A Place to Call Home
There is no foster care system in Ethiopia. Famine in the 1980s, an HIV/AIDS crisis in the nineties, and constant political upheaval as well as extreme poverty all created a perfect storm that has wiped parents out of the picture, leaving children to fend for themselves or become victims of crime, abuse, rape, or servitude. Even today, orphanages are still the norm, and it didn’t help that international adoption was shut down in 2017. Domestic adoption is not the cultural norm, especially for children over the age of eight, and while organizations seek to either reunify children with their biological parents or settle them with blood relatives as often as possible, that leaves an estimated five million children without a place to call home.
Also, lacking in a developing nation like Ethiopia are child welfare resources like case management, social services, health services, and even identification records. “Some of our kids don’t even know their names,” Stam stated. “Two little boys came to us as Abraham and Kofi Unknown.” Children born outside of a hospital typically don’t have birth certificates. Immunization records and HIV status are also hard to come by.