There are so many things I’d like to share about my experiences of being an awaiting parent for an international adoption. But given my most recent situation, I will focus on Canadian immigration. My partner and I legally adopted a 5-year-old boy from Ethiopia—our second son from this country—on August 4th of this year. All of the documents needed for immigration were collected in Ethiopia and sent to Canada’s High Commission in Nairobi on September 7th. We had evidence the High Commission received these documents on September 8th, although they sat in a “sorting facility” there for over 6 weeks before anyone confirmed receipt of them. Finally, after weeks of me pressuring the High Commission and people who might have some influence over it, the travel documents for our child arrived in Ethiopia. Only now (Oct. 28th)—roughly three months after adopting our son—are we booking our travel and packing our bags.
Other international adoptive families have had it much worse with Canadian immigration than we have. For example, there are some who have waited since last spring to have visas issued for their children and, as far as I know, have not received them yet.
Other countries deal with immigration for international adoptees, at least those from East Africa, much more quickly than Canada does or has recently. When we were in Ethiopia in August, we met an American couple that went to court to adopt their son a few days after we did and their immigration documents were ready by September 10th. They told us that the American government guarantees no longer than a six-week wait for immigration with Ethiopian adoptions. Similarly, some European adoptive parents told us that the wait for them would be in the neighbourhood of 7-10 days.
With our first adoption, the wait for immigration was also long—about 5 months—although there was an explanation for that: Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) had placed Ethiopian adoption programs under review at the time. Other people we know who were recently in the same boat we were in told us that the only explanation they got from the High Commission was “a high workload.” But if that’s the reason for the delay, then surely the delay is unacceptable.
To illustrate, our new son has been in an orphanage since the age of 6 months, and while the people running the orphanage do their best, they sometimes do not have enough food for the children there. The orphanage is small, and does not have enough space for growing children to play. The school-age children attend a nearby school, which our son has done, although I fully expect that the more he misses school in Canada, the more difficulties he will encounter when he finally joins his classroom. (He is registered now in a senior kindergarten class.) When we met him, we also noticed a serious scar on his leg from a wound that obviously was not treated well. In short, he is in less than ideal circumstances and we wish we could have brought him home weeks ago. Unfortunately, we could not afford to take him into our care early and wait out the time (the unknown length of time) that it would take for immigration in a hotel in Ethiopia. More importantly, we doubted that living in a hotel with one of us for months on end would have been better for him than staying in the orphanage for the short term. The only viable solution for him and for us was a speedier immigration process.
For children like our new son, whose future prospects would be dim were it not for international adoption, and for people like my partner and me who want to build their families, international adoption can be a wonderful solution. But international adoption must be done well. Governments must support only good international adoption programs, ones that facilitate good adoptions. At the same time, governments must streamline the process of international adoption as much as possible to ensure that children do not languish in orphanages and parents do not wait anxiously, with little end in sight, for the time when they can finally bring their children home.
'We believe Canada can do better for families awaiting children by international adoption. Help us bring awareness of the need for change so that #AHome4EveryKid is a reality for all our children, including those waiting to come home. Small improvements and can make big differences for the lives of children, especially if it means bringing our new young Canadians home into the arms of their awaiting parents sooner.'