In early January, the Ethiopian Parliament voted to ban all foreign adoptions, months after suspending them, amid fears children will suffer abuse and neglect overseas.

By Eyder Peralta (NPR) |

Little Girma had charmed the entire hotel lobby in Addis Ababa. Brad and Niki Huelsman looked at the 3-year-old boy with awe and warmth as he played with one of the waitresses.

“He wins people over with the beautiful eyes and the little cheeks that I just want to kiss,” Niki says.

The couple had flown from Morrow, Ohio, to Ethiopia to finish adopting Girma in January. As they describe it, the process was complicated and at times, heart-wrenching — five years of fits and starts. 

Now, they have Girma in their arms. But this couple may be among the last Americans to adopt a child from Ethiopia.

Back in January, the country’s parliament banned foreign adoptions, citing concerns about the safety of Ethiopian children. The ban was in part triggered by high-profile cases of abuse, including one in 2011 where an adopted Ethiopian child in Seattle died of hypothermia after she was left outside in the cold.

At the time, Ethiopia was second only to China as the most popular country for adoptions by Americans. Since then, the U.S. and Ethiopia made adoption requirements more stringent and the number of Ethiopian children adopted by Americans plummeted from 2,511 in 2010 to 133 in 2016, according to the State Department.

Now it’s not possible at all. The parliament said Ethiopia should take care of its own children. Lawmakers worried that Ethiopian children taken abroad could suffer identity crises and psychological problems, in addition to physical abuse.

The Huelsmans’ older child, Isabela Kalkidan, was also adopted from Ethiopia. They favor stringent vetting. To adopt Girma, for example, they went through multiple rounds of home visits and background checks. They say they want Girma and his 6-year-old sister to learn about their Ethiopian heritage.

“I want to believe that Ethiopia finds a way to support their kids and keep their kids in-country, but also becomes open to the fact that a family is a family,” Niki said. “Whether they are in the U.S. or they are in Dubai or they’re in Nicaragua, or they are anywhere, a family is a family.”

Continue reading this story at NPR
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