I've taken just a few words out to further protect my friend's privacy. Note: Like Ghana, families can adopt independently from Uganda.
I wanted to write a little bit about ethical adoptions in Uganda. I've been getting LOTS of emails lately talking about this. I've also been getting a ton of interest in adopting from Uganda. With everything going on in Ethiopia, we should be prepared for a new rush of interest in the UG program. Which is on one hand, good. Because there are a lot of children in Uganda that need families. But here's the problem. The majority of families are interested in adopting an infant. I can say that about 95% of the families I talk to are only interested in adopting babies. This scares me for the UG program. Because I've seen how quickly this can get out of control.
One of the reasons I was initially drawn to the Uganda program was that while we wanted to adopt a child under age 2, I didn't want to contribute to the unethical behavior, the "supply and demand" feeling I got from certain other countries. I knew that in Uganda there were babies actually sitting in orphanages, eligible to be adopted. From what I can tell, this isn't really the case now. There are now lines of families waiting and waiting to adopt infants from Uganda
Yes, there are infants in Uganda that need adoptive families. But there are far more families wanting to adopt them then there are ADOPTABLE* infants in Uganda.
I have continued to hear disturbing reports from Uganda of people in the slums "looking" for babies that can be adopted. Every-time I hear people tell me they are asking an attorney to "find them a baby" I get really really nervous. We should not be finding babies for families or asking others to do so! This is opposite of how this program should work!
Find families for children in need, not children for families that "want". (I heard that somewhere, can't remember where but it is true!)
I understand wanting a baby quickly - I really, really do. But folks, this is going to end up just like the other countries that have been shut down - Cambodia, Guatemala, Vietnam, etc. if we don't demand ethical adoptions with the priority on children waiting for families.
So, I'd thought I'd write up some of my ideas of how we can encourage ethical adoptions in Uganda. What do you tell families asking you? Any more suggestions?
1. Only adopt from a registered and approved baby home. Don't ask attorneys or people in Uganda to "find" you a baby. This will get out of hand very quickly (it's already started). If you are adopting from an unregistered home, why aren't they registered? Make sure nothing illegal
is going on. There have been people in UG offering Americans children from orphanages that don't even exist. Be aware that scams happen.
2. Be prepared to wait for your baby. You don't want people in Uganda to feel pressured to produce a referral for you quickly, you want a child that truly needs a family to be matched with one. Sometimes this takes a while, especially if you're working with a registered and approved home. They often have waiting lists. After babies come into homes, once the investigations are done and everyone is SURE international adoption is the best thing for this child, they are cleared for adoption and they will be matched with the next eligible family. This can take time as you make your way to the top of the list.
3. Obtain an independent background investigation of your child's background. Hire someone else to do this, not associated with your attorney or the orphanage (some agencies already do this). The attorney and orphanage WANT this child to be adoptable, find someone who is not directly involved or profiting from this adoption. Better yet, go investigate the background yourself.
4. Talk to the PO (probation officer) or police officers that have dealt with this child's case. Talk to family members and guardians. Do they understand what adoption means? Make sure there is no confusion, find a good translator to make sure they understand. Was an advertisement put in the paper asking relatives to come forward? Did it run for long enough and was in the area the child is from? Is there a Ugandan family willing to adopt this child
5. Ask relatives/guardians why they want the child to be adopted. Is it simply because they are poor? If so, if a sponsor was found for their family would they want to keep the child? Try to keep the family together if at all possible.
6. Consider branching out of your originally requested age range/request. Can you consider a child slightly older? With medical needs? There are so many beautiful children just sitting in orphanages waiting for families.
If you're with an agency I'd ask the following questions:
1. What is your focus - do you only place infants or do you place waiting children too
2. What orphanages do you work with? How are children referred to your agency
3. Who does the child's background investigation? Who explains adoption to any relatives or guardians?
4. Are families relinquishing their children given any other options for keeping their family together?
5. What does your agency do to encourage family preservation?
6. What humanitarian aid do you offer in Uganda?
7. Do you have someone traveling to Uganda regularly to check on things
8. Are you Hague approved? If not, was it denied?
9. What attorney do you use in Uganda (research them too even if you're using an agency!)?
10. Why is your wait for a referral so much shorter than other agencies (if this is the case).
Any other suggestions for ensuring ethical adoptions in this beautiful country? I'd love to hear them!
*Not every baby in a babies home can or should be adopted by foreign families. Many have families who will come for them some day. Some can be adopted in Uganda. Some have relatives who don't want them but won't release them for adoption (which makes me so sad).
While some of my friend's words don't apply directly to Ghana, many of them do. We in the Ghana adoption community need to be aware that as things continue to go downhill in the Ethiopia program the applications to adopt from Ghana may increase exponentially. This isn't a bad thing--as long as expectations about what Ghana adoptions are (and are not) are clearly laid out to families. It's not a baby/toddler program. It never will be unless some very bad things are happening. With the most current stats, 8 kids out of 100 were under 1 when adopted from
Ghana. I was actually surprised it was that many! Let us come together as a community to both welcome and educate those that are new to the realities of Ghana (and Uganda, and...) adoption.
P.S. For the record, I believe AAI's Ethiopia program to be completely ethical and without corruption.