The Ethiopian government suddenly suspended all international adoptions last month. The hasty decision from the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office was announced in April. To the dismay of over 200 American parents the suspension also applies to families in the final stages of the adoption process. Families that have already finished preparations for their children to move to America have been left in the dark with no indication as to when, if ever the ban will be lifted by Ethiopian authorities.

No explanation was given for the sudden change in policy, however in March of 2016 the nation of Denmark suspended all adoptions from Ethiopia after Denmark authorities began to fear corruption by Ethiopian adoption agencies. The rise in international adoptions by western families may have produced an adoption black market. The Danish government says it was becoming increasingly difficult to verify the legitimate orphan status of the children and it is believed that many of the babies have simply been sold by people desperate for a payday in one of the world’s most impoverished nations.

Danish Social Minister Karen Ellemann said concerns about the integrity of the adoption process on the Ethiopian end had finally reached a point where action must be taken.

“I no longer have the necessary confidence that adoptions from the country live up to the requirements we have in regards to the adoption process and that adoption is the best option for the children,” she said.
“We have followed the developments in Ethiopia for a long time and have sharpened our handling of cases in numerous ways in order to increase security. It now appears very doubtful that Ethiopia is moving in the right direction and the Ethiopian authorities themselves say that the various measures have had little actual effect,” Ellemann added.

Sweden and Norway have also banned all adoptions from Ethiopia indefinitely.

While it is certainly a good thing that western nations aren’t encouraging child trafficking there are still hundreds of American parents who have already bonded with their Ethiopian children and completed the final steps of their adoption. The state department has requested more information from Ethiopian authorities and asked that they allow any adoptions in the final stages to be completed.

In the meantime a group of parents have set up a White House petition to ask Congress to become directly involved in negotiating for those caught up in the ban. The petition needs 100,000 signatures to receive an official response from the White House.

Meanwhile, the state department recommends parents considering international adoption focus their efforts elsewhere for the indefinite future.

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa has been informed that the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWA) will resume its processing of intercountry adoption cases, but that it will only issue negative letters. This will apply to all intercountry adoption cases, regardless of their stage in the process or the nationality of the adoptive parents. To date, the Ethiopian government has not provided the Office of Children’s Issues or the Embassy any formal communication regarding the suspension of intercountry adoptions.

Additionally, the Prime Minister’s Office is holding government-wide, minister-level meetings with various Ethiopian government ministries throughout the month of May. Due to those meetings, high-level officials in relevant ministries have been unresponsive to requests for meetings with U.S. government officials. The Office of Children’s Issues and the Embassy will urge the Ethiopian government to release additional information following the conclusion of those meetings. We will also continue to urge the Ethiopian government to allow continued processing of cases that were in progress prior to the April 21 suspension.

The Department of State will continue to advocate for intercountry adoption from Ethiopia. However, given the uncertainty of the future of adoptions there, prospective adoptive parents should consider other countries. If you have questions about your pending case, please contact your Adoption Service Provider and continue to monitor adoption.state.gov for updated information on intercountry adoption in Ethiopia.