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Americans Can Again Adopt Vietnamese Children

In this 2007 file photo, a staff member follows an orphan at the Tam Binh 1 Orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City.

In this 2007 file photo, a staff member follows an orphan at the Tam Binh 1 Orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City.

After being blocked since 2008, Americans can once again adopt children from Vietnam.

Adoptions ended six years ago when Vietnam and the United States failed to agree to continue the program. In 2008, a U.S. State Department investigation of Vietnam’s adoption system found fraud and baby-selling. Foreign adoption service providers were found to be paying Vietnam’s orphanages as much as $10,000 for a referral. The orphanages, in turn, forced or paid Vietnamese parents to put children up for adoption. Some providers were making illegal payments called bribes, and providing funds for shopping trips to the U.S. for Vietnamese adoption officials.

Three years after that investigation, Vietnam signed the Hague Convention on Protection of Children. It also changed its adoption laws. This led to an agreement between the United States and Vietnam to permit adoptions to begin again.

In October, Vietnam’s Director of the Department of Adoptions told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that the two countries had reached an agreement to restart adoptions. Nguyen Van Binh said two American adoption agencies had been approved by the Vietnamese and the U.S. governments from a list of 200. The two are Dillon International and Holt International.

Dillon International is based in the southwestern state of Oklahoma. It also has offices in five other American cities. Dillon has sent food, clothing and other aid to children in four of Vietnam’s provinces for the past 15 years. It has also paid for them to be educated. Nellie Kelly is the company’s waiting child coordinator.

“We’re really excited now that adoptions have started back because that’s really good news for the children who need families.”

But unlike in 2008, the adoption program is limited. Only children whose parents have died or have given up their parental rights may be adopted. And the children must have what are called “special needs” -- they may have medical problems. They may be older than five. And if they have brothers and sisters, they must be adopted together.

Ms. Kelly says these children are often not adopted. She says children like this have a very difficult time finding a family because many people only want a healthy baby.

“For families who are open to children who do have special needs, this really will be a great opportunity for those children. These are children who previously might not have been able to find a family, because not every family is open to, for example, a child with a limb difference, maybe missing a hand or missing an arm.”

She says every child needs a family, but it is difficult to find a family for children who have special medical needs.

Vietnam says it wants its children to be adopted by people in Vietnam. But it will permit foreign adoption if they are not adopted in Vietnam. Ms. Kelly says her agency supports this policy.

“Of course, if it’s possible, the preference is to allow that child to stay in their country of birth. Whenever there’s a domestic placement, though, it’s always the healthiest and youngest children who were selected first. So that leaves a great need for families who are willing to consider a child with a medical need -- perhaps someone who’s gonna need a surgery when they come home or therapy or whatever that child’s need may be.”

Ms. Kelly says her agency works to match a child with a family rather than trying to supply a child that a family wants.

“Our mission is to help find families for the children who need them, not find children for the families who want them.”

Christine Chronister is one of the editors of the website American families who were adopting children from Vietnam started the website in 2006. The editors saw the problems that led to the ending of adoptions in 2008.

“Last time, it was, there was no restrictions on what children could be referred, and the Vietnamese government pretty much licensed anyone who paid. There wasn’t, really, like, clear standards of what you have to be as an agency to be licensed.”

Ms. Chronister is happy that the process has begun again. But she says she knows the stricter rules will lower the number of children who can be adopted from Vietnam.

The Vietnamese government says almost 1,300 Vietnamese children were adopted between 2011 and 2013, mostly by people who live in Europe.

The Dillon adoption agency says it does not know how many children will be adopted by Americans under the new program. It takes about 6 to 9 months to complete the process in the United States. That includes an application, preparation of immigration documents and an investigation. Then, the information is sent to Vietnam.

Because the program is new, the agency does not know how long Vietnamese officials will take to make a decision on a case. But it is telling people to be prepared to wait as long as two to three years. It says the cost to adopt a child from Vietnam is $25,000 to $32,000. Single people or married couples between the ages of 25 and 55 can take part in the program. The couples must have been married at least two years and they must be at least 20 years older than the adopted child.

Nellie Kelly says while her agency is happy that special needs children from Vietnam will be adopted under this program, she hopes it will help children in the other countries it operates in as well.

“In all of the programs that Dillon serves -- China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Haiti, India, (South) Korea -- all of those areas have children who are waiting for families. So hopefully, with the extra attention that Vietnam is receiving, children all over the world are gonna benefit.”

Ms. Chronister says supports the activities of the two approved American agencies. But she says she is closely watching the agencies and the process to protect the families and the adopted children.

“We love to hear about kids who have no hope suddenly (being adopted) in a family and their lives (have been) turned around. That’s the greatest miracle of all.”

The announcement that adoptions of Vietnamese children by Americans would once again be permitted comes as the two countries seek to increase trade and improve military cooperation.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

VOA Washington correspondent Christopher Cruise reported, wrote, read and produced this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

investigate – v. to try to find out the facts about (something, such as a crime or an accident) in order to learn how it happened and who did it

fraud – n. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person

bribe – n. something valuable (such as money) that is given in order to get someone to do something; a bribe is usually used to get someone to do something illegal or dishonest

parental rights – n. the legal rights of parents to direct or control their children

preference – n. a feeling of liking or wanting one person or thing more than another person or thing

domestic – adj. relating to or involving someone’s home or family (always used before a noun)

surgery – n. medical treatment in which a doctor cuts into someone’s body in order to repair or remove damaged or diseased parts

therapy – n. the treatment of physical or mental illnesses

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