Our agency's program has now been changed to an older child, severe special needs program only.
And because somehow it makes me feel better to document things, here is the info I gathered between yesterday's web conference and my long phone call with our case worker today:
Because Ethiopia is not a country that participates in the Hague Convention (although our agency is Hague accredited), there is no central authority monitoring referrals. This puts orphanages in charge of deciding what agencies to refer the children they care for. Over time this has become an extremely lucrative affair for orphanages and has become has lead orphanage directors (many of whom had noble intentions originally) to greed and corruption.
Agencies, in order to supply children for the long wait lists that have ensued amidst the slow downs, are willing to pay large sums of money to orphanage directors including thousands for a child's referral and sometimes even quarterly payments in order to guarantee that their agency will receive referrals for the most "desirable" children. This practice is widely used and justified as a means to an end, but has only lead to more greed and corruption. Some orphanages even go as far as to hire baby finders to go out in to communities to essentially recruit for their orphanage. Our agency will not participate in this unethical behavior, but has continued to consistently provide direct support and care to orphanages (food, medical supplies, refurbishing buildings, hiring nurses, etc), but they will not just hand over money.
There is little to no monitoring of orphanages by MOWA (the arm of government in Ethiopia that oversees adoptions) at the regional or federal level. Nor is there any accountability from regional MOWA to federal MOWA. One effort that has gone into place to try and combat some other corruption involved during the abandonment phase of adoption is to have an orphan verification completed on the regional and federal level. Each region has a MOWA director, and some of them simply have decided they are against international adoption and won't sign out any children (so they continue to languish for years in an institution when families are ready to take them) even though their orphan status is clearly outlined. In some cases children they refused to sign off on have had medical needs that needed attention and have died in orphanage care because of refusal to sign and release them for adoption. Further, some directors will only sign off on children that are being placed through specific agencies that are insentivising them enough to do so.
Our agency has held strictly to a no negotiation policy with transfer of funds for children (that is child trafficking) and has had to cut ties with multiple orphanages as the corruption has spread. In addition to the hugs slowdown and also with their non-negotiable stance they simply cannot compete with other agencies out there that through under table exchange of money are able to buy referrals for their agency. So, they are doing their best to care for and find homes for the children that there is no competition - older children with severe special needs.
While I commend AGCI for their commitment to ethical adoptions, it has really rocked our world to have been preparing to bring our daughter home from Ethiopia the last couple years only to find out that won't ever happen. And it's even more tragic for the long term picture of adoptions in Ethiopia. I don't see things getting better until the whole program in Ethiopia closes, becomes Hague and re-opens with government officials put in place who are committed to overseeing an ethical adoption process.
As for my phone call today with our caseworker - there is not another program currently open (accepting applications) within AGCI that fits our perimeters, so termination of our contract is the only possible option. And there is no possibility of partial refund for any of the $16,000 we have spent on this failed adoption (and no tax write off for a failed international adoption like there is for a failed domestic adoption). It's not about the money, but it sure would have been nice to recuperate some part of that to put towards what ever direction we end up going with this adoption.
Until then, we'll pray for peace and direction.