A recent visit by members of Ankestyrelse, the national social appeals board, to the Enat Alem orphanage in Ethiopia revealed conditions so deplorable that the social and integration minister, Karen Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne) has instituted an immediate and seemingly permanent halt on adoptions from the home.
Inspectors returned from their mission with tales of children deprived of food, basic care and medical treatment. According to the Integration Ministry website, the home has since 2009 sent 20 children to be adopted in Denmark through the agency DanAdopt.
Adoptions from the home were suspended last November due to reports of problems at the institution.
In a letter sent to DanAdopt, Ankestyrelse and Hækkerup it said that the orphanage’s operation was "contrary to fundamental ethical principles'.
"We must be absolutely sure that the children we accept have been released for international adoption, that the adoption is best for the child, and that all opportunities at home have been investigated," said Hækkerup.
The letter stated that Enat Alem was operating in violation of existing Ethiopian regulations.
Mette Garnæs, a consultant to DanAdopt, told Politiken newspaper that the agency was unaware of the home's conditions.
"We've never observed that children did not have food or supplies," Garnæs said. “We are therefore quite shocked.”
Danes saw an example of the questionable conditions at Enat Alem in the recent film 'Mercy, Mercy – adoptionens pris' (Mercy, Mercy – the price of adoption). The film followed the excruciating adoption process of a child named Mashos. There are scenes showing the orphanage's director promising the girl’s biological parents that she and her brother would receive excellent educations in Denmark and then be sent back to Ethiopia to help her biological family.
At the time the film was shown, DanAdopt explained what appeared to be the director's outright lies as “cultural differences”. Hækkerup said that DanAdopt’s explanation does not excuse the "unethical and unacceptable" behaviour.
DanAdopt announced that it agrees with Hækkerup’s decision and is "looking with utmost seriousness" at the new information.
The appeals board stressed that it is not finished with its investigation and that additional information and charges may be forthcoming.
The letter sent by Ankestyrelse to DanAdopt is here, in Danish.