A new report from the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) entitled "Africa: The New Frontier for Intercountry Adoption," says the trend indicates that receiving countries are turning "en masse" to Africa to meet demand for adoptive children as international adoptions declined worldwide.
Companies or individuals may be tempted by the fees adoptive parents pay -- as much as $14,500. Many children adopted from Africa are so young that it seems unlikely their home countries have thoroughly checked that adoption abroad is the best option.
"It must at all costs be discouraged. It should be a last resort and an exception rather than the normal recourse to solving the situation of children in difficult circumstances, as it seems to have now become," said David Mugawe, executive director of the ACPF in a press statement.
The group says that the lack of regulation combined with the promise of money from abroad had turned children into "commodities in the graying and increasingly amoral world of intercountry adoption."
"Due to the illegal nature of these acts, it has been difficult to properly document them, but it is known that there have been cases of children sold by their parents, and children abducted and later trafficked or even placed for adoption because wrongly considered orphans," said Najat M'jid Maalla, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The ACPF is urging African leaders to seek family-based, national solutions to care for the estimated 58 million children on the continent who have been orphaned by war, famine and disease.
"Every child should have an inalienable right to be nurtured and reared in the country and culture in which they are born," Mugawe said.
In the eight years from 2003 to 2010, more than half of the children adopted from Africa came from Ethiopia, which has not ratified the 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
Compliance with the Convention typically leads to a fall in adoption from those countries as they work to satisfy demands for greater transparency, the ACPF said.
"Demand transfers to other countries where Hague protections do not exist and where, all too often, the authorities are totally unprepared to cope with the sudden influx of applications and are unable to apply basic child protection safeguards," the report said.
The U.S. State Department said it continues to find Ethiopian families that have been told the child will return at age 18. Even if families hear their children are being adopted, the idea is so removed from many cultures that parents may not understand that they are losing their children for good.