Update on the Ethiopia–Australia Intercountry Adoption Program – February 2011
New Australian Representative
The Department is pleased to introduce Woz (Ms) Lemlem Fesseha as the incoming Australian Representative. We have engaged Woz Lemlem as the Program Manager pending her appointment as the new Australian Representative from 1 April 2011 and have officially notified the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s Children’s and Youth Affairs of this.
Woz Lemlem received her Associate Degree of Law from Addis Ababa University and has previously worked as a Judge in Ethiopia. In 1997 Woz Lemlem moved to the United States where she completed a Masters of Social Work at Clark Atlanta University and worked as a Social Service Specialist for the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services. She returned to Ethiopia in 2010. The current Australian Representatives, Ato Lakew Gebeyehu and Woz Misrak, will continue in their roles until 31 March 2011 to finalise several cases and facilitate a handover to Woz Lemlem.
As Australian Representative, Woz Lemlem will oversee the management of the Program and perform core functions such as accepting Australian files and referrals of children, matching, progressing cases through intercountry adoption procedures and immigration and communicating with Australian Central Authorities. To support Woz Lemlem, the Department is engaging an experienced, Hague accredited adoption service provider in Ethiopia to provide administrative and ancillary services necessary for the ethical and effective management of the Program. This includes a range of new services to the Program including background checking of children and development assistance projects.
As incoming Australian Representative, Woz Lemlem is seeking to develop working relationships with new orphanages in which the Australian Government can have trust and confidence. The Program has signed a working agreement with Tesfa Children and Elderly Support Organization in Oromia and is looking at other opportunities to enter into working agreements with further orphanages in the future. The Grace Centre for Children and Families has not yet been successful in gaining an orphanage licence. The Department will continue to monitor the situation.
The Program has commenced accepting new referrals of children in need of a permanent family placement from Tesfa Orphanage. These children are currently being progressed through background checking processes to ensure that the child’s documentation and information is correct. Once the background of these children has been thoroughly assessed, and subject to confirmation that all proper processes have been followed, Woz Lemlem will seek to match the children with Australian families with active files in Ethiopia according to the Matching Guidelines, and will progress the cases through the intercountry adoption system.
The Program will continue to operate under the existing 1994 bilateral arrangement while the Department works with Ethiopian authorities to update the documentation to better reflect contemporary practices in both countries.
A new fee structure is being finalised based on the costs of administering the Program. There will be an increase to the total amount of fees in order to meet the standards and expectations of the Program and respond to inflationary pressures in Ethiopia.
Families with Approved Files in Ethiopia
Families with active files in Ethiopia may be allocated a child who has been recently referred to the Australian Program. Not all families will receive an allocation from the current referrals. State and Territory Central Authorities will commence contacting all families with active files in Ethiopia to discuss arrangements for the payment of fees and updating of documents so that they are current in the event that an allocation is made.
Families with Approved Files in Australia
These files will remain in Australia pending further developments in relation to the Program. The Department will monitor the progress of the first new referrals to the Program before making a decision about sending replacement files.
Families Under Assessment for the Ethiopia Program
State and Territory Central Authorities are responsible for managing approval and assessment processes for applicants wishing to adopt from Ethiopia. It is likely that the quota of files able to be in Ethiopia at any one time may remain. This would necessitate continuation of a ‘waiting list’ in each jurisdiction whereby files would remain in Australia until they are able to be sent to Ethiopia.