We think that an adoption placement of Ethiopian children to Germany must adher to the following expectations.
The placement of children from Ethiopia to Germany must reflect the age range of children in Ethiopian orphanages. The placement of children abroad must be in the sole responsibility of Ethiopian authorities. Many parents want a very young baby for very good reasons. If the parents demand for babies lead to the placement of many more babies than older children, the principle of finding parents for existing children rather than vice versa is violated. Statistics on the placement of Ethiopian children to the US show that the share of small babies is particularly high.
Every child has the right to know about its biological family and to liaise with that family if he or she wishes to do so. In the case of a relinquished child, where relatives or parents are known, adoptive parents and adopting agency should work towards establishing contacts to the biological family, if there are no serious reasons against this contact.
Open adoptions help to deal with three major concerns that might affect adoptive families negatively:
The worry of an older child about his or her family, which was too poor and needy to care for him or her.
The worry of the child about the reasons for abandonment. Only the people who took the decision of abandoning the child can justify this decision and make it more bearable for the child.
The worry about the legitimacy of the adoption process. It is important for both children and parent to know that the official version and the factual information about the adoption process match.
A new adoptive family might find it difficult to focus on both the present and the past. However, in the process of preparing for international adoption this question should be raised and personal capacities should be assessed. Placement agencies should feel the obligation to counsel families before and after the adoption with specialist services. The adoptive agencies has the necessary contacts and knowledge in order to inform the adoptive parents about the cultural context of their children. The speical situation of children from a particular culture requires specialist support. Therefore, not only preparation but also services after adoptions should be developed and become part of the agencies duties.
Adopting agencies should operate organisationally and financially in a transparent manner. Fees should be justified and open. In Germany, there are church based and private adoption agencies licenced for international adoption. Private adoption agencies cannot be independent of the number of adopted children. In constrast to church based or state run adoption placement, they are inherently at risk to have to meet financial targets in order to keep the organisation afloat. This risk has to be met by high levels of financial transparencies.
In particular the charity work of adoption agencies must not be connected with adoption placements. The Ethiopian government ties the licencing of adoption agencies with charitable projects in Ethiopia. This is understandable from an Ethiopian perspective. There is however a risk of connecting the two by confusion adoption placements and general social projects of adoption agencies, since it leads to conflict of interests. Ethiopia is definitely dependent on supportive social aid from abroad and it is an illusion to believe that adoption agencies would be freed from the expectation to deliver social work projects. Therefore only transparency can alleviate the situation to some extent.
Donors of social projects should not be unaware of the fact to what extent their donations are a precondition for the agency to operate in the country. Social work in Ethiopia by adoption agencies must not consist of counselling pregnant women towards giving up their children. No adoptive parent will want to adopt a child whose biological mother was advised to give up the child. While this kind of counselling exist in the West too, the basic conditions of pregnant women in Africa and the West differ substantially.
As parents we are responsible for the well-being of our children. Our children will not ask our adoption agency but us about the reasons why they have been placed abroad. In particular relinquished children whose origins have not been documented, will follow the reporting and public discussion about the practices of international adoption carefully. It is our duty as parents to demand transparency and ethical conduct from everyone who takes part in international adoptions.