Ethiopia Adoptions: A Q&A by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a Q&A on Ethiopian adoptions.  The Q&A is highly valuable to adoptive families and all service providers.  A few of the highlights of the Q&A are;

  • USCIS and Department of State are striving to preserve Ethiopia adoptions as a viable and ethical option for children in need
  • To date, no adoption cases have been denied or referred to USCIS for fraud
  • In general Ethiopian children being adopted by U.S. families meet the orphan definition and the vast majority of cases are approved
  • Various fraud indicators suggest that there may be inappropriate activity in terms of how children are identified as available for adoption.
  • In the wake of the joint USCIS/DOS site visit in January 2011, Ethiopian adoption cases that contain material inconsistencies will be referred to USCIS in Nairobi, Kenya for further review. (It is Joint Council’s understanding that more information about the findings from the site visit will be presented during the April 6, 2011 briefing).

The information provided by USCIS also indicates an approach to fraud indicators that seeks to identify and address specific problems rather than an approach that indicts the entire program.

Joint Council has continually called for and strongly supports an approach which identifies individuals and/or organizations which are abusing the rights of children or families.  Taking action against those whose ethics and practices are not in the best interest of children both eliminates abuse and preserves intercountry adoption as a means by which children can be assured of a safe and permanent family.

We also continue to support the Government of Ethiopia in its efforts to increase their capacity to review adoption cases, elevate child protections and increase all types of  services which ensure a child’s right to a permanent family.

The Q&A is available below or here.

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Q&A: Adoption Processing in Ethiopia

Q.  Is the U.S. Government planning to close the Ethiopian adoption program?

A.  The U.S. Government supports the intercountry adoption program in Ethiopia.  We will work closely with the Government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders to preserve and protect this valuable program, while also seeking to improve safeguards and ensure the program’s integrity.

Q.  Is it true that the Government of Ethiopia is planning to reduce the number of adoptions that it processes?

A. On March 9, 2011, the Department of State reported that Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs announced that it intends to decrease its current processing rate from approximately 50 cases per day to five cases per day, effective March 10, 2011. If this decision is implemented, prospective adoptive parents who have begun the process to adopt from Ethiopia could experience significant delays. Please check the Department of State (DOS) website at www.adoption.state.gov for the most recent updates.

Q.  If I have a case pending in Ethiopia now, how will the new procedures announced by the Government of Ethiopia affect my case?

A.  If you have already been matched with a child but have not yet finalized your adoption in the Ethiopian courts, this new procedure could lead to significant delays.

Q.  Will the U.S. Government take any action in light of the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs’ recent announcement?

A. The U.S. Government will continue to work closely with the Government of Ethiopia to preserve the adoption program while also seeking to improve the program’s integrity and transparency.

Q.  Have any cases been denied in Ethiopia based on findings of fraud?

A. No cases from Ethiopia have been denied based on findings of fraud, and in fact, the vast majority of cases are approved. However, both USCIS and DOS have significant concerns about certain fraud indicators and patterns that suggest possible malfeasance or unethical behavior in some cases.

Q.  What was the result of the January 2011 trip conducted by officials from USCIS and DOS to review adoption processing in Ethiopia?

A.  The interagency site visit yielded the following observations and conclusions about adoption processing in Ethiopia:

  • In general, the children presented in Ethiopia meet the definition of orphan under U.S. law and meet the evidentiary burden required to approve the Form I-600 orphan petition
  • Various fraud indicators identified through case review suggest that there may be inappropriate activity in terms of how children are identified as available for adoption. More detailed and targeted analysis is ongoing

Q.  How many cases have been transferred to USCIS Field Office Nairobi from Embassy Addis Ababa as not clearly approvable in the past year?

A. USCIS Field Office Nairobi has received fewer than 10 cases transferred from Embassy Addis Ababa in the past year. Most were private adoptions of family members.

Q.  Why will more cases be sent to the USCIS Field Office in Nairobi now?

A. Due to concerns about the number of cases presented that contain inconsistent or conflicting information, USCIS anticipates that more cases will likely be transferred to USCIS Field Office Nairobi going forward. USCIS and DOS have agreed that cases submitted to Embassy Addis Ababa containing substantive inconsistencies or discrepancies should be transferred as not clearly approvable to USCIS Field Office Nairobi for appropriate action.

Q.  How will I know if my case is transferred to USCIS Nairobi and what do I need to do?

A.  If your case is transferred, please see the following general steps for what to expect and what may be expected of you:

Step 1 Embassy Addis Ababa will inform you if your case is transferred to USCIS Nairobi.
Step 2 USCIS Nairobi will confirm that your case has been received.
Step 3 USCIS Nairobi will review your case and all supporting documentation and evidence to identify any potential issues, discrepancies, or concerns with such documentation or evidence and then take appropriate action.
Step 4 If deemed necessary, USCIS Nairobi will send a Request for Evidence (RFE) or take other appropriate action.
Step 5 You will have an opportunity to respond to such RFE or other action by working with your adoption service providers and/or orphanage director to provide the requested documentation or evidence.
Step 6 USCIS Nairobi will review the information you provide, and ultimately, make a determination on your adoption petition.
Step 7 USCIS Nairobi will inform you of the decision, and if your petition is approved, will return it to Embassy Addis Ababa for visa processing.

Q.  If I receive a Request for Evidence, do I need a lawyer to respond?

A. You are not required to retain a lawyer to respond to a Request for Evidence. We anticipate that in a majority of these Ethiopian cases, the issues cited in the RFE can be satisfied through further investigation, clarification or correction of evidence, or gathering of additional evidence. Your adoption service providers, both on the ground in Ethiopia and in the United States, and/or orphanage representatives, should be able to help you to resolve such issues in most cases.

Q.  I already began the process of adoption from Ethiopia, can I adopt from a different country now?

A. Yes. If you have already filed or if you still have a valid approval of a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, that specifies Ethiopia as the country from which you intend to adopt, you are permitted to request one no-fee change of country. Please click on the Change of Country link to the left for more information.

Last updated:03/11/2011

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