A new report from the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) entitled, “Africa: The New Frontier for Intercountry Adoption,” claims that countries are turning toAfrica to meet the demand for adoptive children as other options close. According to the report, between the years 2003 and 2010 the number of children adopted from Africa increased threefold. In its conclusion, the report indicates that:
“…protecting the best interests of children in Africa is and should be, as a first [responsibility], the primary obligation of African families, African communities, African governments, and African institutions. This in the main entails considering intercountry adoption as [an exceptional measure where a specific child’s situation necessarily demands it,] to ensure permanency to a child deprived of a family environment. Where intercountry adoption of a child from Africa is considered to be in the best interests of a specific child, every effort should be made to ensure that the whole system is [about] finding a family for a child, as opposed to finding a child for a family.”
I applaud the ACPF for putting together this comprehensive report and fully agree with their findings.
To the ACPF’s point, adoption and family preservation agencies must work with national governments in Africa and other developing nations to protect vulnerable children. Primarily, this should be done by making every effort to keep children in their home country with loving families who can properly care for them. It is up to such agencies to help national governments in building their infrastructure so that they can provide adequate social services and local stakeholders can help care for children and their families.
Fortunately, many organizations have already shifted their emphasis from adoption to family preservation. This doesn’t mean that these organizations are anti-adoption. Rather, it means they have come to understand that more children can be helped when we focus on intercountry services, rather than intercountry adoptions. Such organizations will always look to find a loving home for a child rather than having that child live in an orphanage, but local alternatives will be exhausted before exploring placement outside their country.
As president of a leading family preservation agency, a question I am often asked is, “Do these developing countries truly have the resources and capabilities to care for their orphans?” With the results we are seeing firsthand in Ethiopia, Haiti, and China, where Bethany is working closely with local governments to build sustainable orphan care systems, the answer I’m happy to give is, “Yes.”
There were some in those countries who didn’t think local families would be willing to support children in crisis because of ingrained cultural practices and beliefs. However, we’ve been able to target communities that provide less resistance, such as faith communities, and tap into their beliefs about orphan care, adoption, and the foundational knowledge that as Christians we are all adopted through Jesus Christ. I’m pleased to say that our efforts have been embraced.
While I’m optimistic about the ongoing mindset shift from international adoption to family preservation, I’m not naïve to the fact that there are agencies throughout the United States and the world that do not share our views of adoption, but rather view it as the primary option for saving orphans. Additionally, I know that there are some that provide adoption services in countries where they are not licensed to do so.
This is a grave concern and we – agencies in concert with the United Statesand foreign governments – must work together in eliminating these adoptions to help protect all parties – biological parents, adoptive parents and, most of all, the children. To that end, Ghana, in its attempt to reform its adoption system, recently announced their goal to establish a Central Authority at the Department of Social Welfare so that all adoptable children will be entered into a national database. This will help to ensure that the adoption process is carried out in a truthful and transparent manner with the three international adoption agencies currently licensed to work with Ghana - Adoption Centrum of Sweden, Bethany Christian Services of the USA, and Amici Bambini from Italy (Peace FM Online).Ghana is also working withBethany to build a strong and sustainable infrastructure. I’m excited to report that in just a short period of time nearly 100 families have been recruited to help advocate orphan care and motivate other families to join the ongoing effort so that vulnerable children are united with loving local families.
If you are concerned about the global orphan crisis – and we all should be as there are more than 150 million children around the world who live without the love of a forever family – I urge you to read the ACPF’s excellent report. If you’d like to find out how you can be part of the solution, contact 1-800-BETHANY.