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.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

More Amharic resources

Here are a few more resources that we have been using as we start to learn Amharic:
44 different lessons with categories like food, clothes, greetings, nature, colors, work, verbs, adjectives etc. You go through a tutorial and then can play three different kinds of games. Start with the multiple choice and work up to typing the word in yourself, then use the matching game to practice reading Amharic letters. To see the Amharic letters you will need to download the font, which you can do here. Scroll down near the bottom of the page and follow instructions to download.

Foreign Service Institute Amharic basic course
You can download the entire text, all 500 pages. It's from the 1960's, stupefyingly boring, and focused on teaching you how to navigate government ministries... but it's also thorough, organized and written entirely in English letters. You can also listen to the text with the accompanying "tapes."

"Amharic for Foreign Beginners" also came in the mail the other day. It's a small book and I think everything in it is covered in "Let's Speak Amharic." "Amharic for Foreign Beginners" contains both Ethiopian and English letters throughout, so you don't need to learn to read Amharic before you can use it.

What has worked best for us so far is to memorize vocabulary lists on our own and then come to our tutor with questions. Right now we are working to the verbs "to be" and "to have." This afternoon we sat on the back patio and played "Guess Who" in Amharic.