Daniel Carroll 0

Keep Ethiopian Adoptions Open

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I am a constituent and voter living in your district. I am asking you to help solve a problem I care deeply about - the broken system of international adoption. Specifically, in Ethiopia, there are millions of orphan children living without parents, living in institutions, or dying prematurely. Many of these children are relinquished by young, unwed, impoverished parents who are unable or unwilling to care for them while others are abandoned in public places or back alleys, the woods, or elsewhere. There are orphans living in garbage dumps. Ethiopia is but one country among many that face this staggering orphan crisis. However, concerned Ethiopians have joined with American families to try to provide loving and secure homes for a few of these children (approximately 1,732 in 2011), while providing resources to care for others via NGOs supported by American citizens and adoptive parents.


Unfortunately, the system of international adoption has stymied these noble efforts, significantly delaying or preventing legitimate adoptions without bringing to justice known perpetrators of unethical acts. Furthermore, in Ethiopia, the Department of State lacks the resources, training, and experience to handle these cases. This has resulted in egregious errors and poor performance, causing adopted children to remain needlessly in orphanages throughout Ethiopia, and institutional care is a known cause of developmental and health problems. Their American parents wait for approval to bring their children home, without meaningful access to information. Meanwhile, the entity responsible for processing these cases, USCIS, has no presence in the country whatsoever.


I am advocating reforms in Ethiopian Adoptions that are based on the following principles:


Truth                      Accountability                Transparency

Due Process           Timeliness


To be clear, I believe that the prevention of adoption fraud is absolutely necessary. However, we have not been given accurate or meaningful information as to the scope and nature of any problems that may exist, and are instead fed anecdotes that arouse public emotion but do not result in sound public policy that serves the interests of the orphan children.


The purpose of this petition is to ensure that our voice is heard and to open a dialogue, as I believe that elected and appointed government officials often don't have the time, knowledge, or background to develop and implement good policies governing international adoptions. More specifically, to achieve that end, we propose the following reforms and ask for your leadership to implement them:


  • We believe that Ethiopia should remain open to international adoptions for American parents. Far too often, a country experiences unsubstantiated allegations of fraud from the Department of State, UNICEF, and others, and then closes or cripples the program based on a handful of anecdotes or even rumors, leaving thousands of adoptable orphans to languish in orphanages. We believe that all children have the right to grow up in a loving family, and adoption is a viable alternative to institutional care or life on the street.


  • We believe that there should be regulations in place requiring both the US Government and adoption service providers to be open and transparent with families in process. Families deserve timely access to all documents, information, interviews, forms, and decisions related to their case file. We advocate for full disclosure. We believe that parents should be informed of their right to independently investigate the facts underlying their case. All interviews should be conducted in the presence of third-party observers chosen as witnesses, or that interviews should be recorded and provided both to interviewee and petitioner. All to often, answers given during undocumented interviews, including those conducted in the presence of powerful US government officials, don't match answers given during recorded and documented interviews.


  • The Department of State should be immediately required to disclose the data behind its 2011 audit of Ethiopian adoptions, conducted in concert with USCIS.  The Department of State and USCIS should also be required to immediately disclose the number of RFE (requests for evidence) or NOIDS (notice of intention to deny) issued for 2010, 2011, and 2012 from I-600 adoption petitions submitted, by country, as well as the disposition of each.


  • We believe that a study should be commissioned by Congress to determine whether the Department of State, as the Hague Central Authority, has an inherent conflict of interest serving as the delegate of USCIS in non-Hague countries such as Ethiopia, and therefore has negatively influenced the processing of adoptions in non-Hague countries. The study should also look into conflicts of interest in the funding structure of the Department of State with regard to adoptions as well as conflicts between the State Department's broader political agenda and the administrative task of handling international adoption petitions. The Department of State should allocate space at US Embassies around the world for USCIS to be fully engaged in the process. Having multiple authorities handle the adoption petition process creates needless complications. USCIS has the budget, training, and experience to handle adoption cases expeditiously, justly, and fairly. Weeks and months are wasted while paperwork transfers between US Embassies and USCIS, all the while the children suffer in orphanages.


I know that you entered politics out of a desire to be a public servant and truly make a difference in people's lives. This is your chance to do just that. Please work closely with Secretary Clinton to implement immediate changes, and consider legislation that could provide a long-term solution. The lives of millions of ophans in Ethiopia are depending on you, as well as many American citizens who want to provide a permanent loving home to these children in need. I look forward to your leadership in solving this problem.


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