Ethiopia will no longer allow foreigners to adopt its children

Angelina Jolie adopted daughter Zahara from Ethiopia.
Angelina Jolie adopted daughter Zahara from Ethiopia.
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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Foreigners hoping to adopt children from Africa will have to strike Ethiopia off their list.

The country’s parliament has pulled the plug on international adoptions by foreigners in a bid to protect children from possible abuse by their new parents. That possibility was highlighted in 2012 when, in a grim trial, an American couple were jailed for the death of their adopted 13-year old Ethiopian daughter. The couple was found to have beaten and starved the girl, who they had adopted in 2008. (She died in 2011.)

International adoptions from Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa have been long-running but they seem to have gained popularity as major celebrities, including Hollywood and stars Mary-Louise Parker,  Angelina Jolie and pop veteran Madonna adopted African children. But the popularity of adoptions has also raised fears over the possibility exploiting the process for human trafficking. In 2016, Denmark banned adoptions from Ethiopia, claiming a lack of data on the origins of children adopted from the country could facilitate trafficking. Some other countries have also set up more stringent rules for the international adoption process. The US  suspended adoptions from Ethiopia last March.

Instead of letting foreigners adopt them, Ethiopia’s parliament says vulnerable children should be catered to by state’s children services. However, there are doubts over the sustainability of that arrangement.

The bans on adoptions have adversely affected US-based adoption agencies which process thousands of adoption requests. Between 1999 and 2016, a total of 15,317 Ethiopian children were adopted in the US, according to data from the US department of state. But with business starting to slow down some agencies have been forced to shut up shop.