ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — An Ethiopian court has revoked the adoption of a girl by a family in the Netherlands. This is the first time a foreign adoption has been revoked in Ethiopia’s long history of overseas adoption.
Betty Lub is a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl that was adopted at the age of seven by a Dutch family that abused her. She stayed with them for two years, but still carries their last name because of legal procedures.
Betty got the adoption revoked through an Ethiopian court. Her lawyer, Mulemebet Tilahua, said Betty now wants to change her name to Betty Demoze, her Ethiopian last name.
“Revocation of the adoption contract will have an effect on Betty and in a way she will be reinstated to her family of origins. And the other thing is, she will not be forced to be called after the adoptive parents who abused her in their home for a long time,” said Tilahua.
The documents in Betty’s adoption file were falsified and were full of errors. They gave the wrong age, and wrongly stated that Betty’s parents had died. After a failed criminal case two years ago against those involved with providing the papers, the 14-year-old started a civil case.
Betty said that getting her adoption revoked in Ethiopia is only the first step of her journey.
“I want to try in Holland to also revoke my adoption and then we will see,” she said.
Almost 4,500 children were adopted from Ethiopia in 2010, with about half of them going to American families. Because a growing number of adoption cases from Ethiopia appear to have irregularities, the legal process has been under investigation in Ethiopia and other countries.
Arun Dohle investigated the files of Ethiopian children going to the Netherlands for the Against Child Trafficking NGO. He said Betty’s case is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We found that the adoption process is riddled by fraud and other clear-cut criminal activities. But most important, the demand-driven inter-country adoption process is breaking up families who could be helped in building up their lives with a fraction of the money involved in inter-country adoption,” said Dohle.
Adoptions are big business in development countries, with Western parents usually paying more than $20,000 for a child. Ethiopia’s adoption business grew rapidly after several countries in the world, such as Romania and Vietnam, stopped allowing overseas adoptions because of legal irregularities and corruption.
Dohle believes that the inter-country adoption process is systematically misleading parents.
“Most of the Ethiopian and African parents in general, do not understand the Western concept of adoption, which completely severs all ties with the child. The child gets a new birth certificate a new identity, and all ties are completely severed, there is no such thing as international foster care,” said Dohle.
Preying on parents
Many parents are not told they are losing their child, they are promised financial support and are made to believe their child will receive a better education somewhere else and will return home soon.
Lawyer Mulemebet said parents in developing countries are an easy target for adoption agencies.
“Most of the time they are not aware of their legal rights and they are not in a position, especially in a financial position, to claim their rights and to ensure the best interests of their children,” said Mulemebet.
Betty was adopted through the Dutch adoption agency Wereldkinderen. It is accused of fraud and criminal activities in research done by the Against Child Trafficking group. Wereldkinderen chose not to comment on the first revoked adoption case.
Betty hopes her actions will inspire other adoptees.
“I hope that it will have impact on other children to do the same thing that I have done,” she said.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs decided in 2011 to cut adoptions by 90 percent because of fraud during the adoption processes.