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25 Factors to Consider When Adopting from Ethiopia

Also available in a printable version.

A June 3 U.S. State Department Notice, "Implementation of Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) Program in Ethiopia," reports that effective Sept. 1, 2013, Ethiopia's Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs will require all adoption cases filed on behalf of U.S. prospective adoptive parents with Ethiopian courts to include Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) letters issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as one criterion for best-interest determination. (The new requirement will not apply to pending cases filed with Ethiopian courts before that date.) USCIS issued a policy memorandum, effective immediately, that allows prospective adoptive parents to initiate PAIR and file a Form I-600 before Ethiopian courts finalize an adoption. Americans adopted 1,567 children in 2012 from Ethiopia, which has not ratified the Hague Convention, down from 2,511 in 2010.

 Check with an agency that places from this country for the most current information.


Parental Age

25-60  (older parents likely to get older child); Some agencies have additional age requirements.

Length of Marriage

The length of marriage varies by agency and what orphanage they work with in Ethiopia. Some agencies require 1 year, but more require 2 years.  Most agencies say the length of marriage is measured at time of the referral.


No country requirements, but a few Ethiopian orphanage directors have a no-divorce requirement and some agencies have limits.

Children in Family

No restrictions

Single Applicant

In the past their have been rumors that Ethiopia will limit or restrict adoption by singles.  Apparently the Ethiopian government is concerned about agencies with a high percentage of single applicants and some agencies have been told that singles can comprise no more that ___% (I’ve heard anywhere from 3% to 10%) of their applicants.  Other agencies have been told a numerical limit rather than a %. Still other agencies have heard nothing from Ethiopia about this restriction. The best I can suggest at this time is to ask the specific agency whether they are accepting singles, and if so, about their refund policy if Ethiopia restricts singles after you apply.  Be careful to ask what their policy will be if changes do not specifically prohibit adoptions by singles, but greatly increase your wait.

Sexual Orientation

Country does not permit adoptions by homosexuals.

Children Available

3 months to teens at time of referral; sibling groups, children with special needs,  Note that exact age is often difficult to determine, especially with older children.  Many families report that their children were older than reported on the adoption records.




Girls and boys; parents may request gender.  Some agencies restrict gender selection.

Adopting more than one unrelated child at same time

Allowed. Some agencies may not allow.

Travel in Country

  • 2 trips of approximately 1 week each
  • Both parents must travel on first trip to appear in court to express consent to adopt, only one need travel on 2nd trip.  I have heard of exceptions to the two parent travel on the first trip if there is a very good reason one parent can not travel. 
  • Generally parents do not travel in groups, although some agencies that have large Ethiopian adoption programs send parents in groups.

Referral Method

Standard; referral assigned by orphanage director or agency for non special needs; for special needs or older kids some agencies have a “waiting child” list and parents choose their child/ren

Wait for referral (after dossier submitted)

Waiting times are difficult to predict, since no one is sure how the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs will implement the reduction in the number of adoptions processed.  We expect that waiting times will increase for all ages of children.  Best guess now is 18-24 months for a young “healthy” child and shorter for older children or those with special needs.

Wait after referral

2-5 months

Approximate Cost

$28,254 (total cost, not excluding travel)

Youngest Age Upon Arrival Home

4 months, but average is closer to 10-12 months

Orphanage/Foster Care

Orphanages, large foster home, or living with extended family.  Parents and IA doctors report that the quality of care is good in the facilities run by adoption agencies; however, children may have been in less ideal living situation before being transferred to the agency-run orphanage.

How children enter government care

Abandonment or relinquishment of rights due to poverty, disease or death of parent, or stigma against single motherhood and lack of social support for single mothers.

Prevalence of FAS

Historically drinking during pregnancy is not common, and IA doctors report they are not seeing much evidence of FAS. To learn more listen to the following Creating a Family shows where I interviewed Dr. Julian Davies, specialist in FASD and adoption, where we talked about what he was seeing in Ethiopia:


Oct. 1, 2008: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome


April 14, 2010: Raising a Child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Drug Exposure

Adequacy of medical reports

  • Fairly good.
  • Good doctors, but limited facilities.
  • Willing to get additional information and testing if possible.




Number of children placed in the US 2002- 2009



Increasing rapidly.

Post Adoption Reports

Report prepared by home study agency at 3, 6, and 12 months post placement.  A report prepared by the family is required once a year annually until the child is 18.

Hague Treaty


Additional Information

IA doctors report that the babies being adopted are usually healthy.

Adoptions finalized in Ethiopia, but unless both parents have seen the child prior to the adoption, the child must be readopted in the US.

Agencies must be authorized by Ethiopia to place children. Specifically ask your agency if they are authorized by the Ethiopian government.

Ages of the children are usually an approximation since birth dates are seldom available.

Useful Links

US Department of State Embassy of Ethiopia in Washington, D.C.
    •    202-364-1200

Yahoo group EthiopiaAdopt

The Wayfarer (Ethiopian Adoption resource blog)


Great Ethiopian Adoption Blog

  • …Rooted in Love (Large family of seven. Adopted two deaf brothers from Ethiopia.  Special Needs. Religious)
  • Adventuring Through Life (Mom of eight. Ethiopian adoption times five, including older child adoption and currently a domestic special needs adoption.  Religious.)
  • Bushel and a Peck (Her first adoption was Ethiopia and her second was China. She's real, raw, and so honest about the ups and downs of adoption, of motherhood, of walking with Jesus. Just really good stuff, consistently
  • Creating Our Joy (Single mom of two girls.  One adopted from Ethiopia and one from Guatemala.  Very real, open, and honest about the ups and downs of adoption.)
  • Ethiopia or Bust (Adopted a boy from Ethiopia and now in the process of adopting a little girl as well.)
  • Ethiopian Tripletland (White family parenting triplet toddler boys adopted as infants from Ethiopia.  She doesn't post frequently (guess she has her hands full!) but it's fun to read about life with triplet sons.)
  • Out of Africa (Family with two biological children and waiting on a third from Ethiopia.  Religious.  Good look at the adoption process from the beginning.)
  • Straight Magic (Bi-racial family.  Adopted 2 sisters from Ethiopia.  Great blog with lots of cultural information from cooking to African hair.
  • The Eyes of My Eyes Are Opened (Some people become parents overnight. For some people, it takes just a bit longer. Adopted siblings from Ethiopia.  Adopting after infertility)

  • Finding Aster (infertility, bi-racial family, educational)


Creating a Family Sponsors

Bethany Christian Services

Children's House International Adoptions

Dillon International

Spence-Chapin Adoption Services

Holt International Children's Services


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