Ethiopia – a new model for the long-term care of orphans

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    Seventy adoption agencies are authorized to operate in Ethiopia. The one I am most familiar with, Christian World Adoption, was among the first U.S. agencies authorized and accredited to have an Ethiopia adoption program. It was the agency chosen by Paradise Valley couple Brian deGuzman, a cardiac surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, and his wife Keri, who is trained as pediatric intensive care nurse. The deGuzmans have adopted four children from Ethiopia through CWA.

    Each year, more than 200 children from Ethiopia are placed with adoptive families, according to the agency’s website.

    A young mother waits for her share of corn distributed to 250 people in Wolayta.

    Compare that to the number of children in the country who have been orphaned or abandoned — children whose parents are dead or too ill, too poor or simply unable (for a myriad of other reasons) to care adequately for another child.

    Depending on which resource you consult, the number of Ethiopian children facing this situation ranges from four to six million. Two hundred a year — even if you use that estimate times 70 placement agencies — is 14,000 children a year. A drop in the bucket of endless need. And more babies are being born every day. (My most haunting memory from food distribution day was seeing pregnant and breastfeeding women who were themselves near starvation.)

    The Ethiopian government wisely requires a complete separation of operations between adoption agencies and the orphanages that accept and house children. It is one of many measures in place to protect children and families and avoid concerns about possible child trafficking.

    During our recent visit to Ethiopia, the deGuzmans and I saw how some of these non-profit, non-governmental organizations are beginning to respond to the gaping hole of need.

    While in Soddo, we toured a facility that  has been set up specifically for children ages 4 to 17 whose families cannot care for them but who are not elegible for adoption. At the Aerie Africa orphanage, administered by Children’s Cross Connection, these children are provided with a home, education, nutritious meals, medical care, structure and supervision to help them become self-sufficient, productive members of the community.

    “The idea is to raise these children to be the future leaders of Ethiopia,” I was told by Stephne Bowers, who runs a separate CCC-affiliated orphanage in Soddo for children awaiting adoption.

    Stephne is a frequent visitor to this in-country orphanage (“in-country” being the term used for children who will remain in Ethiopia). Within a few minutes of our arrival, she all but disappeared in a pile of children who gathered around her for a hug.

    Next: touring the Aerie Africa orphanage and meeting the people who run it.

    Stephne, who visits the school often, gets a warm welcome from some of the children.

    2 COMMENTS

    1. Karen, just a wonderful morning reading, simply inspiring, and I really appreciate the ideas you put forward and probably this is the most scalable model we could have.

      One issue I saw with such orphanages though is the amount of effort that goes into expanding and getting larger and getting larger chunk of money from mother organizations and other charities and that these efforts trickles down to the childrens who gets practically to be raised as dolls who salutes their donors and grow up in the complete awareness of being a “donor baby”.

      Once I visited these orphanage in Addis Ababa Sidist kilo area (I was sponsoring and still is a passive member of a larger group of individuals) and my visit for me was simply to drop by and see whats up and see the children in action, but it had been made to such fan-fair that I found the children taken out of their daily lives and was lined up to perform for me with songs all showing how grateful they are for whats done for them and this and that, and looking at the children I felt such discomfort of having children being reminded all the time of the favor done for them.

      The way I see it we either do it because we can, we do it for ourselves mostly so we shouldn’t let the children carry this all the way and besides being reminded of it at each blink moment. Simply we should let them grow and deal with our needs somewhere.

      I am not saying this takes place in the orphanage you pointed out but just mentioning something I saw as the major drawback and a reason I withdrew from being an active participant of a project I mentioned above.

      Thanks soo much….

    2. Thank you for taking time to read my post and to write such a thoughtful response. While I did not observe anything like what you described at the facilities I visited in Ethiopia, I can certainly see how that could happen in well-meaning establishments looking to impress and curry favor with current and potential donors.

      I absolutely agree that children who benefit from charitable donations should not be constantly reminded of it or even expected to be openly grateful for it. They should simply be nurtured and encouraged to grow and learn so they develop the skills and self-esteem they need to be productive, self-sufficient adults.

      I was encouraged, in talking with the people I met during my trip, by a consistent focus on creating models of self-empowerment and self-sustainability for the children and their communities. A long history of foreign aid has ultimately been crippling for the people of Ethiopia. Thankfully, many people working in charitable outreach are looking for different approaches that lift up individuals instead of making them dependent.

      Your message makes me realize how important it is for all of us to choose carefully when we are considering where to spend our dollars in charitable outreach. You are to be applauded for your compassion and your insights into the “big picture” aspects of meeting the needs of orphaned children in Ethiopia.

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