Ethiopia Adoption – Process, Costs and Adoption Agencies

While Ethiopia remains one of the most common destinations for hopeful adoptive families, the rate of adoptions in this country has slowed in recent years. In order to more thoroughly scrutinize every adoption case and further protect the well-being of adopted children, Ethiopian adoption authorities have limited the number of agencies they work with and cases they take.

Fortunately, many parents continue to successfully adopt Ethiopian children in need of families every year. If you are considering adopting from Ethiopia or would like to learn more about the process, this article will provide everything you need.

Ethiopia Adoption Quick Facts

  • Hague Convention Country: No
  • Adoption Authority: The Children and Youth Affairs Office
  • Average # of adoptions to U.S. families: 500-1,200
  • Average travel time for adoption: 2-4 total weeks

Who Can Adopt in Ethiopia?

In order to adopt in Ethiopia, you must meet the requirements under both U.S. and Ethiopian adoption laws. To qualify to adopt a child from Ethiopia, you must fulfill the following criteria:


Adults between the ages of 25 and 65 years old are eligible to adopt a child in Ethiopia. In some cases, the Ethiopian government has set a maximum age difference of 40 years between the parent and child.

Marital Status

Married heterosexual couples and single women are allowed to adopt. If you are adopting as a married couple, you must be married for at least 5 years.


While there is no minimum income to qualify for adoption in Ethiopia, all adoptive families must be able to show proof of financial stability. The Ethiopian courts will determine your financial status during the approval process.


The Ethiopian government requires adoptive parents to travel to Ethiopia before they finalize their adoption, which will most often result in two trips for adoptive parents.

Who Can Be Adopted in Ethiopia?

In order to adopt a child in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government must deem the child adoptable, and the U.S. government must determine that the child meets its definition of an orphan. Read on to learn about the children typically available for adoption in Ethiopia.


Any child under 18 may be adopted, but only children under 16 will receive U.S. immigration benefits. Exceptions will be made in the case of sibling groups where a sibling is over 16. In most cases, the Ethiopian government will work to keep sibling groups together.

Orphanage Residency

Generally, a child in Ethiopia will only become eligible for adoption after residing in an orphanage for at least three months. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure if a child in an orphanage is adoptable, speak to your adoption service provider.

Birth Parent Rights

If a child has been abandoned, then he or she goes into custody of the government. If the birth parents have formally relinquished their rights, then the orphanage where the child resides will have guardianship. Children in both of these cases will be available for adoption.

Adoption Process

Although Ethiopia is not a Hague Convention Country, it has its own guidelines and regulations for completing international adoptions. Among these regulations is the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) program. This program was created jointly by the United States and Ethiopia, and as of 2013, all families adopting from Ethiopia must go through it during their adoption.

The main authority on adoptions in Ethiopia is the Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO), which operates under the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA).

How Long does it Take to Adopt from Ethiopia?

On average, adopting a child from Ethiopia takes around 2 to 2 ½ years. This can be broken down into three main categories:

  • Application, Documentation, and Home Study: 3-6 months
  • Waiting for a referral: Varies
  • Adoption, Court Processes, and visa application: 6-12 months

Please remember that the time frames presented for an Ethiopia adoption are based on averages, and your adoption could take significantly shorter or longer.

How do I Find an Adoption Professional?

Although Ethiopia is not a Hague Convention, all United States agencies that perform international adoptions must meet Hague guidelines as per the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012. Your adoption service provider will assist you by counseling and educating you, helping you compile your dossier and complete your home study, seeking out a child referral, and acting as a liaison between you and Ethiopian adoption authorities.

Here are just a few of the agencies that can help you complete your Ethiopia adoption:

How do I Become Eligible to Adopt?

If you want to adopt a child in Ethiopia, you must first gain approval by sending your dossier to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington D.C. and then to MOWCYA. Your dossier will include your birth certificates, medical records, financial statements, and more. For a more thorough list of documents you will need, speak to your adoption professional or view our dossier checklist.

After a review period, Ethiopian authorities will determine whether you meet their requirements to adopt. If you do, you will receive a match sometime afterward.

What do I Do Once I Receive a Referral?

Because of the length of document processing times, most adoptive families end up making two trips to Ethiopia: once to formally adopt the child, and again to bring him or her home after receiving a visa. Below, you can read about the adoption and visa process.

Pre-Adoption Immigration Review

In accordance with PAIR program guidelines, you must file a Form I-600 with USCIS, which will begin the review process. This form identifies your child as adoptable, and if approved, you will be one step closer to bringing your child to the United States. Along with this form, you must also submit evidence of the child referral along with evidence that the child is available for adoption.

Upon approval, you will receive a PAIR letter from USCIS, which will then move on to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa.

Complete the Adoption in Ethiopia

Once you have filed your Form I-600 and initiated the PAIR process, you can begin the adoption process in Ethiopia by submitting your dossier to the country’s Federal First Instance Court (FFIC). The FFIC will then forward the documents to MOWCYA for additional review, after which the FFIC will schedule a hearing. You will need to appear in court, and if you are approved, you will gain legal custody of the child and receive an adoption decree.

Receive Immigrant Visa

After you have legally adopted your child, you must send the following documents to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa:

  • Final adoption decree from the FFIC, certified by MOWCYA
  • Birth Certificate
  • Ethiopian Passport
  • Immigrant visa application

The Embassy will review your adoption decree and other documents in order to approve your Form I-600, and then they will schedule a final visa interview with you in Ethiopia. After you receive the visa, you are free to bring your child home.

How do I Finalize my Adoption?

If one or both parents were not present to meet the child in Ethiopia, or if the adoption was not completed in Ethiopia for another reason, then you must finalize the adoption in a United States court. If your adoption was completed in Ethiopia, it is still strongly recommended that you go through the formal re-adoption process to ensure that your child’s citizenship is recognized across all states.

Additionally, you will need to complete a series of post-placement assessments after you have brought your child home. Ethiopia requires that you send in post-adoption reports at three months, six months, one year, and then yearly until the child reaches adulthood.

Ethiopia Adoption Costs

On average, adopting from Ethiopia can cost $30,000-$45,000. These expenses can be broken down into three major categories: agency fees, which your professional will charge for the adoption program; travel costs for both trips to Ethiopia; and third party fees, which include miscellaneous fees for applications, processing, translation, and more.

  • Agency Fees: $20,000-$30,000
  • Travel Costs: $8,000-$10,000
  • Third Party Fees: $2,000-$5,000

For more information on specific fees and when they must be paid, speak to your adoption professional.

Ethiopia Travel Tips

Both of your trips to Ethiopia will take approximately 1-2 weeks.

  • Remember that while you are in Ethiopia, you are subject to Ethiopia and United States laws. According to Ethiopian laws, you may not take pictures of military or government facilities and personnel.
  • While you are in Ethiopia, you will most likely need to pay for most transactions in cash. You will be allowed to carry up to 3,000 USD in foreign currency.
  • It is highly recommended that you receive a polio vaccination up to 1 year before you leave.
  • Because of the generally poor state of the roads and lack of regulations, you are encouraged to limit your driving time, and when you do drive, keep spare tires and tools on hand.

U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia

Whenever you travel to another country, you should have the contact information for the U.S. Embassy with you. Below, you can find the information for the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa:

Address: Entoto Street, PO Box 1014, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Phone #: +(251) 11 130-6000