Christian World Adoption Statement

Date: 2009-09-16
Source: ABC Australia

Christian World Adoption Statement
September 16, 2009

As our staff watched the video made by the Australian network, and listened to the accusations, we felt very sad that so much of it was inaccurate and woven to make a story. This is not about someone’s network ratings; it is about many innocent lives and people who help children for the right reasons.
We will address some of the untruths below.

The lady called Michelle, who is shown in the video interviewing children to be adopted, was not a CWA staff person. She was an independent person who runs a ministry called Kingdom Kids, with her husband. Their ministry is to find loving homes for children that no one else would seek to adopt. These videos were not made at CWA orphanages but rather it was at the invitation of the Ethiopian regional officials that Michelle visited these areas to meet with the children who needed help.

Michelle is an adoptive mother of several older and special needs children, including older children from Ethiopia. Michelle and her husband even adopted a teenage girl whose original adoptive family would not keep her. They do not do this work for profit. In fact, Michelle wanted to do a lot of other humanitarian projects that were beyond the scope of our agency. CWA stopped working with her in May of 2007, but we find it very sad that she is portrayed as callous when their family has given so much to orphaned children. The practice of filming older and special needs children is used in the U.S. to find adoptive families. Information about waiting children is listed on the Internet by the Department of Social Services for potential families to review. This gives a child a voice and makes it possible to find the family who will love them and care for them. It is not a “sales pitch” and to insinuate that children are an item to be sold is disgusting.

The man interviewed named Eyob, who said he left CWA, did quit after he was held accountable for substandard work; it is not surprising that he would have an ax to grind, as he was quite angry about it. Eyob has started two orphanages of his own and is placing the children in intercountry adoption.

The CWA staff person, Aster, is a former judge. Her statement on camera is 100% correct – that the practice the “undercover couple” asked her about is illegal and that CWA does not participate in that.

There were several agencies discussed in this broadcast, including a revelation that over half of the seventy agencies they claimed are working there are not licensed. The truth is that EVERY agency working in Ethiopia is registered and licensed by the Ethiopian government. All must be an NGO and have approved project proposals that include helping the community. All adoption agencies may only work with children’s homes approved and licensed by the government. All must be audited annually and are relicensed every three years. CWA was targeted over and over; is this because we are a Christian organization? The entire film had a very anti-Christian stance.
There was also a lot of discussion about “orphan children” and the decisions made by Ethiopians with regrets later. If the network had done a little more homework, they would have discovered that the adoption process is a very long one and that the birth family must appear in court on two different occasions to be questioned. At any time, they can change their minds and keep the child. During our intake procedure, the social worker has a sheet, written in the native language that explains in detail the meaning of adoption and what the choices are. The birth family or guardian must understand and agree to the process before a child is accepted.

In the video, the adoptive mother states that her son calls the woman who found him “mama”. In fact when the family questioned their child’s status, CWA sent an investigator to the child’s village to interview the “mama” who brought him to the authorities. She took the investigator to the place where she found him when he was a baby. The orphanage said that he was abandoned – meaning by his original parents – and that was confirmed. The guardian also swore in court that all the information she had given was true.

It is very common in Ethiopia for the children to call their caregivers mama, and even our CWA staff is addressed as mother or mama when they visit from the United States. It is the cultural norm.

It is heartbreaking that there are 140 MILLION orphans in the world and that Ethiopia has 6 MILLION orphans according to the UN, but that is the reality. The reality of HIV, famine, malaria, war is causing children to be orphaned at an alarming rate. It is tragic and it is even more tragic that countries do not have the resources to care for their children. All countries are embarrassed by that, which is one of the reasons that it is becoming more difficult to help the children. Still, the countries who are brave enough to put the children first realize that a child needs a home and that the streets or an institution is the last place they should be.

Each case is thoroughly investigated. CWA interviews people in the community to be sure that the facts we are getting about a child are as reliable as possible. For
CWA to work as a licensed and accredited agency a very set procedure is followed. There are two courts that must approve a child’s adoption, both regional and federal. There must be a release approval through the local kebele for the child to be adoptable also, along with an investigation if there is any question regarding adoptability. The final review is completed by USCIS, which determines if the child’s adoption is valid and if that child qualifies as an orphan before a visa is issued and the child allowed into the U.S.

The quality of medical expertise and availability in Ethiopia is difficult and somewhat questionable. It is a third world country. Parents are told this several times, and asked to get additional opinions. The videos are made for parents to see potential conditions and health issues as well. It is recommended to all parents that these videos be sent to an international adoption specialist for further evaluation. CWA goes to great lengths to get the best available testing and information from the facilities there, including multiple testing for HIV, VDRL, and a broad spectrum of other blood work and sampling, which adoptive parents must review before a court hearing.

The claim that CWA broadly guarantees the health of any child does not stand up, as parents are educated throughout the process that this CANNOT be done. Parents are aware of this upfront as this is outlined in our legal agreement as well as in a very detailed Letter of Understanding that they sign upon becoming a CWA client. It is our hope that the family will not adopt a child without carefully consideration.

CWA goes to great lengths to help educate and prepare adoptive parents for the very conditions that are prevalent in the child’s birth country. Parents are strongly encouraged to consider all of the risks and to NOT adopt if they cannot cope with unknown medical or physiological issues.

When parents are confronted with unknown medical conditions upon examining a child, they have every right to further the evaluation, and are not forced to accept any child. The woman interviewed in the broadcast made a decision to accept a child that she had grave concerns about, and when CWA offered to help find another family for this child, she wanted no part of it. The copies of the medical records given to the family have not been altered and have detailed blood work and examinations. It is very unfortunate that this little boy has more health issues than were detected in Ethiopia, but the American medical standards simply do not exist there.

Then there is the wild claim that the Ethiopian government is making $100,000,000. That is outrageous slander. The Ethiopian government refuses to take any money, period! The U.S. government charges adoptive families for its services, but the Ethiopian government does it all for free, and it is a burden on their court system to do so.
Then there are the broad brush charges that agencies are “harvesting” children there, and that the Christians are dodgy about answering questions. Surely using such emotional terminology may increase public outrage, but it is a disgusting reference to a very loving act. There is no need to “harvest” children. There are so many desperate children that even with 1,500 adoptions a year, nearly 6 million orphaned children in Ethiopia are left, struggling to survive.

Much of what is offered in the broadcast is flavored just enough to lead one to think that the Christian groups (assumed to be led by CWA) are misleading people. The doctor interviewed said that he did not remember this particular case. I seriously doubt that any doctor would remember a child that they looked at almost two years ago.
Agencies that are licensed, Hague-accredited and approved by both governments, and that have substantial humanitarian aid programs in Ethiopia, are doing a wonderful job of finding good, loving, permanent homes for children, who in many cases would just die in the streets. CWA sponsors hundreds of children in schools, and helps feed, medicate, and take care of many children who will never be adopted. Is this greed?

CWA has made the decision to help the older and special-needs children. It is more time-consuming, emotional and expensive to care for these children, but they have just as much right to protection and care and love as an infant.

We are appalled that this Australian network would take responsibility of defaming people who are trying to make a difference in the world, and more importantly are attempting to destroy the chances of so many little ones without a voice.


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