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.
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong discussed Friday American adoptions of Cambodian children with United States Senator Mary Landrieu.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he said resumed adoptions required measures to prevent child trafficking.
Landrieu meanwhile announced a $1 million donation from the Senate to help Cambodian orphans.
"In August 2012, the government of Cambodia announced plans to resume inter-country adoptions at the start of this year, following the guidelines agreed upon in the Hague Convention, which states that, “the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding…”
Ideally, we believe the best place for a child is with his or her parents, or with extended family members. If this is not possible, however, we believe adoptions should be available to ensure children have an opportunity to grow up in a family setting. Since 2008, the United States has worked within the framework of the Hague Convention whenever considering any inter-country adoption. We do this to safeguard the interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents.
When inter-country adoptions previously were allowed in Cambodia, there were several challenges that made it very difficult to proceed with confidence. Those challenges included determining legal custody of children and the verification of birth records. In light of these problems, we stopped accepting new adoption cases in 2004. Cambodia also recognized these problems, and I commend the government for implementing its own suspension of such adoptions in 2009. This highlights our shared commitment of ensuring the well-being of children.
Since 2009, the U.S. government has strongly supported Cambodia’s efforts to develop an adoption process that meets the requirements of the Hague Convention. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) has also focused considerable effort on this issue. I’m very happy to say that significant progress has been made.
You have probably heard, however, that the U.S. has determined that it will not begin to accept applications for new adoptions at this time. This decision follows a careful review of the current state of readiness to again begin adoptions. This review highlighted the substantial progress made, but also pointed out the work that needs to be done before adoptions between our two countries can resume. Key elements that remain outstanding include: criteria for determining that children are eligible; establishment of a case management system to track children; additional training with staff; and criteria for adoption agencies.
The United States continues to work closely with the ministries to ensure that the well-being of Cambodian children remains a top priority, and we look forward to welcoming a delegation of Cambodian officials to the United States later this year to work directly with our adoption authority in Washington, DC. Our hand-in-hand efforts will, without doubt, ensure Cambodia is able to implement a model system, so that when inter-country adoptions do resume between our two countries, we can all be sure that the health, safety, and well-being of the children continue to come first."