Ethiopia International Adoption Process and Costs


Since 1999 there have been at least 15,000 children adopted from Ethiopia by the U.S and with 4,500,000 children in orphanages in Ethiopia, there is ample opportunity for a kind-hearted soul like yourself to find a child to adopt internationally and take to a caring, nurturing home. Sadly, the institutions in Ethiopia are overwhelmed by the number of orphans needing care and so struggle to cope with providing the children with the basic needs that they require. 

The process for intecountry adoption in Ethiopia

So, if you take it upon your self to adopt one of these children then the process for international adoption from Ethiopia is:

  1. Choose a U.S. approved/accredited adoption service provider
  2. Apply for adoption eligibility
  3. Have an adoptee referred to you
  4. File Form I-600 (Petition to Classify the Orphan as an Immediate Relative) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  5. Adopt the child in Ethiopia
  6. Have final approval of Form I-600
  7. Get a visa for your adoptee and take him/her home

The process entire process can take anywhere between 4-6 months and will cost around $12,000 on average. So, if your keen to adopt a child from Ethiopia let’s look at the entire process in more detail so that you know exactly what you have to do.

The Ethiopian International Adoption Process 

Because Ethiopia isn’t a Hague Adoption Convention signatory, there is a slight change in the process from those countries who are a party to the Convention. This difference is regarding Form I-600 which requires you to have your adoptee classified as an orphan before you can truly begin the adoption process.

1. Choose a U.S. approved/accredited adoption service provider

The initial step in any international adoption by U.S. prospective adoptive parents is to find a U.S. approved adoption service provider. They act as your go-between to ensure that everything you do will adhere to U.S. and Ethiopia’s adoption laws. 

They will conduct a home study to ensure that the environment you are going to provide for the child is safe and will meet the needs of your adoptee. 

In Ethiopia, the main authority that deals with intercountry adoption is the Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO),  which is a division of the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA).

2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt

Once you have signed up with an adoption service provider your next step in the adoption process is to actually be declared eligible to adopt. You need to submit an application to the MOWCYA who will look at your case and make a determination. It will consider if you meet U.S and Ethiopian immigration laws as part of its judgment about your eligibility.

Any necessary documentation (which has to have been certified and authenticated) can be taken or sent to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington. Please contact the Embassy if you are unsure what documentation you need to submit. In saying that, your adoption service provider should be able to tell you what is needed.

Once the Ethiopian Embassy has verified your documents, they will return them to you and you will need to forward them to the MOWCYA who will look at them once more to ensure they are complete. Then the MOWCYA creates a dossier on the prospective adoptive parents which is submitted to the Claims and Authentication Section of the Protocol Office at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa. The authority then validates the dossier and sends for consent from the Children and Youth Affairs Office.

If you have been declared eligible to adopt, you can proceed to the next part in the process!

3. Be matched with a child

The central adoption authority or any other authorized Ethiopian body will refer a child to you if:

  • You have been declared eligible to adopt
  • A child is available for intercountry adoption
  • It’s in the child’s best interests to be adopted outside of Ethiopia

When adoptive parents receive a referral of a child, it’s up to the parents whether to accept the match or not. You have to make a determination regarding if you can truly meet the needs of the child and provide them with the environment that will enable them to grow and develop. 

Be matched with a child

During this process, Ethiopian authorities will try to locate claimants to the child through publishing, in the local newspaper,  the child’s name as well as the names of the adoptive parents. Also, any parties that are against the adoption can appear to the MOWCYA before the deadline set by that authority. 

If the prospective parents accept the referral, then they (or an agency representative acting on behalf of the adoptive parents) need to co-sign a Contract of Adoption with the child’s legal guardian being the other party. This contract is then taken to the Inland Revenue Administration where it will be stamped.

4. File Form I-600 to have your child recognised as an orphan.

Now you have found a child that you are longing to adopt and take home, you need to have that little gem legally recognized as an orphan. To do this you have to submit Form I-600 to the National Benefits Center (NBC) before you receive a final decree from the appropriate Ethiopian court. 

The NBC will review your Form I-600 and make a determination as to whether your child meets the criteria to be classified as an orphan under U.S. immigration law. If it’s declared that your child is legally an orphan, you will receive a Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) letter from the NBC. 

Your child is recognized as an orphan

Prospective adoptive parents may get a request for more evidence or denial letter from the NBC if your adoptee fails to meet the U.S. legal requirements of an orphan. 

To begin the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review, adoptive parents need to submit a completed Form I-600 along with the documents requested under the instructions regarding how to fill out the form. You also need to submit the following if your adoptee’s country of origin is Ethiopia:

  • Any evidence of the match between the adoptee and the prospective parents. This evidence can be the Contract of Adoption signed by the adoptive parents and the legal guardian/entity who is caring for the child as well as the power of attorney that authorizes the service provider to act on behalf of the adoptive parents
  • Documentation that supports the child’s eligibility for international adoption. This can be in the form of a Court order from the appropriate regional authorities or a police report from the local authorities that places the child in the care of an orphanage.

Any initial favourable outcomes around the adoptee’s recognition as an orphan will then be forwarded by the USCIS, along with the prospective parents’ dossier, to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. A letter will also be sent by the USCIS to the adoptive parents for their own personal records. 

When the PAIR letter is issued, the NBC will send your petition to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa for a final judgment once the Ethiopian court process around your case has ended.  

Once your child is officially declared an orphan, it’s time to move onto the next step.

5. Adopt the child in Ethiopia

Adoptive parents need to will need to submit a dossier with the Federal First Instance Court (FFIC)in Ethiopia. The documentation that is part of this dossier is the child’s background and Life History, Contract of Adoption signed by the adoptive parents and the child’s legal guardian, and the prospective parents’ eligibility to adopt.

This information is then sent to the MOWCYA for a review and then make a judgement as to whether the best interests of the child is served by allowing the intercountry adoption. The dossier is then sent back to the FFIC who will set a date for a final hearing. 

If the FFIC approves the adoption, then legal custody of the adoptee is transferred to the adoptive parents on the day of the hearing. The FFIC provide the prospective parents with an adoptive decree which they submit to the MOWCYA for certification. When the parents have the adoption certificate, they (or their legal representative) can then apply for a passport and birth certificate for their adoptee.

Now it’s time to get final recognition of your adoptee as an orphan.

6. Have final approval of Form I-600

It is only after your adoption is finalized that your Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Form I-600) is settled. You will need to submit the following to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa as part of this process:

  • The adoption decree (officially certified by the MOWCYA)  issued by the FFIC
  • Your adoptee’s identification and travel papers

Additionally, you will have to obtain these documents before your Form I-600 is finalized:

  • Your child’s Birth Certificate. The MOWCYA arranges a request to Addis Ababa for the issuing of the new Birth Certificate.
  • An Ethiopian passport for your adoptee. The MOWYA will have the Office of Security, Immigration and Refugee Affairs provide a passport for your child under his/her new name.

When you have received final approval of Form I-600, it’s time to bring your child home!

7. Get a visa for your adoptee and bring them home

Now your child is finally recognised as an orphan and you have a new Birth Certificate and Ethiopian passport under the child’s new name you are all set to apply for an immigrant visa for your adoptee. This is done at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa and you are required to provide the consular officer with the Panel Physician’s medical report regarding your adoptee.

Get and immigration visa for your Ethiopian adoptee

The U.S. Embassy will contact you and your adoption service provider to arrange a time and date for an immigrant visa interview. Once everything is approved and you have obtained the immigrant visa for your adoptee, it’s time to book flights and bring your child home!

How much does the adoption process cost?

With any international adoption, the costs can vary depending on your adoption service provider and if you are required to travel to and stay in the country of origin of your adoptee. Regarding adoption costs for Ethiopia, you can expect to pay, on average, $12,000 making Ethiopia one of the cheaper countries to adopt from. Here is a rough breakdown of the costs you can expect to pay:

Homestudy $1,000 – $3,000
Form I-600  Application $700 – $900
Adoption Study $2,500 – $2,900
Child’s Passport and Visa $200 – $500
Child’s Medical Tests $300-$600
Travel and Accommodation $5,000 – $15,000

If you want an exact costing for the intercountry adoption process your adoption service provider will supply you with a detailed listing of the costs and expenses involved in your intercountry adoption from Ethiopia.

Sad news regarding the current situation of Intercountry Adoptions from Ethiopia

Traditionally, Ethiopia has been one of the biggest sources for international adoption by U.S. citizens.  Unfortunately, there is bad news for those who are longing to adopt from Ethiopia. On January 9, 2018, the Ethiopian Parliament amended the Revised Family Code law. This move saw a ban in international adoptions from Ethiopia which took effect on February 14, 2018. 

It is claimed that this desire by Ethiopia to end international adoptions was caused by the case of Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee who suffered abuse at the hands of her adoptive parents. Hana was found to be in a state of starvation, had suffered physical abuse and died from hypothermia in the backyard of her adoptive home.

In order to prevent such horrendous crimes happening again on Ethiopia’s vulnerable and needy children, it was decided to ban international adoptions. Another concern by Ethiopian lawmakers is that children removed from Ethiopia may suffer from identity and psychological issues as well as physical abuse. 

Ethiopia bans international adoption

Also, the adoption process in Ethiopia was susceptible to abuse by human traffickers who seek to profit from the children in Ethiopia. 

Though the ban relates solely to international adoption, there is still the ability to adopt a child domestically within Ethiopia. However, there are those who are concerned that by banning intercountry adoptions will lead to more children living on the streets or shunted between relatives as adoption isn’t a priority within Ethiopia.

WIth 4,500,000 orphans needing care, there is a concern that the orphanages and similar institutions are ill-equipped and under-resourced to provide the appropriate care for the children. Additionally, children who are institutionalized for an extended period of time can suffer from developmental and psychological issues.

Note that the FFIC will only consider adoption cases that were filed before February 14, 2018. If you have any queries regarding your particular adoption case, contact either the Office of Children’s Issues at EthiopiaAdoption@state.gov or the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa  ConsAdoptionAddis@state.gov

For prospective parents whose case is pending with the NBC, contact the NBC by email at  nbc.adoptions@uscis.dhs.gov or if you have an adoption that is currently being processed, please seek the advice of your adoption service provider if you have any concerns

Will Ethiopia end the ban on intercountry adoptions?

Currently, there is no indication that this ban will be lifted by the Ethiopian Parliament who feels that it’s Ethiopia’s responsibility to take care of its own. 

In an interview with NPR regarding the ban on international adoptions, it was stated that Ethiopia considers that its better for children “to be with our society.” There is a renewed national pride that considers it the country’s duty to look after its children even though there are orphans who will remain institutionalized indefinitely.

To stay informed on any developments regarding the ban, you can stay informed by visiting the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs website here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/Intercountry-Adoption/Intercountry-Adoption-Country-Information/Ethiopia.html

I have adopted a child from Ethiopia, do I still have to provide Post Adoption Reports?

For those parents who successfully adopted a child from Ethiopia prior to the intercountry adoption ban, there is still a requirement to provide Post Adoption Reports (PAR) as required by 22 CFR 96.51(c). You are to submit these reports every six months for five years from the date of adoption. 

After the five year period, adoptive parents are to submit a PAR once a year every year until your adoptee turns 18 years old. 

You still have to submit Post Adoption Reports to Ethiopia

These self-reports can be sent to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, DC via email: consular@ethiopianembassy.org You can also send a copy of the report, to be filed as a record,  to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa by emailing ConsAdoptionAddis@state.gov  

If you have any questions regarding the PAR who can email the Ethiopian Embassy or ring the Embassy on (202) 364-1200. 

The U.S. Embassy doesn’t have the ability to submit these reports to the Ethiopian Embassy for adoptive families.

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