I've had the NY Times article on the increase in adoptions from Ethiopia all week. Apparently, the process is so much easier, and the country has an existing infrastructure of internationally supported orphanages [or transitional homes, as the article calls them] which provide relatively comfortable, nurturing care.
According to the Times, 732 Ethiopian children were adopted by American parents in 2006; that's almost half of all the adoptions in the country [the Globe & Mail reported last year 1500 kids were adopted out of Ethiopia.]
Still, that's an almost infinitesimal number compared to the estimated 5 million kids with no parents--or parents who can't care for them--still in the country.
One couple from Iowa was adopting a brother and sister, and had met the childrens' birth mother:
“It’s hard to know what the right thing is to do,” Ms. Suomala said. “Should we just give all the money we’re spending on this to the children’s mother?” Ms. Suomala and her husband, David Vasquez, had already spent time with her.A friend and his wife who recently adopted their second child from Ethiopia have essentially re-oriented their lives towards the country and to improving conditions for children there. Rather than just teach their kids about their home culture [they live in Copenhagen], they are seeking to establish connections for them to their home country as well. One aspect of this involved setting up a home in Addis Ababa and creating a foundation, 121Ethiopia, which undertakes aid projects on a modest, direct scale that focuses the impact of the money raised.
“It was obvious the birth mother loved her children,” Mr. Vasquez said. “She said to us, ‘Thank you for sharing my burden.’ ”
The first series of projects was rebuilding a municipal orphanage in Addis Ababa. The next involves staff education and infrastructure; they're also building a school for the 200+ kids at the orphanage and its neighbors.
It's impossible for me as a non-adoptive parent to fully understand the experience. Does international adoption feel more like a sense of rescue or deliverance, or does it involve a sense of stewardship toward the countries and cultures where kids come from? A phrase from 121E's website sticks with me: "These children are the seeds of Africa's future." I wonder to what extent adopting parents feel or foster not just a connection, but involvement with their kids' cultures, especially when the needs are so great.