Sunday, June 12, 2011

Celebrate Children

In my opinion, it is agencies like Celebrate Children Intl that have caused the Ethiopian government to put the brakes on international adoption.

If you google "Celebrate Children International" your first page of results looks like this:

The font is too small to read, but that first page of results includes the phrases, "verbally and mentally abusive toward families" and "agency faces multiple complaints."

CCI is one of a few agencies operating in Ethiopia who do not have Hague accreditation. According to Pound Pup Legacy, their application for accreditation was denied. From what I understand, Hague accreditation only means that an agency is adhering to some very basic standards, and several agencies that seem sketchy to me are Hague accredited, so to be denied accreditation is pretty bad.

This is all old news, so why this post now? Well, recently I was curious to read about the experiences of people who have used and been satisfied with Celebrate Children, so I looked up some blogs and I was horrified.

Some of the posts may not seem like a big deal at first. "They are able to process adoptions through Ethiopia more quickly and for less money than other agencies." Hmm, why would they process adoptions more quickly? (And they really are quick, with waits as short as one month for healthy infants in some cases, which should be a HUGE alarm bell). Or, "She said we had been at the bottom of the referral list... but she told me she would go ahead and move us to the top of the list!... They make the list and they can move people around at their discretion." Hmm, that's very strange. Why would the list be in any order other than the order in which families applied?

But some of the posts were really disturbing. Posts about the director traveling to Ethiopia to "find" children came up in four different blogs. In one blog she "found" and referred two newborns. Our agency told us children are in an orphanage for at least three months before becoming available for international adoption, to give the birth family a chance to change their minds, so a newborn referral cannot be following this rule. Both newborns were "abandoned by their birth parents." Our agency has told us that this only happens in about 10% of cases, but here was a family accepting two unrelated "abandoned" newborns, a 1-in-100 chance. A second blog said that the director travels to Ethiopia specifically for the purpose of "finding" referrals, and in a third blog, the family was expecting a referral because the director was going to Ethiopia, and she always got referrals when she went. Our agency does not begin working with children until they have been relinquished to the local government and are living in an orphanage. The orphanage then may contact our adoption agency and ask for help placing a child. In a fourth blog, the director "promised to find us a child... she found us twin 3-year-old girls... the twins are still in their village... they are in the care of a neighbor, not a family member, and the other kids in their village who are available for adoption are with extended family." I cannot begin to express how disturbed I am by this mental image: an American adoption agency director going to a village - not an orphanage, not a place where children live after having been legally relinquished by their families, but a village - to scout for children who are "available for adoption" because they live with a neighbor or extended family. What does she say to these neighbors and extended family members in order to take the children right out of their homes? It makes me want to throw up. And then in one post, the adoptive parents, while making their birth family visit with CCI, "found" an abandoned 10-month-old baby and took her to Addis Ababa the next day.

Is it any wonder the Ethiopian government has decided greater scrutiny is needed?

Disclaimer: This post reflects my personal opinion, based on what I have read about CCI.


  1. You are right on Kyra! Reading this makes me sick to my stomach!
    I only hope the steps that are currently being taken by the Ethiopian government will be effective in ensuring ethical adoptions and weeding out and eliminating such disgusting practices! UGH!! I hesitate to say more in such a public forum ...

  2. Great post and very needed! I cannot believe people would use this agency. That said they have a lot of people that really want to adopt a kid they found on their mission trip...and CCI fills that HIGHLY ethical gray area...blech.

  3. Isn't that horrible! Who pays for all of this, the children and their families. Adoption is not shopping! Thanks for posting and sharing.

  4. I'm so disgusted by this and infuriated by the PAPs who put their money into the hands of those who traffic kids. Awful. I once checked out some of the blogs for Dove and had a similar reaction. These people were shopping for healthy newborns with big old smiles on their faces. I truly, truly hope some of these agencies get shut down. The sooner the better.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this!!! It is so right on and totally disgusting what they and similar agencies are doing.

  6. Thank you for this. You are so right. Is there anything we as PAPs and APs do about this?

    Do you think it's worth bringing up to American Authorities? Ethiopian? It makes my blood boil.

  7. Blood boil. Exactly.

    Thank you for posting this and helping spread the word....

  8. Yes Dove will let you order newborns of any age and gender you many as you want too! Then they deliver them fairly quickly. It makes me very uncomfortable as well.

  9. Yes! Keep on talking about it, calling out the agencies who continue to abuse the situation....

  10. I think you are 100% correct. It is the terrible actions of a few that are leading to major concerns in Ethiopia (which are well-warranted). We need to get rid of those agencies so that the good ones can still do the good work of finding homes for children in true need. Thank you for putting this out there!

  11. I don't know how to fix this. Everyone who commented here has been involved in adoption a lot longer than I have. My (probably very naive) thought was that maybe someone who was considering CCI would read this and reconsider. Highly unlikely since my blog name is "Agnostic Adoption" and CCI seems to use a Christian facade to lure gullible religious types. And anyway, even a simple google search should be enough to warn anyone away. It just points to the fact that some people do NO research whatsoever on their agency (besides praying, which in some circles is the only research you need). I agree with all, it is disgusting and frustrating.

  12. It's like that line from 'Finding Nemo' where the dentist tells his friend, "See that little fish? I rescued him from the reef- where he was struggling to survive!"

    What's going to happen to these (probably kidnapped...) kids when they grow-up? Will they realize their APs were unethical in obtaining them? I fear there is no 'up' side to this for anyone and that these APs will rue the day.

  13. I'm nauseous.

    There are so many reputable, ethical agencies, why anyone would choose a disreputable one is beyond me.

    It's like saying, "I'm looking for the biggest jerk I can find to marry." I just don't get it.

    Although, I've seen lots of women marry lots of jerks, so...there ya go.

  14. Thank you for posting this! There is a blogger that just came home with a child from this agency. I wondered how she was in ET and 5 months later was home with a child she found on that trip.
    It makes my stomach turn to think that kids are not coming from legit places. There is NO reason why people should EVER feel comfortable bringing children home that haven't been relinquished to a government orphanage.
    It is sad that adoptions in ET are slowing down but if the end result is weeding out these deceitful agencies then I am all for it!!

  15. I hope that the end result of the slowdown is in fact the weeding out of these deceitful agencies... but did you know that CCI has started a DRC program?

    1. So sad to see this agency in the DRC. It's very unregulated there in regards to governmental structure. But, should work out perfect for the agency!

  16. Hard to know what to say. It is so depressing.
    I went with a reputable agency. Our adoption for all intents and purposes seemed to follow standard protocol (similar to what others experience with the "gold standard" agencies) and still I worry, worry, worry. I second guess. I think about all the room I saw between the US staff and the Ethiopian partners at the government care centers. I scrutinized every little inconsistency.
    My fear is that agencies that are out-and-out unethical or rather have the world view that kids are better off in Christian American homes will never be rooted out by any new rules and regulations. They are not looking to do things correctly and will always find ways around the system.
    And, there will always be stupid, irresponsible, evil people - oops, I meant to say people with good intentions who see the world differently than those of us with moral compasses, who will pay to buy/save a kid quickly.
    However, at least by talking about it, some people who actually do want to do the right thing, will have an opportunity to make appropriate decisions.

  17. I just stumbled her through Liz's weekly reading list. What useful research! Such huge red flags, glossed over as good things.... it makes my skin crawl. Have you considered linking this on the big Ethiopia adoption Yahoo group?

  18. Semi-feral, can an investigator help? I feel like I read a blog of a family who hired a searcher when the birth family was not known. I wish I could remember where I read that... :(

    Do you think the "authorities in Ethiopia" (whoever they are) are aware of CCI's practices? I don't understand why they are being allowed to continue.

    Shrijnana, I looked but am not sure where to link it. I added a post to the Adoption Agency Research group "agency feedback" database.

  19. Kyra, a commenter had left a link to her post about what "high horses" people use to justify their unethical adoptions (ie- HIV+, special needs, etc...) Do you remember off hand who that was or do you have that link? That post was good.

  20. Here it is:

  21. Occasionally comments go to “Awaiting Moderation.” Not sure why, but this one did. I’m only posting part of it here, because the sender wrote some very personal information about her family. I’m not sure why someone would share such personal info with a stranger, let alone on a public blog, and perhaps it was not meant to be posted as a public comment, so I’ve deleted that part:

    Dear Kyra, I'm assuming you are quoting my blog as we are the parents of the 3 year old twins. I'm furious that you use my family's story to justify your misrepresented views of CCI and adoptions in Ethiopia. I'm also saddened that once again an ill-advised blogger lambasted a process that you obviously know very little about. All my children were relinquished to an orphanage. Our processes were very fast because we accepted referrals of waiting, older children. We did not sit on a waiting list with 90 other families who only want young, healthy newborns. Adoption agencies that work in Ethiopia are licensed to work in different areas in Ethiopia so one agency's wait times will be different than other agencies based on the number/ages/genders of the children in those orphanages. Our children are from a very remote area where no other agency other than CCI works. Why is CCI the only agency working in this remote area? Because its [sic] a hard area to work. The children are very malnourished and very dark skinned. There is no running water or electricity in the orphanage and it is such a remoter [sic] area, it is very hard to communicate. The children are older and many have been in the orphanage for years, not months. These children come with horrifying traumas from living in such a rural area that you will never know anything about. Life in rural Ethiopia is hard. [personal information deleted here] I traveled to this remote area and saw the needs for 150 children sitting in an orphanage. There is a cost to adoption, but I know the fees that I paid to CCI are helping to feed the 150 children who will never be adopted because they are too old, too dark, too male... The only people that are being hurt by these slow downs in Ethiopia are the 5 million orphans that still do not have anyone to comfort them when they wake up with a bad dream and put band-aids on their boo-boos. No one to take them to the doctor when they get sick and cheer them on when they score a goal in soccer. NO ONE who loves them and cares for them as only a mother and father can. They are utterly alone and hopeless.

  22. Kyra,

    I read your post regularly and love them and your story. I am actually in the process of bringing home two older children (ages 7 and 8) through CCI. We originally began with WACAP but switched because we did not believe in waiting for a child to be found for us and instead searched waiting children lists. I can only speak from my experience, and I wish others would do the same instead of taking everything on the internet to be gospel, and I can say that what the blogger you referenced stated is true. CCI mostly places older children who have been in orphanages for years. Also, the director does not go looking for kids - though she may not always communicate well - I do believe she means well. In terms of cheaper and faster - NOT cheaper by any means, though I do appreciate that fees are paid as services are rendered instead of paying up front or within six months even if there is no referral for three years. Faster, only to the extent that a smaller agency would be faster than a large one with hundreds of waiting families. And, birthparents have ever right to change their minds and take their children back - it has happened and our agency put up no stops. They respected that decision as they should have. So, while I know that some people have been hurt by the way things were handled years ago in Guatemala and some have held and fueled a major vindetta, my experience has been different. And, yes, I did research and talk to families who had worked with CCI in the past couple of years, before making the decision to switch. Still, I understand poor reputations are easy to develop and nearly impossible to overcome. I would just hope that those with no direct experience with CCI stop posting and re-posting smear.


  23. Kyra,
    I just have to say that you have a very wise heart to pick up on such unethical practices and post about them. I hate to say it, but so much of what you have written is simply a rinse and repeat from this agency's days in Guatemala, in my opinion.

    So sad that some of your commenters are still defending this agency. It's unreal. And it makes me sick when someone discounts what others have taken time to share in hopes of helping families make informed decisions when choosing an agency.

    I have a NIGHTMARE of an adoption process with this agency. Part of the factual events and supporting documents from this horrible experience has now been published by Erin Siegal, in Finding Fernanda. I am very thankful for people to know about what happened with this agency in GT. I am physically sick when I recognize similar events now happening in ET.

    Kudos to you for posting this and I would urge you to keep up with this agency that seems to be thriving. Poor lady thinking all her money paid to the agency is feeding boys. I wonder if she's ever taken a look at the info on And, this agency has been denied Hague twice. As of now, they are still sitting on the
    being considered' list for a 3rd try at Hague Accreditation. They've been on that list for 15 months! I guess most any agency could gather themselves into compliance if given enough time. Kind of makes you wonder about the COA?

    It is my opinion, that the USDOS is really good at keeping things hushed. The public is not well informed concerning investigations. The reason for that is people was their children. Congressional activity is not about to slow down a process just because a few things seem off. History tells us that as soon as they do, constituents start bombarding their offices with requests for assistance in 'getting' the children out of the country.

    There is something VERY wrong with finding children for families, but money talks and it flows freely between the US and sending countries like ET. There are currently NO laws that cover trafficking for the purpose of adoption. Most people don't even realize that. They assume the US has laws in place to protect children and families. The agencies, on the other hand, seem to be very informed on exactly what the limits are. And there you have it... finding children!

    Elizabeth Emanuel
    advocate for children with no voice or choice in those who handle their futures

  24. Unfortunately I have a great friend who had a situation in the Congo where she was told her child passed away, and it turns out another family got this child. She had already paid all her money to CCI. She was not refunded. When she said she would take legal action, she then was told she would get a refund if she never spoke of this again. She had to sign something to say she would not. She hesitated to do so, but really wanted to adopt a child, so she needed the refund. Things like this need to be exposed. I am sure there have been many legitimate adoptions, but I have heard too many stories with this agency that are scary and deal with child trafficking or buying and selling of children, which is the OPPOSITE of what we want to do when we adopt. I almost used this agency, and by chance did not. It is terrifying.