Transforming adoption in Ethiopia

Learn how Bethany staff in Ethiopia help children remain safely in families – not orphanages.

April 30, 2019

Ten years after Bethany opened international adoption in Ethiopia, the country announced an end to it in 2017. But Bethany remained committed to advocate for children.

Through partnerships with local child welfare organizations, we've worked to prevent families from placing children in orphanages, while providing homes for children who were already living in institutions.

Learn how Bethany staff in Ethiopia have helped transform adoption in their country.

What is the scope of the orphan crisis in Ethiopia?

In 2012, the United Nations reported there were 4.5 million orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia, and that estimate has held steady. This is one of the highest orphan rates in the world.

Not all of these children have lost both parents, but they’re living in such uncertain circumstances, that some parents place their children in orphanages hoping to provide a better life there.

When did Bethany first begin adoption in Ethiopia?

Bethany completed its first international adoption in 2008 and went on to place more than 550 children with American families over the next 10 years.

But every time healthy children left the country, our program director for Africa, Sebilu Bodja, wondered: “Could we have done better? Could we have done more to help the mother, or helped a relative raise the child?”

By the time the Ethiopian government ended international adoption in 2017, we had already established the foundation for our foster-to-adopt program in the country.

How has Bethany encouraged adoption in Ethiopian culture?

Historically, adoption in Ethiopia has been informal, with limited training or follow-up with families.

While caring for the child of a close relative is common, caring for a child with no biological connection is still a new concept in Ethiopia. By building partnerships with local churches, we’ve made a biblical case for protecting all children.

And we’ve been amazed at the response from the Christian community.

How has Bethany made adoption more common with Ethiopian families?

Because formal adoption is so new to Ethiopia, we’ve introduced it gradually. We started by asking families to provide temporary foster care. Building this trust and understanding took time. We wanted to ensure families knew what they were agreeing to before their decision became legally-binding.

As we have placed more children with families – children who were eligible for adoption – we’ve seen more and more families willing to make the arrangement permanent.

Through 2018, we have placed 314 children with foster families; 191 of these kids have been adopted by their foster families!

It’s clear that God was preparing Ethiopian families to foster and adopt children long before Bethany introduced the program. Families tell us they always wanted to welcome a child into their homes, but they didn’t know where to begin or whom to ask.

But the work isn't finished. With your help, we can empower more people in Ethiopia to be the answer for children in need.

Your support changes lives