Aselefech Evans (Courtesy Photo)
Aselefech Evans always thought highly of the adoption process. However, after beginning a conversation with her biological family, she realized there were many discrepancies between what her adoptive family was told and what was actually true. “I became very critical of the adoption process,” she said. “Not saying that I was anti-adoption but I just became pro-ethical standards.”
Evans, 26, said she was six when she and her twin sister were adopted and moved to the United States. The young girls were raised in a White family within a diverse community in Prince George’s County, Md. But, unlike her sister, Evans was curious about her biological family in Ethiopia.
“As I got older and I started struggling with identity and trying to figure out who I was and which group I belonged to,” Evans told the AFRO on Dec. 21. I just felt like I needed to figure out where I come from and what it means to me.”
The search for her family brought up more questions and as a result she questioned the adoption process. She said that often times adoptive kid’s inquires into their biological families is ignored or neglected.
Evans began working with Bring Love In, an Ethiopian organization that focuses on making families out of widows and orphans in the African country, and her experiences as an adoptee have made her rethink the adoption process and focus more on family preservation efforts.
“People think that if you’re pro-family preservation you’re anti-adoption,” she said. “That’s not necessarily true. I just think that the first option should be to keep families together in that country and then look at other options. Adoption should be the last option.”
Amira Rose Davis of Baltimore, an African-American adoptee, agreed that voices of the adoptees are not always heard nor are they given access to information they deserve. She also questioned the process when she received a letter from her biological mother with little to no information about her.
“It was the first correspondence I had with my birth mom and mostly everything was blacked out of the letter,” Davis, 26,said.
“For a long time, adoption has been about making the focus on adoptive parents and adoption agencies,” she said. “We’ve never really had a platform for adoptees to be able to express themselves or share ideas or even talk about the complexities of being adopted.”
Mike Stone, director of public relations for America World Adoption Association, headquartered in McLean, Va. shares same sentiment. The adoption association is Christian ministry-based and dedicated to helping American families with international adoption. Stone said the organization is proud that it is completely transparent with the families involved in the adoption process.
“Anything that we have is going to the family or the child upon referral,” Stone said. “We provide them with videos, paperwork on medical history, and other information on their biological families prior to adoption. If there is nothing there, there is nothing to give.”
According to Stone, the adoption association focuses on family preservation, then, if there are no options to stay with someone in their biological family, they move forward with the adoption process. “We really do believe that it is in the best interest of the child to stay with biological family,” he said. “Some agencies are doing corrupt things just for the money. We are a Christian ministry-based organization that believes the best interest of the child comes first then family.”
According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ethiopian adoptions are steadily decreasing. In 2013, there were 993 adoptions, down from 1567 in 2012 and 1732 in 2011. “In those few countries where there have been significant declines in the numbers over the past few years, such as in Ethiopia, the decreases are primarily attributed to changes inside those countries: changing policies towards adoption, and social change such as changing attitudes in favor of domestic adoption, growth of a middle class willing to adopt,” a State Department official said. “The availability of inexpensive in vitro fertilization as an option for growing a family and economic factors in the United States also impacts the overall number of adoptions annually.”
Ethiopia also tightened its controls over adoption in 2011, accounting for the decreases in adoptions annually, which has a continued effect presently and is even more focused on family preservation. “The Government of Ethiopia has devoted significant effort in the last few years to help strengthen family structures and family reunification for children in institutional care, many of whom would have been adopted internationally in years past,” said the State Department official.