Ethiopia (MNN) — Bethany Christian Services made headlines recently for the somewhat shocking news that adoptions out of Ethiopia are surpassing those from China. China has had the highest number of adoptions from U.S. families for four out of the last five years.
The AIDS pandemic sweeping over Ethiopia has left more than 5 million orphans behind, a fifth of which have acquired HIV themselves. While the country has strong family values and would like to care for all of its orphans, Bethany International Services Coordinator for Africa, Sara Ruiter, says numbers are so high that "communities are no longer able to absorb those kids."
Meanwhile, the need in China is not where it once was. "The good news about China is that China is finding a lot of homes domestically for their kids," explains Ruiter. "Ethiopia at this point doesn't have the capacity to do that."
Bethany's work in Ethiopia spreads far beyond adoption, however. The ministry believes that the best thing to be done for these children is to first try and find them a home in their own country before resorting to inter-country adoption.
"There's a significant need not only for these kids to find forever families through inter-country adoption, but also for us to work alongside the Ethiopian government to figure out ways that we can support these communities and these longstanding traditions of communities taking care of their own kids," says Ruiter.
The Ethiopian government has identified families in need across the country where kids may be at risk of needing to leave their families. Bethany supports over 1,600 of these families to keep them together and prevent the orphan problem from getting worse. Bethany also invests in communities with kinship care programs and builds foster care through local churches. Still, 5 million children is such an overwhelming number that the need for adoption is inevitable.
"We're committed to trying to find ways for kids to stay in their home country, and ideally with their birth family. But if that's not always the case, we think adoption is a wonderful way [to help them]," says Ruiter. She also notes that believers are called to help orphans and widows, and in so doing, spread the Good News of Christ.
If you would like to get involved with Bethany's work in Ethiopia, there are a few things you can do. First, your family can sponsor an Ethiopian family to keep them together. If you feel God tugging on your heart for something bigger, however, Bethany continues to accept applications for adoption. Ethiopian kids have adapted very well so far to American culture and loving families, and many more kids are waiting for a forever family. Click here to learn more about adopting a child from Ethiopia.