Adopting a Child from Africa

Parent Q&A

  • We are adopting a rising 6 yo girl from Sierra Leone. Her primary language is Krio, has learned some beginning English in her SL school. We are looking to connect with educational and social/cultural resources:  school/tutoring/helpers to transition her to our world, and Sierra Leone community to help us understand and embrace her background culture. 

    Hello Dave E,

    At the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology we have some Sierra Leone Collections. They may be a bit outside her culture, as most of these items are from cultures that have a longer history in Sierra Leone, like the Mende, as opposed to the Krio folks who have more recently settled there, but they may resonate with her as something from her country. Images of them can be seen here:, put in Sierra Leone into Collection place, and change the drop down to phrase. Select Grid or Full for your search to see the images of the objects.

    Unfortunately none of the Sierra Leone objects are currently on display, but we do have a few other objects from Africa in our current exhibition, I believe from Nigeria, and Ghana.

    Welcome her to the Bay area for me!


Archived Q&A and Reviews

Russian or Ethiopian adoption?

Sept 2012

I have been researching adopting from Russia and would like to hear other family's experiences of the adoption process, as well as any agency recommendations. Currently, I'm torn between Ethiopia and Russia - I have always leaned towards an Eastern European country as that is my heritage but I have heard the process has become more and more difficult. no signature please

We started out on the path to adopt from Russia -- got as far as completing our dossier-- and then switched to China because of our concerns about the process. I should disclose that we did our adoption process back in 2004-6, so things have changed a lot, but I can provide you some helpful information while you make your decision.

First, be careful about which agency you use for Russia. I think things have gotten more regulated with the Hague, but you need to know that due to the complexity of the process and dealing with the Russian government, you will want to do your homework and you will find that not all agencies are equally competent or reliable. At the time, we didn't feel comfortable with any of the local agencies, and went with WACAP in Seattle. I highly recommend them, as they are wonderful and a nonprofit that also helps the kids in the countries they serve.

Also, we picked an agency that went to multiple countries and would allow us to switch. Believe me, in starting out we never thought we would switch, but we made sure we had the option and I am very glad we did.

I am a bit out of the loop with the current process, and I am sure another BPN poster is more current, but I can tell you that Russia is more complicated because there is no centralized process-- you have to apply to a region-- and different agencies work with different regions. The requirements keep getting tougher-- when we were looking into it, most regions required two trips but some only required 1. Now I hear that there are no 1-trip regions and many people now have to travel 3 times to meet all the requirements.

My one last suggestion would be to contact Adoption Connection's international program. They were our homestudy agency, a fabulous non- profit based out of Jewish Family and Children's Services. We signed up with them before we decided on our placement agency ( and which country). Because they were neutral with which agency/country we decided to work with, they were very helpful in us making our decision - and providing us a context for our research. I believe they have orientations, and I would highly recommend them. Good luck in your decision as you start in your journey-- my last word will be that it may seem daunting now, but congratulations on taking your first step as being an adoptive parent is a wonderful, rewarding adventure and the best thing I have ever done. ChinaMom

Hello-- I am the person who posted above about Russia. I meant to clarify, that Adoption Connection, the homestudy agency we used is in San Francisco ( If you use an out-of-state country placement agency (like we did) that isn't licensed to do California homestudies, you can end up with 2 agencies. Anyway, just to make it clear that you can check out Adoption Connection in person. ChinaMom
If your heritage is Slavic, then by all means try. There was a case a few years back that involved a woman who had just adopted from Russia and sent the poor child back on the plane unaccompanied, if you can believe that! The guidelines for screening henceforth were understandably more strict. Don't let guidelines sway you. If you are interested in Russia, I heard such great things about babyhome13 in St. Petersburg. They have wonderful conditions and an intervention study last I knew, with more nurturing, and there was even a study of the children and their development. There was a man who worked at the orphanage named Rifkat, and he may still be there. I saw him present at the conference for Society of Research and Child Development. You may want to look into babyhome13, and I hope they can help you.
Hi, We adopted a baby from Russia in 2004 and had a fairytale experience, it was, and is, the best thing that could have happened for us. I have many other friends who also adopted from Russia, and while they didn't all have the perfect experience we did, all have no regrets and now have great kids. I work in adoption now, and hold a couple of workshops each month on international adoption. The landscape is constantly changing, but Ethiopia and Russia are and have been the 2 most predictable, reliable, programs for infant adoption, along with Korea. There are also many other countries that are wonderful for older, pre-school and up, aged children. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have, refer you to reputable agencies for any country (my agency, or others), or connect you with some other local families (Russia or Ethiopia families) who would love to share with you. I hope you don't feel like you are getting a response from ''an agency'', my job is to help families explore adoption, with any agency. Choosing country or agency is very personal, but I'm happy to share what I know. May your adoption be blessed! Lilia's mommy.
You didn't say in your post if you were going to adopt an infant or an older child. If you are considering an older child please read this article from Today's mom about when adoptions fail.

My brother and his wife recently adopted a brother and sister ages 7 & 8 from Ethiopia. They thought they had done their homework, but after a short time of bringing the children home they discovered that the children suffer from reactive attachment disorder. In addition, the children later revealed that their biological father wasn't dead as my brother and his wife had been lead to believe by the adoption agency. A death certificate had been fabricated in order to pave the way for the child to be put up for adoption. They feel they were scammed by the adoption agency even though everything seemed very legitimate. Good luck anon

We have adopted in 2005 a one-year old boy and then in 2010 a 4-year old boy from Ethiopia. There is a LOT to share so I would prefer if you emailed me and we can chat offline. In Summary: both countries are NOW difficult to deal with from what I hear. For us Ethiopia was more ''affordable'' but also now requires two trips (Russia does as well). What I PERSONALLY experienced was that the orphans from Russia have often been exposed to alcohol in utero resulting in FAS as well as (severe) abuse and neglect. Orphans from Ethiopia have had in general good care and TLC (thru their extended families and village members) but due to poverty they are exposed to malnourishment. So from a medical perspective and IMHO, Ethiopian kids are ''healthier''. Ethiopians are also ''fighters'' - my Ethiopian child will not cry and will always try harder and will never give up. We also felt more comfortable with Ethiopians, very solid people, very honest, whereas in Russia we always felt pulled over the table, another bribe here and another ''fee'' there ... Please note that this is our personal experience and I do not want to necessarily judge Ethiopia vs. Russia. What is most important is the AGENCY you are going to work with. Make sure you go with a solid agency. Good agencies will also advise you which country to go to etc. Hope to speak to you soon! Stefanie
October 2006

Hi. My husband and I are seriously considering adopting from Africa. We would probably adopt an infant. We would like to know how much it costs (at the end of the day) and what people's experiences have been. Thank you so much, Jenny

I have no personal experience adopting, but when I returned from the Peace Corps in West Africa I worked with this agency about possibly placing a child from my village. It's basically an amazing woman who adopted a boy in the 80s (one of the most incredible stories I've ever heard) and has since dedicated herself to placing African orphans in adoptive homes. When I worked with her 10 years ago the total cost was about $5,000. She worked mainly in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone but also in other countries. She is absolutely devoted to the kids she works with. kt
If you are interested in adopting from Ethiopia, there are a only a few accredited agencies in the US that you can work with. They work closely with the Ethiopian govt and follow strict ethical guidelines--I believe at this point that it is very hard to get an exit visa if you don't work with the accredited agencies.

There is Wide Horizons for Children out of MA (our agency); Adoption Advocates International in WA; Children's Home and Family Services out of MN; there may be one or two more. There are many wonderful children of all ages and both genders available for adoption, including infants and sibling groups.

Compared to other international adoption (China, Russia, Guatemala), it tends to be on the lower end, but it is not inexpensive. As there are not that many agencies you can check fees yourself pretty easily. As of 2005, I don't think it was easy to do it for less than $15k with travel, etc. Financial aid might be available from some agencies for ''waiting children'' adoption, but it is not extensive. There is local network for adoptive parents and children from Ethiopia on yahoo groups, ''bayethioadopt'' if you want more dialogue/information.
(2005) adoptive mom of 2 ethiopian children

I didn't see the orginal post, but I recall that right before our last trip to Africa, I had seen an amazing NYTimes story in July of 2005 on children who have been orphaned (mostly but not exclusively) by HIV-AIDS in Ethiopia. It includes info on the significant amount of adoption of these children by Americans, and when I blogged it, could be found at I found the article to be an amazing and very compelling news piece, including informative, macro, and personal aspects. Best of luck slg
Hi - I missed the original post (and only know that someone was seeking advice on African Adoptions), but my younger sister was adopted from Ethiopia. She came to the US when she was 6 and is now 21 (so it has been awhile), but I'd be more than happy to put you in touch with my parents if you'd like. Please feel free to email me if so. Emily