DENMARK JAN. 17. 2016
Two experts from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Social Affairs have been in Denmark on an unusual mission – but they met a closed door.
Dorrit Saietz DORRIT SAIETZ
Danish International adoptions (DIA) is the result of a merger of the two scandal-ridden adoption agencies DanAdopt and AC International Child Support.
DIA is today the only adoption organization in Denmark.
The agency brokered in 2015 77 adoptions of children or siblings, among which six adoptions from Ethiopia, which a few years ago was by far the largest submitting country.
In 2014, 124 children came for adoption from abroad, and historical figures have been as high as four to five hundred children a year.
Do you remember the cases of Amy and Masho, the children adopted from Ethiopia, who ended up in childcare in Denmark?
After a huge media storm it is forgotten in Denmark, but not in Ethiopia. In the past week, Denmark got a visit from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth – also known as MowCya and which corresponds to the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs. They came here to study how Amy, Masho and their two younger siblings in Denmark are doing today.
‘The Court, which is the highest authority, has asked MowCya to obtain information about the children, so that it can take a decision in the cases,” explains one of the two visiting experts, Hiruy Feleke as child welfare expert and is in Denmark together with the Ministry’s legal Head of Department, Dereje Habtemichael.
Rejected by Appeals Board
The cases he refers to, are the lawsuits that the biological families in Ethiopia started over two years ago to have the adoptions lifted so that they can regain custody of their children. The proceedings are dragging because the court requires information about the children.
“Our goal was to visit families and meeting the children,” said Hiruy Feleke.
But, the two Ethiopian officials who travelled back on Sunday were left partially empty-handed. The Danish authority “Appeals Board”, which is responsible for the adoption field, has refused to help with specific information about the four children or with contact with their adoptive families and placement facilities, according to a letter from the assistant secretary Lene Conrad to the Ethiopian officials.
“The limits of our powers makes it impossible for us to provide you with information on the status of completed and specific adoption cases”, she writes, noting that it is the other authorities, especially the municipalities who are in charge of vulnerable children’s welfare.
On the trip to Aarhus
Neither the private Danish adoption agency DIA, which is the official host for the visit and paid flight and hotel for the two officials, must help with specific information about specific children or families, says Robert Jonasen, director of the DIA.
Even in cases where adoptions break down?
“We can tell you generally what we do in that situation. But we can not just pull the concerned families in or require them to come, “he says.
Instead, the two officials, among other things, went on an excursion to Aarhus, where they have met some adoptive families with children from Ethiopia, who thrive in Denmark.
It is as if the system has two eyes looking in opposite directions, says Hiruy Feleke, Ethiopian children expert.
“In Ethiopia, it is my impression that there may be a concern that children are harmed or subjected to abuse in the countries they are adopted into’ explains Robert Jonasen [Sic: Director DIA].
But it was too late to arrange meetings with the two Danish municipalities, Næstved and Holbaek, who are responsible for the children in the specific cases.
“They said we should have sent an official request to the local authorities for a meeting,” said a frustrated Hiruy Feleke. Næstved municipality confirmed that they have known about the visit, but have not received a direct request.
“Now we have probably to write directly to the municipality and ask the basis of the law restricting and depriving someone of their rights,” said Hiruy Feleke with specific reference to the Næstved Municipality that has banned Amy to visit her family in Ethiopia because of the trial that her mother has started. This arouses deep amazement in Ethiopia.
“We do not understand it. Should Denmark ban all children adopted from Ethiopia to visit their home country because they believe that Ethiopia will kidnap them and hold them back, “said Hiruy Feleke and shakes his head in disbelief.
Puzzled by the Danish authorities
In Ethiopia it is considered natural that an adopted child is still part of its original family.
The question is how Ethiopia will react to the partial failure of the mission. The two officials are namely instructed from the highest level, according to the Ethiopian adoption boss Yayesh Tesfahuney.
“They are sent by MowCya’s Minister directly, and not by me. Anything that has to do with this case is handled by the Minister herself,” she sayd over the phone from Addis Ababa.
Hiruy Feleke and Dereje Habtemichael are astonished that the Danish authorities can not help them and that Denmark has not had a clearer focus on the child’s interest in the cases.
“It’s like the system here has two eyes, looking every way, instead of looking in the same direction and see the matter in a whole ‘, says Hiruy Feleke and refers to the gap between the Appeals Board and the municipal social services departments.
Ethiopia has stalled adoptions, in 2015 only six children came to Denmark.