It has repeatedly been said that one of the greatest problems that Ethiopia is facing as a nation is the Orphan Crisis. According to one statistics, of the estimated 143 million orphans worldwide 5.5 million live in Ethiopia. KIDMIA foundation is a non-governmental organization with the vision to see orphaned and vulnerable children released from physical, economic, and spiritual poverty, and to help them reach their highest potential. KIDMIA is a word play in Amharic for ‘priority’, clearly establishing the organizations motivation to prioritize the cause of orphans.
For years, there have been various attempts to address this issue individually and collectively. International adoption from Ethiopia, for example, has increased considerably in recent years. There are also a large number of national and International aid organizations operating and sponsoring orphanages in all parts of Ethiopia. However, at current rate, it is estimated that it would take 5.5 million families 125 billion US dollars and 2,500 years to solve Ethiopia’s orphan crisis through international adoption alone and Institutional care is understood to be a last resort by all.
A more obvious, but little utilized option to stem the orphan crisis is generally believed to be domestic adoption. Many are quick to claim that adoption, in the sense of legally and emotionally taking responsibility for adopted child, is alien to Ethiopian culture. Ato Aschalew Abebe, shown above with wife Ruth and son Fikir, who is the Country Director of KIDMIA Foundation, however firmly believes that wide spread domestic adoption is not only desirable but viable.
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“There are many international adoption agencies working in Ethiopia but none are actively working in promoting or facilitating domestic adoption. Local orphanages that work with these organizations are reluctant to make children available for domestic families because of the large amount of money that is involved when children are adopted internationally. One particular director let us know in no uncertain terms that it ‘was a survival issue’ as they depended on the money from international adoptions to maintain their institutions.
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“Orphanage directors make calculated decisions primarily based on what is beneficial to the institutions and not with the best interest of the children at heart. It is only by creating and empowering a national adoption Agency that we can change the system that allows orphanages to arbitrarily decide the fate of the children. We need to be able to make changes on the policy level as well as increase the capacity of the organizations dealing with adoption both governmental and non-governmental. Policy changes that favor and facilitate the processes for domestic adoption and increase awareness within existing institutions are paramount. There is also great need for increasing the capacity of personnel dealing with and interpreting the principles of adoption. KIDMIA is currently working with its partners to influence these changes at all levels,” says Ato Aschalew.
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