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Since Angelina Jolie adopted her daughter Zahara in 2005, the number of Americans adopting Ethiopian children has quadrupled.
A pop-media obsession with celebrities adopting children in Africa has resulted in a queue of adopting foreigners dealing with opportunistic adoption agents in operating in a regulatory vaccuum. In Ethiopia - and beyond - its creating a heartbreaking mess.
International adoptions may seem like an ideal solution to the dreadful deprivation among the young in Ethiopia and the often impossible circumstances confronting parents trying to feed and raise their children.
The reality though, is far from ideal.
Some adopting parents suspect or discover the new child they’ve taken in is not an orphan as they’d been assured. The child may also have a litany of health problems that has been covered up by corrupt officials.
Also many ‘relinquishing’ Ethiopian parents or carers may have been duped into giving up their children through a heartless process called ‘harvesting’ and can’t hope to re-establish contact with them.
Ethiopia has 5 million orphans needing homes and the United States has millions of homes needing babies. Africa Correspondent Andrew Geoghegan and producer Mary Ann Jolley, discover it’s not a simple mathematical equation or zero sum game. There are virtually no government regulations or policing of the process. Many international adoption agencies flashing Christian credentials are taking advantage of the situation. Corruption, fraud and deception are rife.
Foreign Correspondent follows a Florida couple in their mid fifties as they travel to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to pick up their three adopted children, aged three, four and six. It’s a gut wrenching moment when they meet the birth mother who has come to the orphanage to say a final goodbye to her children. This transaction appears above board but it’s all too common for Ethiopian parents to give up their children for international adoption after being coerced by adoption agencies.
Foreign Correspondent investigates the activities of one of the biggest American agencies operating in Ethiopia. In a remote village in the country’s south, the agency openly recruits children with parents. Each child offered for adoption is then filmed for a DVD catalogue which in turn is shipped out to potential adoptive parents.
A world away in California a mother of one - looking for a brother for her son - chooses from a CWA DVD catalogue. The agency’s sales pitch promised a healthy, abandoned child, but that could not have been further from the truth. Her story is tragic and disturbing and exposes the callousness of the profit oriented international adoption business
A group of grieving mothers who have given up their children for international adoption gather at an orphanage to tell their stories. All claim they were told by adoption agencies they would receive regular information about the whereabouts and wellbeing of their children, but have heard nothing.
It’s a thought-provoking edition of Foreign Correspondent and a must watch for anyone considering adopting a child from another country or who has celebrated the apparent social consciousness of Hollywood A-listers.