Inside Ethiopia’s Adoption Boom
Seated in plastic chairs in a grade-school cafeteria in Minnesota, Sandra and Alan Roth admired their 7-year-old daughter, Melesech, making her stage debut last month in “Peter Pan” as one of the “lost kids”—the children who find themselves spirited away to a magical place called Neverland. Four years earlier, to the day, the Roths had brought Mel home from Ethiopia, where they had adopted her.
“Oh, Wendy, we thought you were going to be our mother!” said Mel on stage, speaking her only line and wearing a rust-colored tunic and fuzzy Ugg-style boots.
“She is very special,” said Mrs. Roth, 49 years old. For children like her in Ethiopia, she added, “There is no future.”
Melesech in Minnesota with her adoptive mother, above. Her dad gave her for adoption a few years ago as Ethiopian adoptions went into overdrive.
Ethiopia has become one of the busiest adoption destinations in the world, thanks in part to loose controls that make it one of the fastest places to adopt a child. Nearly one out of five children adopted by Americans hailed from Ethiopia the past two years, second only to China.
Many youngsters, like Melesech, are thriving in loving homes. Still, the U.S. State Department has cautioned that Ethiopia’s lax oversight, mixed with poverty and the perils of cross-cultural misunderstanding, leaves room for abuse.