Editor's note: Americans are adopting fewer orphans overseas except in one country: Ethiopia. But social workers are saying adoption is not the best solution to Ethiopia's problems, reports NAM contributing writer, Shane Bauer. Bauer is a freelance journalist and photographer based in the Middle East and Africa.
Is adoption actually the best strategy for improving the lives of the orphaned children?
Most of Ethiopia's estimated one million orphans have extended family members who, if they only had the money, Tewodros said, would care for the child. Here's where the idea of adoption as a last resort gets tricky: It costs $20 per month to support a child with a foster family in Ethiopia. More often than not, the foster family is one of the child's relatives. An American parent adopting a child through Better Future Adoption will spend between $14,170 - $18,170 in fees and travel costs, according to the Web site.
"To solve the problem of orphaned children, we need solve the problem of HIV," said Teshager Shiferan, director of the Dawn of Hope Ethiopia Association. His organization is an association of people living with HIV/AIDS, the main cause of orphaned children in Ethiopia. Of the country's one million orphans, 700,000 have lost their parents to the disease.
"We can't solve the problem of orphaned children in Ethiopia by sending them abroad," Shiferan said. "We need to focus on the prevention of HIV/AIDS." Ethiopia, he said, is headed in the right direction. Three years ago, the government began offering free anti-retroviral treatment (ART) to 150,000 HIV/AIDS victims. That is still a small fraction of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, but it is already showing results: according to him, the number of people dying from HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia has been declining.
"The implication is clear," he said. "An orphan is someone whose parents died. If you increase the number of people who get ART, you decrease the number of orphans."
Dealing with HIV/AIDS might be a long-term solution to curbing the problem of orphaned children, but people like Tewodros are invested in dealing with the immediate problem of kids without parents.
As of late, he's been coming up against the government, which has recently been increasing restrictions and implementing policies that would keep children in the country. For a child to be approved for adoptions, new stipulations require documented confirmation of the death of both parents or the serious illness of the single living parent.
Tewodros said the reason for the policy change is to crack down on child trafficking, but for him, it just creates headaches. Three of the children at his orphanage are waiting to be adopted, but the government has been refusing to approve it, because the children's father is still alive. "We go to the ministry again and again and the government won't give us permission. Their father is a poor man and he can't take care of them," he said.
Tewodros admits that adoption isn't always the best strategy, but like non-profits the world over, he is restricted by funding. The money is in adoption, not in keeping children in their country with their families.
Doing the math, it would cost roughly $5000 to fund the care of 20 orphans by their extended family. While that amount is 26 times the average yearly income of an Ethiopian, it's about a quarter to a third of the amount an American would pay to adopt a single child from the Rohobet orphanage. Read the entire New America Media article here.