The Ethiopia adoption program is small but growing. In 2000, Americans adopted 95 children from Ethiopia; by 2004 the number had grown to 289. However, very few adoption agencies have been authorized to operate by the Ethiopian government. As of 2005, only five U.S. adoption agencies were approved for international adoptions. Careful research is required by prospective parents to ensure they are working with an approved agency. Check the Ethiopia adoption page at www.travel.state.gov for more information on approved agencies.
Years of famine, civil war, and an aggressive HIV epidemic have sent millions of children to orphanages. Children of all ages are available for Ethiopia adoption, including infants, sibling groups, multiples (twins/triplets), older and special needs children. Both boys and girls are available. Children are screened for HIV when they enter orphanages, and traditionally only those who were HIV negative were approved for adoption. However, at least one agency is now open to placing sibling groups in which at least one of the children is HIV positive, hoping that the children will be adopted together despite the diagnosis.
Ethiopia adoption is open to both single and married parents. Couples may adopt if at least one spouse is aged 25 or over. Single persons may also adopt once they have reached the age of 25. Usually, only single women are allowed to adopt, but there have been cases in which single American men were approved to adopt. There is no official upper age limit on parents, but the general guideline has been that the parent should be no more than 40 years older than the adopted child.
On average, an Ethiopia adoption will take eight to twelve months from first application to when the child comes home, though depending on factors including an increasing caseload and regularly scheduled court closures, it could take up to 24 months. The process is complex, involving U.S. federal and state agencies and at least five Ethiopian government agencies/ministries. Travel to the country is not required. Some agencies do encourage parents to travel to the country and receive their child; however, the State Department advises that travel may not be recommended due to dangers in the country. When travel is not advised, the children can be escorted to the United States. Having a child escorted typically adds two or three months to the process.