In a column written for the Cambodia Herald on March 9, 2014
, the U.S. Ambassador discussed the recent progress between the U.S. and Cambodia toward restarting inter-country adoptions. After summarizing recent meetings and plans, Ambassador Todd emphasized that more work needs to be done before the U.S. ban can be lifted.
"While Cambodia is justifiably proud of its achievements since passing its 2009 Intercountry Adoption Law, this is not the time to rest, but rather to re-double efforts to ensure that the implementation of the new adoption regulations is successful. It is imperative that a comprehensive case-management system be in operation before intercountry adoptions resume in order to track children who may be eligible for adoption and match them with prospective parents. Also, a case-management system helps combat trafficking by clearly documenting how a child came into alternative care and ensuring that the child’s biological parents, if alive, have knowingly consented to the child’s adoption. The Hague Convention’s requirement that due consideration be given to domestic adoption before pursuing intercountry adoption can also be documented through a good case-management system. The Cambodian government must also look to hire a larger cadre of professionally trained and experienced social workers to ensure proper management of this system."
Read the full column here
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