25 Factors to Consider When Adopting from Ethiopia

adopting from Ethiopia

Ethiopian adoptions

Click on each factor to learn more. On January 9, 2018 the Ethiopian Parliament passed new legislation banning adoptions by foreigners. The situation is highly unstable and at this time, it is unknown how the Ethiopian government will process pending cases. Please check with an adoption agency for more up-to-date information about the state of Ethiopian adoptions.
Parental Age
Parents must be between 25 and 65 years. The Ethiopian government prefers that parents be no more than 40 years older than the child, but some families have successfully adopted with a larger age difference. Check with an adoption agency about your specific case.
Length of Marriage
1 year. 5 years is preferred, especially if there is a history of divorce.
No country requirements, but couples with a history of divorce may need to have been married for 5 years.
Children in Family
Up to 5 children. Parents with multiple children may be limited to adopting an older child or a child with special needs. Parents may be required to provide documentation of sufficient resources to support another child. Families with 6+ children may be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Check with an adoption agency about your specific situation.
Medical Restrictions
Parents should be in good physical and mental health. Parents with a history of cancer are ineligible to adopt. Parents with a history of mental health issues (depression, anxiety, etc.) are allowed on a case-by-case basis. Parents with questionable medical conditions are required to submit a letter from the attending physician or specialist in support of the adoption.
Single Applicant
Single women are technically allowed, however, there is a risk of single women applicants being denied by the Ethiopian government. Adoption service providers in Ethiopia may also have different policies regarding whether or not they make referrals to single women. Check with an adoption agency about your specific case and the risk moving forwards.
Sexual Orientation
Does not knowingly place with homosexuals
Children Available
Healthy children 7 to 15 years old, children of all ages with mild to severe special needs, including HIV+ children, and sibling groups. The exact age of a child is often difficult to determine, especially with older children, and many families report that their children were older than stated on the adoption records. The availability of young children and healthier children has declined greatly in the last few years. The Ethiopian government (and most adoption agencies) is focusing on the adoption of older and special needs children.
East African
Boys and girls; parents may request a gender. There are more boys than girls available for adoption.
Adopting More Than One Unrelated Child at the Same Time
Allowed on a case-by-case basis, but some agencies may have restrictions.
Referral Method
The adoption agency works with specific orphanages to make a referral. Parents receive photos, developmental and medical information, test results, and an explanation of why the child is being placed for adoption with the referral. Parents have two weeks to accept the referral. Once the referral has been accepted, the Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWCA) must approve the adoption and send an official approval letter to the Court. 
Travel in Country
One long trip, approximately 5 to 6 weeks long, or two short trips, approximately 7 days each. Both parents are required to travel on the first trip, but only one must make the second trip. During the first trip, parents meet their child and attend a court hearing to finalize the adoption with the Ethiopian courts. Parents then return to Ethiopia approximately 1 to 2 months later to apply for a visa and escort their child home. If the parents choose to make one long trip, once the adoption is finalized, their child stays in their custody while the remaining paperwork and visa appointment is completed.
Wait For Referral (After Dossier Submitted)
6-24 months for children 7+ with mild to moderate special needs; 3-6 months for older children or children with severe special needs. About 60% of families are matched with a child within 1 year. About 70% are matched within 2 years.  
Wait After Referral
10-12 months until the first trip
Approximate Cost
$24,000 – $27,000 + travel 
Orphanage/Foster Care
Orphanages, large foster home or living with extended family. The conditions at the orphanages in Ethiopia vary greatly. The privately-run orphanages tend to offer a better standard of care than the larger government-run orphanages.
How Children Enter Government Care
Abandonment or relinquishment due to poverty; disease or death of a parent. There are a large number of children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.
Prevalence of FASD
Historically, drinking during pregnancy is not common, and IA doctors report they are not seeing much evidence of FAS. To learn more about the risk of FAS in Ethiopia, listen to the Creating a Family show with Dr. Julian Davies, pediatrician with the University of Washington FAS Clinic, the longest standing FAS center in the US.
Adequacy of Medical Reports
Limited; children receive HIV, Hepatitis B, and other blood test results when they are referred. Children have access to doctors once they arrive at the orphanage, but there are limited facilities. It is important to note that the level of health care in orphanages and in Ethiopia is not the same as it is in the U.S.
Program Stability
Highly unstable. As of January 2018, the intercountry adoption program is shut down and it is unclear how things will progress.
Rapidly declining
Post Adoption Reports
Required upon adoption, at 3, 6 and 12 months, then annually until the child is 18.
Additional Information
  • Adoptive parents report that parasites are common among children adopted from Ethiopia.
  • Agencies must be authorized by Ethiopia to place children. Specifically ask your agency if they are authorized by the Ethiopian government.
  • In cases of hardship, one parent can travel with a Power of Attorney from the non-traveling spouse. Both parents must readopt the child in their state of residence once he/she comes home.
  • Parents with criminal records for minor incidents that are at least 10 years old will be considered on a case-by- case basis. No multiple offenses.
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Available from www.CreatingaFamily.org, the national adoption and infertility education and support non-profit. Please do not reprint without giving credit to Creating a Family and a link to the website.

Image credit: A.Davey