Ethiopia Update From Joint Council

25. March, 2011UncategorizedNo comments

 

 

 

 

Date   March 24, 2011

Regarding   Ethiopia – USCIS Q&A

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Best Wishes,

Tom DiFilipo

 

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.

 

 

Ethiopia Update from Joint Council

14. March, 2011UncategorizedNo comments

ETHIOPIA – UPDATE 3/14/11

Various blogs and listservs are reporting that the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs has announced a revised plan which includes the processing of 20 adoption cases per day.  While Joint Council has also been provided with this information, it is our understanding that no decision has been made or announcement published by the Government of Ethiopia.

We believe that it is premature to speculate on the intentions of the Ministry but rather seek to continue to partner with the Government of Ethiopia and use this opportunity to increase child and family protections while continuing intercountry adoption.  Joint Council fully supports the government’s efforts to increase the capacity for regulatory oversight of service providers, strengthen the review of each adoption case and expand social services to Ethiopian children and families.

 

State Department – Conference Call

11. March, 2011UncategorizedNo comments

Today the U.S. State Department held a Conference Call for Adoption Service Providers, regarding MOWA’s recent annoucement to decrease the number of cases heard per day.  The State Department is still unsure whether MOWA’s change will be upheld by the Ethiopian Government.  It was confirmed that the Minister of MOWA has been removed from his position effective next week.  There is no confimation that his removal was associated with this recent change in MOWA’s Process.

Effective March 10, 2010 MOWA’s reduction in the number of cases heard did go into effect.  The State Department is still unsure how this will affect the process.  Monday the U.S. Embassy will meet with MOWA to discuss a possible solution and how the details of how this change will affect cases in process.   The State Department indicated that many Governmental and Non-Governmental Groups have proposed offers to provide MOWA with resources needed to continue operating at their usual pace.   MOWA’s needs are still unclear and a resolution has not yet been met.

West Sands Adoptions will continue to keep you posted as soon as reliable information becomes available.  Please continue to pray for the children of Ethiopia and a speedy process for all adoptive families.

Thank you!

Sheila Hunter

Ethiopia Program Coordinator

State Department Adoption Alert

9. March, 2011UncategorizedNo comments

Government of Ethiopia Plans Major Slow-Down in Adoption Processing

March 9, 2011

Citing the need to work on quality and focus on more important strategic issues, the Government of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA)  will reduce to a maximum of five the number of adoption cases it processes per day, effective March 10, 2011.  Under Ethiopian adoption procedures, MOWCYA approves every match between prospective adoptive parents and an Ethiopian child before that case can be forwarded for a court hearing.  The U.S. Embassy is working with Ethiopian government officials and adoption agencies to learn more about this change in procedures.  We will continue to share information as it becomes available.

Given MOWCYA’s current caseload, the U.S. Embassy anticipates that this change could result in an overall decline in case processing of some 90 percent.  If this change is implemented as proposed, we expect, that parents who have begun the process of adopting from Ethiopia but have not yet been matched with a child could experience significant delays.  It is not clear if this change in procedures would have any significant impact on cases in which MOWCYA has already approved matches.

Prospective adoptive parents should remain in close contact with their adoption service provider to obtain updates on individual cases.

The Embassy’s Adoptions Unit can be reached at consadoptionaddis@state.gov.

Please continue to monitor http://adoption.state.gov/ for updated information as it becomes available.

MOWA’s Threat to Reduce Adoptions

7. March, 2011UncategorizedNo comments

West Sands Adoptions is still optimistic that MOWA’s latest threat to reduce the number of cases heard per day from 40 to 5, will not be put into law.   The Ethiopian Adoption Agency’s Advocate, know as the Network, is working with MOWA’s to find a resolution.  Understand this is not a decision made by the Ethiopian Government or the Ethiopian Courts, this is a stand made by MOWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs), who provides a recommendation for each adoption case heard by the Federal Court.    We will continue to keep you posted as new information is provided.  Please continue to pray for a speedy resolution and continued support for the orphan children of Ethiopia.