The Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) recently launched an “Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children,” asking those affected by adoption to sign a petition to continue processing Ethiopian adoptions at “normal” rates in response to the recent announcement by MOWA that processing will be reduced by 90%.
I cannot, in good conscious, sign this petition. It is not because I am anti-adoption. It is not because I am unsympathetic to the plight of Ethiopian children. It is not because I don’t sympathize with adoptive parents in process in Ethiopia.
It has a lot to do with who JCICS is, their motives, and the state of ethics (or lack thereof) in Ethiopian adoptions.
So, who is JCICS? According to their website, JCICS is a “coalition of over 260 international, non-profit, child-welfare organizations” who work “…to ensure that orphaned and vulnerable children can live, grow, and flourish in a family.” You can see a list of their members here.
Basically, JCICS is a mouthpiece for a group of adoption stakeholders; these stakeholders are benefitting financially from Ethiopian adoptions, and will suffer financially is adoptions slow or cease. While they claim to be in favor of children being in families, what they mean is they are in favor of children being in adoptive families; I could not identify a single member organization that was working on first family preservation.
(Additionally, Tomilee Harding served as a board member, VP, and President/CEO of the JCICS. Yes, Tomilee Harding, the Founder/President of CWA. Yes, CWA… the agency accused of trafficking in the news story “Fly Away Children” and follow up story “Fly Away Home” from the Australian Broadcasting Company. Take that for what you will.)
Does JCICS seem like an agency that has the best interest of children at heart? I do not believe any organization that has such financial ties to the continuation and unhampered growth of international adoption (IA) would truly stand up and say “IA is not in the best interest of this/these child(ren)” or “cases of trafficking are far too common to allow adoption practices to continue in this way.” I do not believe that ant organization that so strongly identifies with and represents a sole member of the adoption triad (and the wealthy, influential member- the adoptive parent) can be unbiased and also be working in the best interest of the children.
The plight of children in Ethiopia is as complex as the culture. However, I cannot support any organization who believes that the continuation of international adoption is more important than protecting innocent children from being harvested, trafficked, robbed of their identity/history, or otherwise victimized by unethical adoption practices.
I readily admit that slowing or even stopping IA will not “solve” the “orphan crisis.” But continuing or growing IA won’t, either. I would love to see JCICS step up and come up with solutions to “ensure that orphaned and vulnerable children can live, grow, and flourish in a family”… their first family. Family preservation, foster care, and domestic adoption are all parts of the solution to the orphan epidemic in Ethiopia. As written in this Ethica article, "the best use of the energy and efforts in the collective adoption community should not be spent on bombarding the Ethiopian government with pleas to keep business running as usual. Rather, our focus should be on joining the Ethiopian government in its efforts to stop the activities of those who perpetuate fraud."
In future posts, I will address the following questions related to ethical adoption:
- What is an orphan?
- Is there an orphan crisis in Ethiopia?
- How and where do unethical practices occur in the adoption process?
- What can I do as a PAP/AP to promote ethical adoption practices?
- What about UNICEF? What about NGOs?
- What about the Hague?
as well as share stories from other adoptive parents who have engaged in activities to promote ethical adoptions, such as hiring independent investigators. I would also be willing to address questions you may have… please email or leave a comment. I am not an expert, but the conversation- even if there is no clear-cut answer- is valuable.
Until I can get those posts up, I encourage you to think strongly before signing a petition, and to do your own research into the state of IA in Ethiopia. For more reading about JCICS and the petition, check out this article.