In The News

July 2015 Article: Foster families lost on path to parenthood

posted Sep 12, 2016, 4:46 PM by Christina C.

Excerpt from "Foster Families Lost On The Path To Parenthood" in the July 25, 2015 edition of the Phnom Penh Post.

"But there is at present no legislation that could make Sotheavy’s relationship with Virak legally binding: with the exception of a handful of placements arranged overwhelmingly by expats in the civil courts using private lawyers, cash and legal loopholes, Cambodia does not have the capacity to process domestic adoption placements between non-relatives. 

Speaking last week at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Oum Sophanara, director of the Child Welfare Department, said that he had lists of adoptable children, and families looking to be matched, but he could do nothing with them.
“I don’t know how to proceed when we complete the children’s documentation,” he said. 

“How can I proceed if I don’t know if the court will proceed with my documents or not?” 

The situation at the Ministry of Justice – which must first rule to clarify the process if it is to be implemented – is unclear.   

According to Sophanara, the ministry is currently working on a “guideline” that will provide a strong enough legal basis to make domestic adoption possible. 

But UNICEF, which is consulting on the guideline (which it terms an “explanatory note”) remains doubtful as to its sturdiness."  

US State Dept. Update Posted Feb. 18, 2016

posted Sep 12, 2016, 4:30 PM by Christina C.   [ updated Sep 12, 2016, 4:31 PM ]

The Royal Government of Cambodia is not processing intercountry adoptions with other countries at this time. The Department of State is still not able to issue Hague Certificates in adoptions from Cambodia. However, the Department continues its efforts to work with the Government of Cambodia to resume intercountry adoption.

In March 2015, Adoption Division Chief Trish Maskew and Special Assistant to the Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Kathy Sacco traveled to Cambodia and met with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth (MOSVY) Inter-country Adoption Administration (ICAA); the Ministry of Justice (MOJ); a group of adoption receiving country representatives; and UNICEF to discuss Cambodia’s desire to memorialize understandings regarding how State Parties seek to process Convention cases.  Ms. Maskew and Ms. Sacco also participated in a multi-day, USAID-hosted Co-Creation Workshop, where 30 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) discussed broad issues related to child welfare, such as the efforts in place to support Cambodian families to care for their children at vulnerable times and find permanent placements for children if they are removed from the family. The Department of State raised the importance of maintaining intercountry adoption as a small but important part of the overall action plan for seeking permanency for Cambodia’s children. The workshop was part of Cambodia’s Family Care First initiative, rooted in the U.S. government’s Action Plan for Children in Adversity.  

Read the full update here.

New Step Towards Adoptions

posted Mar 4, 2015, 10:24 AM by Christina C.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ministry opened the application process for international adoption agencies, as only adoption agencies accredited by receiving countries and licensed by the ministry are allowed to provide inter-country adoption services in Cambodia.

Though the ban on such adoptions was officially lifted in January 2013, Cambodia, lacking an adequate framework, still has not processed any.

Monday’s move is the most recent step in a long, drawn-out attempt to bring order to a process that has, due to weak laws and lax enforcement, been plagued with allegations of human trafficking.


Rithyroath, however, explained that the country wouldn’t be ready to commence adoptions until the ICAA, with the help of UNICEF and other partners, develops a procedure for adoptions within the country – which is expected to be finalised by the end of March – and strengthens its case-management system.

“These checks and balances should ensure that … domestic options have indeed been exhausted and that an inter-country adoption does not result in improper financial gain for those involved; to assess the proposed adopting parents and … be certain that they can care for the child,” UNICEF communication chief Denise Shepherd-Johnson said.

The US, which initiated a case management training program for local officials in 2014, said yesterday in a statement that it has yet to re-up its agreement with Cambodia, but is working to “ensure that when inter-country adoptions to the US do resume, they are ethical, transparent, and in the best interests of each adopted child”.

According to Rithyroath, the first wave of inter-country adoptions will focus on children with special needs, because “maybe the international adoptive parents can help them by giving them better lives in countries with better health systems”.

To read the full article, click HERE.

Government to Start Small as It Moves to End Adoption Ban

posted Mar 4, 2015, 10:20 AM by Christina C.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Social Affairs said in a statement that a series of reforms had equipped it to properly implement the Adoption Law it enacted in 2009, as well as the Hague Adoption Convention signed two years earlier.

“[The ministry] has now opened for duly registered Adoption Agencies in partner countries to apply…for authorization for them to operate inter-country adoption in the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the statement says, adding that the first steps toward an open adoption system would be tentative.

“Cambodia will start…with a small number of children with special needs and this process will start only after all local adoption options are exhausted,” it says.


But according to Roeun Rithyroath, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Social Affairs’ inter-country adoption authority, Italy is already back on board.

“Italy is the first country that signed an agreement with Cambodia at the end of 2014…and their adoption authority is coming to Cambodia in April for further discussions,” he said, adding that other countries could also be confident that problems such as corruption had been fixed, as prospective foreign adopters now needed to pay a flat $5,000 fee per child.

“We banned child adoption so we had better legal regulations. We wanted to stop a culture of money under the table—‘tea money’—and find good parents,” Mr. Rithyroath said. “We will find the real orphans.”

While the government is confident that new safeguards will protect the adoption process from abuse, the cautious tone of the Social Affairs Ministry’s statement anticipated more muted responses than Italy’s.

“Much work remains to be done,” said Denise Shepherd-Johnson, chief of communications for Unicef Cambodia.

Read the full article HERE.

US Ambassador Todd: "A Strong System Needed to Protect Cambodian Children"

posted Mar 27, 2014, 8:01 PM by Christina C.

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.

US To Help Train Cambodian Adoption Officials

posted Mar 27, 2014, 7:43 PM by Christina C.

From the Phnom Penh Post, February 13, 2014:  Officials to head to US for adoption training

Reung Rithiroth, chief of adoption administration at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said yesterday that while an official invitation has yet to be received, the program is expected to take flight in late April.

“She [Ambassador Jacobs] promised to take Cambodian officials to train in the US, probably from about five government ministries, with one or two officials from each ministry,”

Cambodia Takes Steps Towards Reopening Adoptions

posted Mar 27, 2014, 7:36 PM by Christina C.

From the Phnom Penh Post, February 27, 2014: Path toward adoptions progressing

Marking the next step to the Kingdom’s resumption of international adoptions, the Ministry of Social Affairs distributed for the first time copies of all adoption-related prakases, or edicts, to international representatives and adoption agencies in the capital yesterday.

Read the full article here:

State Dept. Update on Status of Intercountry Adoptions from Cambodia

posted Mar 7, 2014, 11:10 AM by Christina C.

Posted on the Office of Children's Issues website, dated February 18, 2014:

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 Please direct any questions related to this Notice or Cambodian adoptions to [email protected], 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States.

Special Advisor For Children's Issues Traveling To Cambodia To Discuss Adoptions

posted Jan 8, 2014, 9:21 AM by Christina C.

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 issues.

Ambassador Jacobs will be posting updates from the region on twitter:

Cambodia To Restart Adoptions in 2014

posted Dec 4, 2013, 9:52 AM by Christina C.

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:  

"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."

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.

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