International adoptions are legitimised by the right of the child on the one hand and undermined by the weak administrative structures in many of the sending countries on the other hand. The right of the child values the placement of an abandoned or orphaned child into a family higher than institutional care. This is the basis of The Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The convention provided an international legal foundation for intercountry adoptions for the first time.
There are however still problems as well as heated debates about ethical standards in the process of international adoptions. The positions range from rejecting intercountry adoptions in principle to pleas for more enabling support. Opponents of international adoptions emphasize the risks of child trafficking, which are increased by financial incentives through child placements. They point to the numerous exampes of corrupt practices in adoption procedures, which include forged papers as well as kidnapping.
Supporters of international adoption see it as an instrument that helps an individual child, who has already been abandoned or orphaned and who would face an alternative upbringing in an institution. There is a broad academic literature, which proves the beneficial effects of adoptions. For the individual child, the adoption is almost always better than not being adopted.
The tension between the benefits for the individual child and the dangers of corruption can only be addressed through an overall improvement of the adoption process. The Hague Convention is an important step towards this goal. It requires the agencies to be accredited and governments to uphold certain standards. Its implementation is however flawed in many places and needs better supervision. In the case of Ethiopia, the convention has not been ratified by the Ethiopian government.