Ethiopia is a beautiful country situated in Eastern Africa near the Red Sea with a population of 53 million.
It is one of the oldest countries in the world and was the home of the Queen of Sheba. The empire which started with Sheba's son Menelik continued until 1974 when the death of Haile Selassie marked the end of the 3000 year old dynasty. Following the death, there was a civil war in the country until 1991 when a transitional government was formed. The 17 years of civil war bankrupted the country and left thousands of orphaned children. The numbers continue to increase as the diseases of poverty cause premature deaths of parents.
Thousands of children are living in institutions because their parents can no longer care for them. Many children are orphaned due to poverty, the residual effects of war, drought or famine, or their parents may have died of disease, including but not limited to AIDS related illnesses.
Children are well cared for in orphanages or hospitals, but are in great need of a loving family environment. Our representative and staff in Ethiopia monitor the health and care of the children. The children are beautiful! They tend to have a cheerful outlook despite their difficult lives. Most of the children are healthy by third world standards. Medical care is scarce so children with serious illnesses generally do not survive. All children are tested during the process for HIV, Hepatitis B, tuberculosis, and venereal disease. The children range in age from a few months to 10 years.
The children are:
- Male and female - As young as two months old, at time of referral, up through school age - Twins and sibling groups available Parent Eligibility Singles and couples (with our without children) may apply. There are no restrictions regarding religion and previous divorce is permitted.
Note on private adoptions: In general, only U.S. citizens who currently reside in Ethiopia and have done so for two years are eligible to complete a private adoption. Most U.S. prospective adoptive parents, therefore, will be required to use a licensed adoption service provider.
Note on relative adoptions: Ethiopian-Americans who are adopting orphaned relatives do not have to come to Ethiopia to process their adoptions. They can have a representative with a power of attorney represent them in court. Married adoptive parents need to make sure that both parents have given the representative a power of attorney so that both parents' names appear on the adoption decree.
Role of Adoption Authority: The MOWCYA approves the dossier of the prospective adoptive parents and conducts a review of the best interests of the child, including whether a preliminary determination on the immigration eligibility of the child is favorable. It makes a recommendation to the FFIC on whether the adoption should proceed. The MOWCYA also certifies the final adoption decree and provides letters of request for the issuance of amended birth certificates and passports for the adopted child.
Role of the Court: The FFIC accepts all petitions for intercountry adoption and forwards the dossier to the MOWCYA for the best interests review. They review the adoptability of the child, ensure the process at the local level adhered to Ethiopian law, and make the final determination on the adoption decree. The FFIC issues the final adoption decree.
Role of Adoption Agencies: ASPs facilitate the match of a child at a licensed Ethiopian orphanage and U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s). ASPs also act on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent(s) in filing the dossier and petition with the FFIC.
Adoption Application: The adoption application, also referred to as the dossier, serves to evaluate the prospective adoptive parent(s)’ eligibility to adopt under Ethiopian law. This step takes place during the MOWCYA review of the best interests of the child.
To meet U.S. immigration requirements, the prospective adoptive parents have also to file a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt.
A general outline of the process is as follows:
1) Home study completion and USCIS (immigration) filing.
2) Dossier submitted to Adoption Avenues Agency.
3) The prospective adoptive parents (PAP) receive the referral.
4) After the referral is accepted the PAP will file the I 600 form.
5) Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Ethiopia
6) Receive final approval of your Form I-600
7) Child travels home
MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE PROCESS:
International adoptions in Ethiopia are overseen by the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA), a government division under the Ministry of Justice which regulates all adoption processing.
The PAP complete a home study before being accepted to the program. While waiting for home study completion and immigration approval, we provide instruction as to how to compile the dossier for Ethiopia.
Once the dossier is complete, it will be send to Ethiopia, where it will be translated.
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for inter-country adoption, the central adoption authority or other authorized entity in Ethiopia will provide you with a referral. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child. The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Ethiopia’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. At this time Ethiopian authorities publish in the local press a notice seeking any other claimants to the child, stating the child's name and the name of the prospective adoptive parents. The notice advises that any parties opposed to the adoption must appear at MOWCYA by a certain date and time.
PAP have the option to either accept or refuse the referral. Upon acceptance of the referral, a Contract of Adoption is signed by the child's legal guardian, usually the orphanage, and the adoptive parents or the agency representative.
After the PAP are accepting the referral they must file the form I 600 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to initiate the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review prior to filing an adoption case with the courts
Under the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) program, the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s) files a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, with the National Benefits Center (NBC) prior to obtaining a final adoption decree from the relevant court authority in Ethiopia. After review of the Form I-600 petition and completion of the Form I-604 investigation, NBC will make a preliminary determination on whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. If the determination is favorable, NBC will issue a preliminary determination of immigration eligibility to the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s) in the form of a USCIS PAIR letter. If an unfavorable determination is made, NBC may issue a request for additional evidence or denial letter to the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s).
Beginning on September 1, 2013, the Ethiopian government will require a USCIS PAIR letter in all U.S. adoption cases filed with the Ethiopian Federal First Instance Court (FFIC). Therefore, beginning on May 1, 2013, all new adoption cases filed with NBC must undergo a pre-adoption immigration review.
To initiate the PAIR process: prospective adoptive parents should submit a completed Form I600 together with all available documentation listed in the Form I-600 Instructions, minus an adoption decree or grant of legal custody to the USCIS National Benefits Center through the Dallas Lockbox. All documents originally produced in a foreign language must be accompanied by a certified English translation. In addition, the following PAIR-specific documentation must be submitted when the child’s country of origin is Ethiopia:
Evidence of the match between petitioner and child such as:
Adoption Contract between the Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) and the orphanage, together with a power of attorney appointing the Adoption Service Provider (ASP) to represent the PAP, in cases where the contract is signed by the ASP on behalf of the PAP; or
Adoption Contract between the PAP and relinquishing birth relative.
Evidence of child’s availability for inter-country adoption, such as:
Court order from Regional, Zonal or Woreda authorities;
Police report from local authorities, placing the child in the care of a licensed orphanage; or
Adoption Contract between PAP and relinquishing birth relative, in cases of intra-family adoption only.
In addition to the documentation required in the Form I-600 instructions pertaining to evidence that the child is an orphan as defined in section 101(b)(1)(F) and 8 CFR 204.3(b), there may be Ethiopia specific documentation that can help establish the child’s orphan status. Such documentation may include, but is not limited to:
Child’s life history report
Police report documenting finding of abandoned child
Police reports documenting disappearance of birth parent(s), if applicable
Medical or Court order documenting birth parent(s)’ incapacitation or illness
Copies of birth parent(s) death certificate(s)
Please note that additional documents may be requested.
USCIS will forward its preliminary favorable determination, together with the prospective adoptive parent’s file, to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. USCIS will also forward the original preliminary determination letter to the prospective adoptive parents for their records.
Upon issuance of the PAIR letter, USCIS NBC will forward your petition to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa for final adjudication following the completion of the Ethiopian court process.
Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Ethiopia
The process for finalizing the adoption in Ethiopia generally includes the following:
After September 1, 2013, under PAIR, prospective adoptive parents will file a dossier with Ethiopia’s Federal First Instance Court (FFIC) to initiate the legal adoption process in Ethiopia. This dossier will include documents related to the child’s background, such as the Life History document created by the orphanage, along with the PAIR letter, the signed adoption contract, and information about the adoptive parents’ suitability to adopt. As of February 2013, the court requires a filing fee of 25 Ethiopian birr to open a case. The FFIC will forward the case to the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s, and Youth Affairs for its review, and will usually set a specific date by which the review must be completed. MOWCYA will review the dossier, along with the approved home study, and make a determination on whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. If it determines that the prospective adoptive parents are eligible under Ethiopian law and the adoption should move forward, the dossier will be sent back to the FFIC for a hearing. Usually, if a child has been relinquished by living relatives, the court will hold a first hearing in order to obtain the relatives’ legal consent to the adoption. One to two weeks later, the court will schedule a hearing with the adoptive parents. In most cases, if the court approves the adoption, full legal custody is transferred to the adoptive parents on the same day. The adoptive parents receive an adoption decree from the court, which they can take back to MOWCYA for certification. Possession of the certified adoption decree permits adoptive parents or their agency’s representative to begin the process of applying for a new passport and birth certificate for the child. Please see below for more information on these processes.
Receive final approval of your Form I-600
Under the PAIR program, your Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Adopted Child is not adjudicated until after your adoption is complete. You need to submit the final adoption decree issued by the FFIC and certified by MOWCYA, as well as the child’s identity and travel documents, to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa in order to complete the processing of the Form I-600 and receive a final determination on the immigration eligibility of your child. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will approve Form I-600s that are clearly approvable.
You will need to apply for several documents before you submit your decree:
Once you have finalized the adoption in Ethiopia, you will need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. The names of the adoptive parents will be listed on the new birth certificate. In general, your child’s legal name in Ethiopia will be the child’s given name followed by the first and last names of the adoptive father (e.g. Habtamu John Smith). When an adoptive mother is unmarried, the child’s name will follow the same pattern using the new mother’s name. Once the adoption is complete, MOWCYA prepares a request to the City of Addis Ababa for the issuance of a new birth certificate. This is best facilitated if the request is hand-carried to the relevant office.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so s/he will need a travel document or passport from Ethiopia.
The MOWCYA prepares a request to the Office of Security, Immigration and Refugee Affairs for an Ethiopian passport for the child in his/her new name. This request is best facilitated if it is hand-carried to the relevant office. It can sometimes take 4-6 weeks for the passport to be issued by the Ministry of Immigration following certification of the adoption decree.
Obtain a Visa and Bring Your Child Home
U.S. Immigrant Visa
If your Form I-600 is approved, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.
You may submit your immigrant visa application and medical report when you submit the final, certified adoption decree, birth certificate, and Ethiopian passport for final adjudication of your Form I-600. You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the adoption page of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa’s website. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will contact you, and your ASP or designated representative, once the Form I-600 is approved, to schedule the immigrant visa interview.
Visas for Other Countries
If the child will transit through the U.K. or Germany en route to the U.S., and will exit the airport, a German or U.K. visa will be required. A German or U.K. visa may be obtained by applying at the respective embassies in Addis Ababa. If the child does not exit the airport then no visa is required.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.
We provide approximate timeframes for all milestones. Each family's process is individual and unique; therefore timelines may differ slightly from case to case. The following timeframes are generally what our families can expect to experience::
From the time the Application is submitted until the Dossier is ready to be send to Ethiopia: varies, depending on how quickly individual family works to complete dossier as well as the time it takes to complete home study for agency approval and to be USCIS approved. Typically up to 4 to 6 months.
From the time the Dossier is received in Ethiopia, and translated until referral: Varies, depending on how quickly individual family works to complete dossier as well as the time it takes to complete home study for agency approval. Typically 10 to 12 months and up (this if the regional MOWA is signing the MOWA letter within the average amount of time).
Approximately 12-14 weeks for the PAIR processing by USCIS
Following the match and approximately 6 weeks for the adoption petition to be finalized by the Government of Ethiopia.
Following the issuance of the adoption decree in Ethiopia, an additional 4-6 weeks will be necessary for the Ethiopian passport application.
The child is traveling home
Parents have the option of traveling to Ethiopia to receive their child or having their child escorted to the nearest major U.S. airport. For parents who travel, we provide travel notes and tips as well as assist in coordinating your stay in Ethiopia.
Traveling to Ethiopia and visiting our care center allows families to develop the child-parent bond all the more quickly; it also provides a deeper understanding of a child's background. For these reasons, we strongly encourage families to travel to Ethiopia. Those who travel will be met by our staff at the airport in Addis Ababa. Families will be well taken care of during their stay as our staff will see to making accommodation, transportation and translation arrangements during the adoption trip. Other arrangements such as seeing some sites in Ethiopia's capital city can also be arranged through our representatives in country. Typical Information A photo and available medical information is provided upon referral of the child. All children are tested during the process for HIV, Hepatitis B, tuberculosis, and venereal disease. A video is sometime available.
Post- Placement You will be required to provide three post-placement reports. These reports will be due within the first months, third months and sixth months of child's arrival date and will be done by a Social Worker. These will be forwarded to Ethiopia.
Adoption Avenues Agency – Ethiopia Project
The most humanitarian way of assisting needy children is adoption. It is the legal remedy to a biological mishap. Adoption Avenues is engaged in facilitating the adoption of Ethiopian orphans, destitute and abandoned children by the American able families willing to raise them in the civilized way of personal growth and mental maturity. Adoption Avenues intervention in Ethiopia will target one main kind of beneficiaries: destitute orphans and abandoned children cared in an orphanage regardless of their ethnic and/or religious background. In order to address all project efforts to the outreach of the above mentioned overall goal the specific objective is to mediate inter-country adoptions of around 100 abandoned or orphaned children per year. Besides mediating the inter-country adoptions Adoption Avenues is involved in several development projects in Ethiopia. The purpose of this projects is to help the orphans and abandoned children who will be left behind, the once who will not going to be adopted.
- The Program for HIV and handicapped children. We are participating in the financing of the construction of the facilities and in financing the running costs of this program.
- We are sponsoring and taking care of HIV positive children in the centers of Meki and Ambo.
- We are paying for the School expansion and renovation for rural school of Western Wollaga Ghimbi Zone; Warra Sayyoo Kebele Barko and for the elementary school in Oromiyaa
- We are sponsoring 40 older children per year in two education center (in the city of Burayu).
In this way we do contribute to the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the orphans and abandoned children in Addis Ababa through skilled local implementing partners and the cooperation with relevant governmental bodies.
In achieving the objective of our project Adoption Avenues is working in close collaboration with other non-governmental organization and key governmental bodies. In order to monitoring and measure the project performance and output on the basis of its expected result relevant and objective verifiable indicators have been identified.