There are reasons like extreme poverty as we expected but we learned a couple interesting things about their culture and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Their culture (and I think this is prevalent in Africa, not just Ethiopia) believes that it is wrong for a husband to have s*x with his wife while she is pregnant. Therefore, it is deemed “acceptable” for him to go and satisfy his needs elsewhere and this is when he often contracts HIV/AIDS.
The child is born (HIV free, of course) and then the husband and wife resume s*exual relations and he, of course, passes the disease on to her. Months down the road he gets sick and the wife suddenly realizes that she too probably has HIV/AIDS and after her husband dies is left to find someone who will care for her children.
We got to watch an interview with two separate women who had come into the AWOP offices in Ethiopia in hopes that they would find someone to take their kids. It was heart wrenching to watch this mom’s despair and hope combined. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.
One mom brought in her 3 oldest (of 5) children – a 15 yr old boy and two siblings. She wanted homes for them and would keep the younger children with her. In a second meeting they told her they found a home for the two youngest kids but the family did not want the older boy. They boy said he would give up his chance for a life in America if it meant his siblings could go. But the mother held on and said that wasn’t acceptable. Luckily they found another family that would take all 3.
Another interesting cultural tradition that contributes to adoptable kids has to do with remarriage. If her husband dies and a woman finds a man to whom she can marry, he WILL NOT accept her kids and she has to give them up. In the opposite case, if it is the father who is widowed, he can bring the kids into a new marriage but most likely they will be severely abused by their stepmother because they are not her own.