The Department of State’s Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Ambassador Susan Jacobs, met with Cambodian adoption officials in Cambodia on January 9 and 10. The Ambassador met with key officials in several Cambodian ministries and authorities that will implement intercountry adoptions once Cambodia resumes processing intercountry adoptions with other countries, including Cambodia’s Central Authority, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation; the Ministry of Justice, which works with Cambodia’s courts and provides legal advice to the Central Authority; and the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh. Ambassador Jacobs also met with UNICEF and a child protection non-governmental organization to seek their perspectives on Cambodia’s child welfare and protection systems.
During Ambassador Jacobs’ visit, she noted the Royal Government of Cambodia’s significant progress in drafting several procedures that will serve as the legal foundation of Cambodia’s system under the Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention). Cambodia acceded to the Convention in 2007, passed an intercountry adoption law to implement the Convention in 2009, and has since been working to draft and finalize important implementing procedures. These procedures will govern the authorization of foreign accredited adoption service providers, the implementation of relative adoptions, and the definition of special needs, among other areas.
Ambassador Jacobs also obtained clarification on the Cambodian Central Authority’s stated intention to resume intercountry adoptions in 2014. We understand that the Royal Government of Cambodia is preparing for Convention implementation carefully by planning a progressive approach to the resumption of intercountry adoptions. We anticipate that this progressive approach will look first to Cambodia’s state-run institutions and target children with special needs. Cambodian officials did not provide a specific timeline of next steps, though several emphasized the importance of finalizing relevant procedures before intercountry adoptions can begin.
During her visit, Ambassador Jacobs observed key areas of Cambodia’s child welfare and protection system that, if strengthened, would help to ensure that an adoption is ethical, transparent, and in the best interests of each adopted child. This includes regulation of Cambodia’s many unlicensed orphanages, instituting a case management system to identify prospective adoptive children, and duly considering domestic placement options in accordance with the Convention. The Department of State supports the ongoing efforts of the U.S. Agency of International Development and UNICEF to strengthen these and other areas of Cambodia’s child welfare and protection systems.
The Royal Government of Cambodia is not processing intercountry adoptions with other countries at this time. Additionally, the Department of State’s determination not to issue Hague Certificates in adoptions from Cambodia is still in effect. Please see the Department’s January 2, 2013 Notice for further information related to that determination.
The Department of State will continue to publish updates on Cambodian intercountry adoptions on adoption.state.gov. Please direct any questions related to this Notice or Cambodian adoptions to AdoptionUSCA@state.gov, 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States.
In a media note released January 7, 2014, the State Department announced that Special Advisor Susan Jacobs will be traveling to Cambodia to discuss adoptions.
Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs will visit
Vietnam, Cambodia, and China January 8-17.
While in the region, Special Advisor Jacobs will meet with government
officials and non-governmental organizations to discuss the Hague Adoption
Convention and strengthening child protection systems.
Special Advisor Jacobs will visit Cambodia and Vietnam, both of which are in
the process of implementing the Hague Adoption Convention. She will complete her
trip with a visit to China, the top country of origin for intercountry adoptions
to the United States to discuss continued cooperation regarding adoption
In an article from the Washington Post today, Cambodia's Deputy Social Affairs Minister Nim Thoth declared his government's intention to restart international adoptions in 2014.
“I can say that we will definitely make sure the process goes ahead in 2014 — the sooner the better,” Thoth said.
Unicef received the news with guarded enthusiasm:
“UNICEF is pleased that the Government announced its commitments to ensure that resources including human and financial resources are in place to gradually resume new inter-country applications in 2014,” she said in an email Wednesday.
“UNICEF re-emphasizes that essential safeguards to ensure the proper case management of adoptions need to be in place before the resumption of adoptions in Cambodia,” she said, adding that “the resumption of adoptions should therefore take place gradually.”
While the U.S. government spokesman was less optimistic:
If you are an American hoping to adopt from Cambodia, we urge you not to contract with any agency at this time. It is unclear when or if the U.S. will agree to reopen adoptions. Furthermore, the new system may allow only a handful of agencies to facilitate adoptions. Protect your heart and your finances and wait until all the structures are in place.
"U.S. Embassy spokesman John Simmons said the U.S. position is unchanged. The embassy website states that Cambodia does not have adequate child protection mechanisms to allow adoptions to the U.S. to resume."
From the Phnom Penh Post, dated March 29, 2013:
Although anti-trafficking group SISHA last Friday said beatings were among the serious complaints leading to the removal of 21 children from the Love in Action orphanage in Phnom Penh, police said yesterday that they were aware of just one minor instance of physical abuse at the orphanage by a low-ranking staff member.
“A few children had an argument over portions of rice, and a cook very slightly injured them.”
The fact that children were squabbling over food was more indicative of the reasons for the intervention, which included poor management and the orphanage’s unregistered status, he said.
“Therefore, she forwarded her children to the social affairs department . . . We have no information about human trafficking in the orphanage,” he added.
An unregistered Christian-run orphanage in Phnom Penh—from which police last week removed 21 children—could reopen if the Australian NGO that runs it completes the necessary paperwork, an official said Sunday.
A joint operation by authorities and anti-trafficking NGO Sisha on March 22 removed the children from the orphanage—run by Australian charity Love in Action (LIA)—because it was “an unregistered orphanage, unlawful and not approved by any local authority,” anti-trafficking organization Sisha said on Tuesday.
Despite originally claiming the raid was the result of a campaign against the Love in Action orphanage, a spokesman for Bli Bli's Ruth Golder has admitted she called in authorities.
The twist follows statements by Cambodian police, refuting claims made by human rights group SISHA that the children were taken from Ms Golder and her daughter Ruth amidst reports of abuse and drug trafficking.
The Cambodia Daily newspaper quoted Lao Lin, Juvenile Protection Bureau chief at the Interior Ministry's anti-human trafficking department, as saying authorities had received no such complaints.
"We did not go to that orphanage to raid it," he was reported as saying.
"We just went there to receive the children from the director of the centre after she (Ruth Golder) requested that the Phnom Penh Social Affairs Department help the children, because she no longer had the ability to feed the children."
Read the full article: http://www.warwickdailynews.com.au/news/fake-raid-on-orphanage/1820197/
Dozens of orphanages in Cambodia, including some run by Australians, have been accused of exploiting children to attract donations.
The government in Phnom Penh is cracking down on the booming multimillion-dollar orphanage industry after investigators discovered shocking abuses of children and a list has been compiled of centres targeted for raids and closure.
About 72 per cent of the 10,000 children living in Cambodia's estimated 600 orphanages have a parent, although most are portrayed as orphans to capitalise on the goodwill of foreign tourists and volunteers, including thousands of Australians, research shows.
Up to 300 of these centres are operating illegally and flouting a push by government and United Nations agencies for children to be reunited with their parents.
The managers of several respected Australian-run orphanages are alarmed by the situation and note that the number of orphanages has increased 65 per cent in the past five years while the number of orphans has reduced dramatically as Cambodia recovered from genocide, invasion and an AIDS epidemic.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/stealing-a-generation-cambodias-unfolding-tragedy-20130406-2hdy2.html#ixzz2Pk3HTG3S
Responding to complaints of beatings, poor living conditions and suspected human trafficking, authorities working in collaboration with NGOs shut down the unregistered Love in Action
(LIA) orphanage in Phnom Penh on Friday, rescuing 21 children, representatives from NGOs SISHA
and Mlup Russey said.
NGO representatives said yesterday that the joint action, combined with the arrest of a Siem Reap orphanage president the same day on sexual abuse allegations, demonstrates the continuing issues plaguing the Kingdom’s often-unregulated childcare industry.
Meanwhile, anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police said yesterday that the president of the Angkor Orphan & Education Organisation was arrested Friday and charged by the Siem Reap Provincial Court on Saturday with committing indecent acts on two girls, ages 11 and 12, living in his orphanage.
Duong Thavery, chief of the provincial anti-human trafficking office, said that according to the girls, fundraisers and other witnesses, Mon Savuth, 36, had been sleeping in the same room as the girls and sexually abusing them for four months.
“The suspect took the victims to sleep with him every night. He hugged one girl and he removed her clothes, touching his penis with the victim’s sexual organ,” she said.
The police immediately began investigating the case after receiving reports of abuse from Licadho, she said, adding that Savuth denied the charges.
“These tragic incidents serve to reinforce UNICEF and RGC [Royal Government of Cambodia] policies that family and community-based care are the best options for the care of children,” said Denise Shepherd-Johnson, chief of communication for UNICEF Cambodia, via email yesterday.
“Children are at increased risk of physical and sexual abuse in residential care because there are orphanages using staff and volunteers who have not undergone any background checks... and have no specialised training.”
Making matters worse, the “vast majority” of children in orphanages actually have families, said Quade.
Indeed, Quade said, “from preliminary investigations, it seems the majority of the children [from LIA] have families. It’s unclear if any are actually orphans. We’re working with DoSVY [the Department of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation] to trace their families.”
Read the full article here
Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong met with US Senator Mary Loretta Landrieu last Friday to discuss the possibility of resuming foreign adoptions between the two countries, which have been suspended by the US since 2001 amid concerns of baby-buying, fraud and corruption.
Namhong told reporters after the meeting that one of the main roadblocks to lifting the ban was concerns about child-trafficking and reiterated recent government statements that adoptions will be largely limited to children eight years old and younger.
But he said the government was committed to resuming the adoption process between the two countries because officials believe adopted children would be raised well in the US.
Senator Landrieu said she was concerned about children here languishing in orphanages for extended periods of time.
“Children must go to warm families and be raised with a good quality of care,” she said, adding that the US government would be making a donation of $1 million toward improving child welfare in Cambodia.
Read the full article here.
The US Embassy – which has suspended adoptions from the Kingdom since 2001 – has begun to seek applicants for an “InterCountry Adoption Assistant”, though a spokesman denied that there was any plan to lift the ban.
In a job ad placed in a local newspaper yesterday, the embassy said the assistant would “perform all duties involved in immigrant visa processing of children” once adoptions resume.
No date was provided for the resumption, but applications had a deadline of March 7.
But US Embassy officials denied that intercountry adoptions were resuming at this time.
Spokesman Sean McIntosh said the filling of the adoption assistant position had “nothing to do” with the resumption of adoptions.
“Funding for this position has long been in place and we are seeking to fill the position.”
McIntosh said it was “clear” the Kingdom was committed to further progress and did not rule out a future partnership.
Read the full article here.