Abandonment Hold and Investigation
Earlier this week it was brought to the attention of our staff in Ethiopia that the Federal Courts of Addis Ababa have put a hold on approving any case where the child has been abandoned. This will be the case until an investigation is done in Ethiopia. Most likely this investigation is a direct result of the increased number of abandonment cases in Addis Ababa after the implementation of the Central Authority (CA) this past fall. When the CA was implemented the office started to look more closely at the way relinquishments were happening in Ethiopia. Of course, this is a good thing but as a result more families decided to illegally abandon their children.
At this time, we do not have concrete information as to what the investigations will look like, however, our staff is quite sure they know what will be looked at:
1) Need to ensure that all police documents are official and have not been forged. This can be seen by making sure that copies are on file at the police department.
2) Review the different government orphanages to see if the number of abandonment cases far outweighs the relinquishment cases and if there are irregularities with these numbers.
This change may realistically impact all adoptions in Ethiopia to some degree, but will specifically impact the cases of any children that were abandoned. The direct impact right now is for families who are waiting on a court appointment to be scheduled or waiting to see if their court appointment will go through successfully.
Our staff is trying to sort through this information as best we can, but please realize that it is not our office conducting these investigations and it will take time to get through all cases, both American and European. AGCI currently has 11 families in process that this will directly impact although this will impact referrals in the short term as well. Until we have further clarity as to what they are looking for we will unfortunately need to place a hold on all abandoned referrals.
This information will be very difficult news for some of our families to process as we wait for clarity over the coming weeks and months. However there are a few positives to this information to also keep in mind. First, this is an indication that the Ethiopia government does care about the ethics of each case being processed through the court system. Also, there have been significant changes in the program's past that have proved to be relatively smooth and successful, specifically the positive result of implementing the Central Authority in the adoption process last Fall. Despite the concern we had over this past change, that it would severely impact adoption timelines in Ethiopia, the program in reality experienced minimal delays due to the Central Authority's implementation. We are hopeful this will also be the case with this investigation.
Again, this is not easy information to process, especially for the children and families directly impacted, but we are praying for this obstacle to be resolved quickly and the program to become stronger because of this. We will continue to be in touch with families as we gain clarity on this issue, but ask for your prayers and patience as you we journey through this change.