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Cambodian Adoption 
Frequently Asked Questions

In international adoption the process, fees, and people involved varies from country to country.  The following are some FAQ's about adopting from Cambodia.

1. What are the basic steps in the Cambodian adoption process?
2. What is the "foreign fee"? What is it used for?
3.  What role does the facilitator play in the adoption?        
4.  What role does the Cambodian government have?
5.  What is the difference between a private orphanage and a government orphanage?
6.  What are the differences between agency, independent and semi-independent adoptions?

1.  What are the basic steps in the Cambodian adoption process? 

  • The first thing you will need to do is assemble your dossier.  That is your pile of paperwork - the INS forms, fingerprinting, home study, birth/marriage/divorce certificates, honorable letters, etc.  If you work with an agency, they will give you a list of all of the paperwork - and forms for the specialized paperwork.  

  • When your dossier is completed and turned into your agency, you wait for your INS approval (the I171H).  When that arrives, your agency can give you a referral.  (Note:  this may vary by agency, some may give a referral before you have your I171 in hand)

  • Your referral will generally be one (or more) photo(s) of your child, as well as a medical report.  After you review the report (usually within 24 hours) you then officially accept your referral.

  • Next, your agency will send your dossier to your facilitator in Cambodia (note: dossier may be sent as soon as you have the I171H, before you have officially accepted the referral)

  • When your facilitator receives the dossier, s/he takes it to be translated.  

  • Then the facilitator goes to the embassy to pick up your release letter (aka Cable 37 letter).  This is a one page document issued by the embassy saying they have received notice of your INS approval to adopt.

  • The facilitator then takes your translated dossier with the release letter to the Cambodian Ministers.  There are two ministries who consider the adoption - one looks at you, the other looks at the referred child.  When you receive approval it is for the complete adoption - then you just need to go to the receiving ceremony when you get to Cambodia for the adoption to be finalized.

  • It generally takes about a month to receive Cambodian approval.  At that time, you then need to make an appointment with the American Embassy for your child's visa.

  • Once you have the visa appointment, you can make your travel plans!

  • When you arrive in Cambodia, your driver will take you to the orphanage to be united with your child.

    • With your child, you will go to what is commonly called the "Giving and Receiving Ceremony".  You meet with a ministry official, your child's finger or foot print is taken, you receive the final adoption decree and then they take an "official" family photo for the Cambodian government's records.

    A child being fingerprinted at the
    "Giving and Receiving Ceremony"

  • Finally parents need to go to the U.S. Embassy to apply for their child's visa.  The current process is to go to apply and then pick up the visa either later in the day or the following day.  However, the processing of visas is being moved to the Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand as of February 1, 2002.  The exact process has not been determined yet, but check back for answers as they become available.

  • Once you have your child's visa, you are free to return to America.  As soon as you land on American soil, your child automatically becomes a citizen!


2.  What is the "foreign fee"?  What is it used for?


     The answer to this question varies slightly by agency, so it is a good question to ask during your selection process.  In general, the following things may be paid for with the foreign fee:

  • Legal/attorney costs

  • Permits

  • Registration

  • Medical exams

  • Translation

  • Certification of all documents and in-country coordination services

  • Humanitarian aide (This portion of the fee can be used for agency-hosted projects or for facilitator-hosted projects.)

  • Facilitator salary
  • Salary of the facilitator's staff.  Facilitators have several assistants who rely on them for their livelihood and are paid with the foreign fee.
  • Nanny salary.  Although nannies get paid very little (which is why they rely so heavily on donations by adoptive parents), they might be paid with this fee -- depending on the set-up of the agency/facilitator.  For instance, if a facilitator has his/her own orphanage, he would be solely responsible for their salary.  If the nanny is the employee of a government orphanage, that may not be the case.  However, sometimes facilitators will bring one of "their" nannies into the government orphanages in order to give "their" children the best possible care and to ensure a nanny to child ratio of 1:1 or 1:2.
  • Care of the children.  Food, clothes, medicine, medical appointments, social activities for all of the waiting children in the facilitator's care.  Even if the facilitator only places children out of government-run orphanages, they will provide for the child who has been charged to them.  Also, some agencies sponsor entire government orphanages.  
  • Government donation.  The sub decree states that a donation to the Cambodian government can be made by adoptive parents in order to care for all of the other orphans in the country.  It isn't mandatory.  However, most agencies/facilitators do hold back a portion of the foreign fee for this purpose. 


3.  What role does the facilitator play in the adoption?        

  • To notify the American agency of any changes that have occurred on the Cambodian side of things.
  • When a dossier is received, to take that dossier to the US Embassy and receive the release letter (stating that the family is INS approved) needed to start Cambodian processing.
  • When the release letter is received, to hand deliver the dossier to the first of three ministries that will review the paperwork.
  • Follow the progress of the dossier as it travels through the ministries.  Some facilitators notify the US agency of progress and some do not.
  • To notify the US agency (thereby the waiting family) when "Cam. Approval" is received.  This is NOT a final adoption decree, but it means that the family and child has been approved for placement.  The final adoption decree isn't signed until the "Giving and Receiving Ceremony", but that ceremony is truly just a formality.  After you have received Cam. Approval, your adoption won't be denied.
  • To help verify that a family's Cable 37 was in fact received by the embassy.
  • To help the family and/or US agency in confirming a Visa Appointment.
  • To provide a driver for the family once in Cambodia and to make sure they are available to the family if they should need anything in Cambodia.  Most facilitators will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel.  They will also immediately give you contact information.
  • To make arrangements for a family's hotel stay.
  • To accompany the family to the US Embassy for their child's visa interview.  
  • To locate children that are available for international adoption (either through a privately owned orphanage that they sponsor or through government orphanages).
  • To take and develop photos of the children that are in their care.
  • To get appropriate medical testing done on the children.  This testing should include blood work and a physical exam.
  • To fax the medical information to the US agency who will be placing the child.
  • To ensure that the children in their care are taken to the doctor if an medical need should arise (scabies, cold, etc.).
  • To make sure that the children are cared for by a nanny who has no more than two children in their care.
  • To deliver Post Placement reports to the appropriate authorities.
  • Probably a lot of other things that the facilitators are too humble to share with us!  Lots of paperwork and record keeping, etc.


4.  What role does the Cambodian government have?       

  • To make sure that the child who is to be adopted meets their definition of an orphan who may be adopted by those outside of the country.
  • To make sure that the family who is adopting meets the standards set forth by the most current version of the Adoption Sub decree.
  • To make sure that all required paperwork is there, and in appropriate order.
  • To approve both the family and the child as a "Match" (Cam. Approval)
  • To hold the "Giving and Receiving Ceremony" and to provide the final Adoption Decree at that time.
  • To review the Post-Placement reports sent annually to the Cambodian Government by those that have already adopted.
  • To ensure a minimal standard of care for orphans who reside in government orphanages.
  • To do all of this in a timely manner - A dossier should take no longer than 12 weeks to travel through all three ministries (although in practice it usually takes much less time than that).  The 12 week timeline was set forth in the Adoption Sub decree.


5.  What is the difference between a private orphanage and a government orphanage?

    Private orphanages are privately owned and run, whereas government orphanages are financed by the government.  Private orphanages get their funds from adoptions and private donations, among other sources.  Government orphanages are given $4/month for each orphan.  Some agencies and facilitators that work with government orphanages provide additional funding and/or staff.  All children are assigned to orphanages by the government, regardless of whether the orphanage is privately or government run.


6.  What are the differences between agency, independent and semi-independent adoptions?

answer coming soon!





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