Launching a Movement: Equipping Christians to Adopt in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, there are more than 5.6 million orphans.

These children whose names and stories matter deeply to God often become trapped in a cycle of institutional care.

Like you, we believe children belong in families. More specifically, children belong in their families of origin. But where that isn’t possible because of death or abandonment, we still believe God wants children to grow up in loving, committed families.

Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a strong culture of domestic foster care or adoption in Ethiopia. But God, Who is committed to fatherless children, is at work in the hearts of His people.

And spoiler alert: He’s doing something incredible.

Belay, who aged out of an Ethiopian orphanage, is challenging churches and individuals to think differently about adoption in Ethiopia. Listen to this powerful story—

Belay, along with Mike & Tinsu, share an impactful story of adoption in Ethiopia

Belay’s Story

Belay was born the fourth of six children into a very poor but loving family.

When he was eight years old, Belay heard his neighbors fighting. He watched as his mother tried to intervene and was killed in the process. False charges were then made against his father who was taken to prison. In Belay’s words—

“From a young age, I was in charge of raising my two younger brothers. We resorted to begging on the streets out of desperation. On many days we went without food.”

So when Belay was ten, he and his brothers were taken to a Christian orphanage. He says—

“After a few weeks, I was given something precious; I was introduced to the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and my everlasting Father. On Christmas eve, I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.”

Despite a deep desire to be adopted into a family, Belay would age out of the orphanage at age 18 with a backpack, $20, and a Bible. But God was working in his life, preparing him to do something important for the Kingdom—

God started revealing His calling for me to care for the fatherless in Ethiopia.

So he went to Bible College in South Africa. And after 3 years, he returned home to start reaching orphaned and vulnerable kids. He would start a ministry called Hope for the Fatherless.

The Crisis

Ethiopia has one of the largest orphan populations in the world. While the reasons are complex, two contributing factors include—

1. Crippling Poverty

While Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, millions of Ethiopians still live in extreme poverty. According to current MacroTrends, the number of people who live on less than $5.50 a day still hovers at 90%. Meaning many families simply cannot care for their children, let alone additional children in crisis.

2. Current Cultural Mindset

For many Ethiopians, adopting a child locally is still heavily stigmatized, and in some areas of the country, community members discourage each other from adopting.

Belay explains—

“There isn’t even a right word for adoption in our national language.”

Additionally, inter-country adoptions are not currently possible between Ethiopia and the United States. According to NPR, as recently as 2011, “Ethiopia was second only to China as the most popular country for adoptions by Americans.” But in 2018, inter-country adoption was banned.

So in 2017, Belay began with a simple vision of seeing children thriving in families instead of being cared for in institutions. Today, he is partnering with likeminded advocates to bring a paradigm shift in Ethiopian churches, government, and community. 

And what God is doing is nothing short of amazing.

Beginning the Movement of Adoption in Ethiopia

Ultimately, the answer to the orphan crisis is children being cherished members of thriving families instead of being cared for in institutions.

So in addition to working to address ongoing root causes of poverty and trauma that lead to growing populations of vulnerable children and families, Belay and Hope for the Fatherless in Ethiopia are partnering with local communities to develop a culture that cares for orphaned and vulnerable kids.

Today, they are working to place children in families through—

  • reunification
  • kinship placement
  • domestic adoption

Hope for the Fatherless has already helped 17 Ethiopian children find places in families like Mike and Tinsu’s through domestic adoption, and around 70 more families are now trained to be adoptive families.

“The Bible says God places the lonely in a family. It doesn’t say in an orphanage. So when we take a child from an orphanage and bring family together, I think we’re celebrating life.”

—Belay Gebru

What’s next in Ethiopia?

Last year, Lifesong was honored to partner with Hope for the Fatherless to continue this important work of cultivating a culture of adoption in Ethiopia.

In the next three years, the goal is to take over 300 orphaned or abandoned children out of the government orphanage and place them into loving, Christian families through domestic Ethiopian adoption. Additionally, the team is working to:

  • train potential adoptive families with trauma-informed care
  • complete detailed assessments of the children and what is needed to help them thrive
  • create support groups and provide regular opportunities to meet

“God changed my misery into ministry. And now I can make God known to many more orphans, beginning a movement of local adoption in Ethiopia.”

—Belay Gebru

Your part in this story

In addition to the grace of God, faithful partners like you are key to sustaining this exciting initiative in Ethiopia.

When you give and pray, you become an important part of transforming the lives of orphaned and vulnerable kids.

Where there was no hope, there is now hope in abundance. And ultimately, your gift provides this hope for the fatherless.

Give the gift of family.

When you give to support adoption, you help families bring children home.