Archive for April, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam – Vietnam is ending a baby adoption agreement with the United States after being accused of allowing corruption and baby-selling, officials said Monday.

The agreement was being considered for renewal but the two sides remained far apart over revisions, said Vu Duc Long, director of Vietnam’s International Adoption Agency. The agreement expires on Sep. 1.

The decision not to renew the pact was made after the U.S. embassy in Hanoi released a report earlier this month alleging pervasive corruption and baby-selling in Vietnam’s adoption system.

The allegations were “unfair,” Long said. “They can say whatever they want, but we are not going to renew it.”

In a letter sent to the U.S. embassy in Hanoi on April 25, Vietnam said it will stop taking adoption applications from American families after July 1, but will continue to process applications of families who are matched with babies before July 1 until the agreement expires.

The decision will also lead to the closure of 42 U.S. adoption agencies operating in Vietnam, Long said.

The U.S. suspended all adoptions from Vietnam in 2003, also over concerns about corruption. A bilateral agreement between the two countries was resumed in 2006.

Since then adoptions from Vietnam have boomed with more than 1,200 Vietnamese children being adopted by Americans over the 18 months ending March 31. In 2007 alone, Americans adopted 828 Vietnamese children.

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Adopted Children Immigrant Visa Unit

Summary of Irregularities in Adoptions in Vietnam

On October 25, 2007 in response to “growing concerns about irregularities in the methods used to identify children for adoption in Vietnam and the resulting difficulties in classifying those children as orphans,” USCIS required that I-600 petitions be filed in Ho Chi Minh City, with the processing of these petitions to be completed before prospective adoptive parents travel to Vietnam. These procedures enable USCIS to determine whether a child qualifies as an orphan, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act. In the six months since this program was instituted, US officials in Vietnam have investigated over 300 I-600 petitions. This report presents a summary of our findings.

Country Fraud Profile

Vietnam is considered to be a high risk country for immigration fraud according to the Department of State. Fraudulent documents are routinely submitted by Vietnamese applicants in both non-immigrant and immigrant visa applications. These include both documents that have been fabricated outright and official documents issued improperly or based on incorrect information. Birth certificates, household registry documents, and marriage certificates can easily be purchased from corrupt local government officials or brokers. Marriage fraud, in order to obtain immigration benefits, is common and has resulted in multiple arrests in the United States.

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Vietnamese official discredits US criticism of adoption system

A senior government official Saturday rejected a US embassy report criticizing the Vietnamese adoption system.

Vu Duc Long, director of the Justice Ministry’s Department of International Adoptions, said the allegations in the US Embassy report were “groundless” and “unreliable.”

US authorities “did not cooperate with their Vietnamese counterparts in its investigation,” Long said.

The report, released Friday, claimed the Vietnamese adoption system was riddled with corruption and fraud.

The report, written after a review of hundreds of adoptions by US citizens since 2006, said there was evidence of baby-selling in Vietnam.

The two countries agreed to resume the practice of inter-country adoptions in 2006.

In the 18-month period ending March 31, Americans – including actress Angelina Jolie – adopted more than 1,200 Vietnamese children.

A bilateral agreement on adoptions, which was signed in 2005, will expire on September 1.

Long said the US would use the report as a reason for not extending the adoption agreement.

The Associated Press (AP) quoted Long as saying bribery of orphanage officials may occur but serious offenses such as baby-selling or kidnapping were not a problem.

US adoption agencies active in Vietnam told AP that most adoptions in the country were ethical.

Already, the US embassy’s concerns “have left scores of Vietnamese adoptions in limbo,” the AP report said.

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By Thomas Bell, South East Asia Correspondent

Last Updated: 5:50pm BST 25/04/2008

Vietnamese babies are being kidnapped, bought and stolen from their parents then – in effect – sold for adoption in America, Britain and other Western countries, according to a new investigation.

In some cases hospitals have sent babies to orphanages for adoption after their parents were unable to pay medical bills.

In another, a grandmother sent a baby girl for adoption without informing her parents. The child was reunited with its mother following embassy enquiries.

The report by the US embassy in Hanoi states: “In five provinces, we discovered unlicensed, unregulated facilities that provide free room and board to pregnant women in return for their commitment to relinquish their children upon birth.”

Fraudulent documents then record that the baby was “deserted”. If the mother has a change of heart she must repay the facility for the accommodation she received.

More commonly, parents are persuaded by health officials or orphanage staff to place their children in orphanages in exchange for a typical payment of around £190. They are often told they can visit the child regularly or that it will be returned to them after a few years.

“In a terrifying number of cases the parents had no idea that they would never see their child again,” said Angela Aggeler, the embassy spokeswoman.

Forty-two American adoption agencies are licensed by the Vietnamese government. Many note on their websites that they make charitable donations to orphanages in the country or fund them outright. The average cost in official fees and travel expenses quoted to would-be adoptive parents is around £12,000.

According to the report, donations to the orphanages often amount to a kind of finder’s fee. One orphanage surveyed, “receives a fixed monthly donation for each child in the orphanage who is available for international adoption and the payment is made in cash directly to the orphanage director.

“This orphanage has seen the number of infants in its care increase by more than 2000 per cent in the past year, but it has not made significant increases in staff,” the report states.

Some adoption agencies flew the government officials who licensed them to the United States for shopping trips – and paid for their shopping.

Vietnam’s top adoption official, Vu Doc Long, called the report’s allegations “groundless” and rejected DNA testing or spot-checks on orphanages as an “unacceptable” way to reduce the problem.

Last year 828 Vietnamese children were adopted to America and this year is on course to exceed that figure. Other common destination countries include Ireland, Canada and France. A British consular official said the number of Vietnamese children adopted to Britain averages under 10 a year.

In 2007 Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt adopted their fourth child from Vietnam, but there is no suggestion of impropriety in their case.

Ms Aggaler said she believes the growing popularity of American adoptions from Vietnam reflects the huge number of American couples anxious to adopt, rather than people following Ms Jolie’s example.

The agreement allowing American adoptions from Vietnam is due to expire in September and may not be renewed if the problems are not addressed.

“We are very committed to international adoption,” said Ms Aggeler. “We just want to make sure that no child is not really an orphan.”

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pic by sume


I don’t know how long I stood there, in front of the mirror, looking for my father’s features. There must be something there, a hint in the shape of my nose or the curve of my jaw. Surely I’d be able to find some distinguishable feature that would verify at least half of my genetics could be be accounted for. He was my father and fathers do not lie. At least that’s what I told myself as I traced lines upon my face, the tip of my finger growing numb to the touch of my own skin.

The breakdown of trust between my father and I and its unintended consequences have been one of the most emotionally draining to explore and convey. I used to think that love and trust between parents and their children was all you needed to build a solid relationship between the two. All else, whether it be communication, respect, loyalty or honesty could be built upon those two elements. It was also my thinking that if one, either love or trust, were ever challenged or even totally destroyed, the other would help to repair the damage. Sadly, I’m finding that this is not necessarily the case.

I still love my father, but it has done little to help re-establish the level of trust I once afforded him. Knowing and understanding the depth of his deceptions and the manipulative intentions behind them, has irreparably damaged my perception of his integrity. Furthermore, discovering his manipulative use of my mother’s “memory” filled me with such shock and disgust that it destroyed any sense of admiration I might have held.

At this point, I’m aware that some elaboration is necessary, but feel that doing so would bring too much focus upon my father’s actions. Writing about this will inevitably point fingers at him, however, at this point, I’ve chosen to put more of my energy into trying to understand the consequences rather than the actions themselves. Trying to further explain why he withheld the truth and flat-out lied about my adoption would require a great amount of speculation on my part. The exact reasons behind his choices are ultimately his to tell, and he has chosen not to explain himself.

I’m not sure I’d believe him even if he did suddenly decided to elaborate on what he meant by, “I had my reasons.” People keep telling me I shouldn’t let it take away from the good things he’s done. They say I should find some way to forgive and let it go. “It was a long time ago, and I’m sure he meant well,” seems to be their main defense. I don’t know how to get it through to them that I’ve already forgiven his actions. It’s not a matter of forgiveness now, but of trust and how its absence negatively affects our relationship.

The loss of faith in the only father I’ve ever known feels comparable to the sense of loss I feel when I think of Má. I was never allowed to know her and suddenly feel as if I never really knew him. He has widened the distance between us, and the resulting sense of betrayal has given me little cause to bridge the gap. The search for more meaningful relationships has taken me in the opposite direction as I search to fill the vacuum. Fortunately for me, I was able to establish and maintain relationships without trust becoming an issue. That is the amazing thing.

The ability to trust can prove surprisingly resilient even after repeated bombardments of disappointment. The resilience seems born from necessity since the growth and solidifying of a relationship, whether between parent and child, friends or lovers, depends on at least some level of trust. In very early childhood, one would think it’s just natural to trust one’s parents but these days, I question whether it could truly be called trust as I know it today.

While bonding with my parents may have been an early indication of my growing in that direction, the concept of trust wasn’t a conscious idea. Even then, I don’t think you could really call it trust in the way you’d refer to it with an adult. To me, real trust requires some amount of judgment, knowing who you can and cannot trust and understanding why. What I had with my parents in those early days was based on naiveté. I simply didn’t know anything better. Was it nothing more than attachment?

There were many reasons the subject of trust interests me. One was that I wanted to understand how my relationship with my parents might have contributed, if at all, to my own concepts of trust now. Another was spurred by reading an article in which an adoptive parent stated she felt her daughter thought she needed “permission” to express her feelings about her “birth” mother. There was something about using the word “permission” that angered me.

Thinking about it in terms of granting permission suggests that the adoptive mother exercised her power over her adopted daughter and allowed her to express her feelings. Talking about their adoptions is something every adoptee has the right to do, and that should be made clear from the beginning. I thought back to my own experiences and wanted to suggest to the author that an adoptee’s reluctance to discuss their adoptions should often be thought of in terms of trust.

I didn’t share that level of trust with my parents. It wasn’t because they were awful people, but because I didn’t think they could deal with it. I didn’t want to hurt them, didn’t want to make them feel bad or make them think of me in a negative way. Their approval and acceptance was important to me, and I didn’t want to endanger that. I didn’t trust that they would be able to just listen rather than tell me how I should think and feel.

My solution was to turn to people I thought I could count on, the result of which further isolated them from that part of my life. I think that was the beginning of that “dual existence” many of my fellow adoptees refer to when discussing their “adopted selves” and their “normal selves.” That’s not to say that I think adoptive parents should pump themselves up with enthusiasm and rush their children to talk about their feelings.

I think adoptees should be made to feel empowered to speak about their adoptions. Too much parental pushing would seem to have the opposite effect. Besides, one would hope that if a deep level of trust is first established as simply parent and child, the bond would naturally extend to one between adoptive parent and child. By that, I mean one need not overly stress adoption in very early childhood but rather concentrate on establishing and maintaining a solid parent/child bond as a foundation.

I think if my parents had stressed my adoption too much, I would have felt more like an outsider than I already had. Too little gave me the impression my adoption wasn’t open for discussion, that I should somehow be ashamed of it. All that said, I don’t think I would have been comfortable sharing everything with my parents even under the most idea circumstances.

Sometimes, parents whether adoptive or not, have to give their children room to grow on their own. We have to trust that our children will figure out some things for themselves. Within reasonable limits, isn’t it only right to have the same faith in our children that we ask them to have in us?

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April 2008

The Department of State continues to urge prospective adoptive parents and adoption service providers not to initiate new adoptions from Vietnam at this time. The 2005 Memorandum of Agreement, required by Vietnamese law to authorize adoptions between the United States and Vietnam, expires on September 1, 2008. In addition, recent field investigations have revealed incidents of serious adoption irregularities, including forged or altered documentation, mothers paid, coerced or tricked into releasing their children, and children offered for adoption without the knowledge or consent of their birth parents.

The United States is strongly committed to processing legitimate intercountry adoptions from Vietnam if possible. Our primary concern is to ensure that the children and families involved in the adoption process are protected from exploitation. The Government of Vietnam shares this concern. Both countries acknowledge that more needs to be done to address deficiencies in the current system.

On April 25, the Government of Vietnam announced that it will allow adoption to be completed in cases where prospective adoptive parents have been matched with a child and received an official referral prior to September 1, 2008. It further stated that in accordance with Vietnamese law, the DIA will suspend the acceptance of new dossiers on July 1, 2008. On September 1, 2008 any dossier that has not received a referral will be closed and returned to the Adoption Service Provider. In view of the processing time required in Vietnam from placement to the Giving and Receiving Ceremony, an adoption process begun now cannot be completed before the current Agreement expires.

Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that documents relating to adoptions in Vietnam, such as birth certificates, abandonment reports, relinquishment agreements, and investigative reports are generally issued by orphanage directors, local People’s Committees, Provincial Departments and the Department for International Adoptions (DIA). The facts asserted in these documents are not verified by the issuing officials. Attempts by U.S. officials to verify the accuracy of these documents have routinely uncovered evidence of fraudulent or inaccurate information. Therefore, documents issued by the authorities listed above, and any other documents containing information not verified by the issuing authority, cannot be considered adequate evidence of the facts claimed. They may be used in conjunction with primary and contemporaneous secondary evidence, or must be independently verified by U.S. officials in Vietnam, before they can be considered valid for immigration purposes. (http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/reciprocity/reciprocity_3705.html)

Consular officers have routinely completed field verifications of orphan status in over 35 provinces in Vietnam. However, in some cases, Vietnamese officials have prevented the U.S. Government from conducting independent field inquiries into the status of children identified in I-600 petitions. Embassy outreach, as well as support from adoption agency officials, have thus far allowed independent investigations to resume in some areas that were previously impeded. We continue robust efforts to resolve this issue. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict when we can complete the field inquiries in areas which are still closed to our staff.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Department of State have instituted procedures to verify that children identified for placement meet the requirements of Vietnamese and U.S. law, before the child has been adopted under Vietnamese law. Information about these procedures is available from USCIS or through their website http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis. The Embassy strongly advises prospective adoptive parents not to travel to Vietnam until they have received notification from the Embassy that their case is ready for final processing and travel is appropriate. Parents should contact the Embassy immediately if anyone, including their adoption service provider, encourages them to travel to Vietnam prior to receiving this notification. The Embassy can work together with adoption service providers, Vietnam’s Department of International Adoptions, and local authorities to resolve issues such as the scheduling of a Giving and Receiving Ceremony.

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AP Exclusive: US report alleges baby-selling, corruption in adoptions from Vietnam

By BEN STOCKING Associated Press Writer
HANOI, Vietnam Apr 24, 2008 (AP)

Vietnam has failed to police its adoption system, allowing corruption, fraud and baby-selling to flourish, the U.S. Embassy says in a new report obtained by The Associated Press.

The nine-page document describes brokers scouring villages for babies, hospitals selling infants whose mothers cannot pay their bills, and a grandmother giving away her grandchild — without telling the child’s mother.

“I’m shocked and deeply troubled by the worst of the worst cases,” said Jonathan Aloisi, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.

Vietnam’s top adoption official called the concerns “groundless.” Bribery of orphanage officials may occur, but serious offenses such as baby-selling or kidnapping are not a problem, said Vu Duc Long, director of the Department of International Adoptions.

The dispute comes amid a boom in adoptions from Vietnam. Americans — including actress Angelina Jolie — adopted more than 1,200 Vietnamese children over the 18 months ending March 31. In 2007, adoptions surged more than 400 percent from a year earlier, with 828 Vietnamese children adopted by American families.

While China remains the most popular overseas country for adoptions, a growing number of Americans are looking to Vietnam, which has fewer restrictions. The wait for adoption approval has also gotten longer in China after authorities there tightened rules.

U.S. adoption agencies active in Vietnam said that despite some cases of wrongdoing, most adoptions in the country are ethical.

“Our experience has been a good one,” said Susan Cox, vice president of public policy with Holt International Children’s Services, based in Eugene, Ore., which has operated in Vietnam since the 1970s. “We are concerned about any unethical practices, but I would not agree that these cases are indicative of adoptions in Vietnam.”

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Many people involved in Vietnamese adoptions strictly adhere to adoption laws, U.S. officials say.

But others have been flooding the system with cash to get babies for American parents, who pay up to $25,000 for an adoption.

With 42 U.S. adoption agencies licensed in Vietnam, the competition for babies is intense.

Some agencies have been paying orphanage directors $10,000 per referral, the report says, and some have taken orphanage directors on shopping sprees and junkets to the United States in return for a steady flow of babies.

“Adoption service providers have reported that cash and in-kind donations have been diverted by orphanage officials and used to finance personal property, private cars, jewelry, and in one case, a commercial real estate development,” the report says.

Aloisi gave the AP a list of 10 particularly egregious cases, including the grandmother who gave away her grandchild.

The mother, working in another province for several weeks, had left the baby with her mother-in-law. She returned to discover the baby had been given up for adoption. Eventually, she got the baby back after U.S. officials uncovered the ruse during investigations as part of the U.S, visa approval process.

In another case, a baby was allegedly taken by hospital officials and turned over for adoption because the mother couldn’t afford to pay her $750 hospital bill.

Hospital officials had inflated the bill, claiming the child had serious health problems. U.S. Embassy officials say they discovered the child was healthy. Again, the child was returned to its birth mother.

The report also says some orphanages have pressured birth mothers to give up their babies in return for about $450 — nearly a year’s salary for many.

The problems have prompted U.S. officials to seek revisions before renewing the adoption agreement, including DNA tests for birth mothers and permission to conduct surprise investigations in provinces arranging U.S. adoptions.

full article here

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Fellow Vietnamese adoptee, Erik Chau shares some of his first trip back to Việt Nam.

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