Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interim suspension of Aus/Ethiopia program

I am numb. This news is so heartbreaking for my many friends currently in the Ethiopia program. The 'unknownness' of the future of the program is the hardest part. I've shed a lot of tears today. Hoping and praying that after the review there is a positive outcome for the program's viability. I've bolded the paragraph of most interest...

The Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP, has decided that the Ethiopia–Australia program should be suspended because of concerns that Australia can no longer conduct intercountry adoptions in Ethiopia in a manner consistent with its obligations under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.

Australia is committed to ensuring that all our intercountry adoption programs comply with the principles of the Hague Convention. This is the case whether or not the partner country is a signatory to the Convention.

Adoptive families should note that the Attorney-General’s Department is not aware of any allegations of child trafficking in the Ethiopia–Australia program. There is no suggestion of illegal practices in relation to any adoptions previously finalised between Ethiopia and Australia.

The program will be suspended pending the finalisation of a formal review which is expected to be completed by the end of 2009. The review will assess the viability of the program and its compliance with the principles of the Hague Convention. A decision about the future of the program will then be made.

Activity during the interim suspension will be restricted to those children already referred to the Australia program. This will ensure that no children will be disadvantaged by the arrangements. The following cases will be progressed:

* cases where prospective adoptive parents have already been allocated a child from Ethiopia, and
* cases where a child has already been referred to the program and the child can be matched with a family approved to adopt from Ethiopia. Children who have already been referred to the program will be matched in the usual way with the most appropriate adoptive family in accordance with the Matching Guidelines. In these cases, it is likely to be a number of months before applicants are advised whether they are allocated such a child.

No new children will be accepted by the program during the suspension. Applicant files currently waiting in Ethiopia to be allocated will remain there until a decision about the future of the program is made.

A key reason for the suspension is a new requirement of the Ethiopian Government that the program enter into a formal agreement to provide community development assistance. The Australian program has previously been exempt from the requirement to provide financial/material assistance because of its unique Government-to-Government arrangement. We have recently been advised that this exemption can no longer continue. The review is considering whether implementation of the new arrangements is consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Hague Convention.

The Attorney-General considers it is not possible for the program to continue accepting new referrals of children into the program until a full review of the program is completed.

Australia values its bilateral relationship with Ethiopia and looks forward to working closely with the Ethiopian Government during the review to ensure that the best interests of children are met.

We understand that many families who are waiting to adopt a child from Ethiopia will be distressed by the decision to suspend the program. However, it is important that we have confidence that children are in need of an overseas family and that no improper financial gains arise from the process.

Further information and updates about the program will be made available in due course.