Cambodia to Lift Ban on International Adoptions
Image Credit: Greg Walters via Flickr

Cambodia to Lift Ban on International Adoptions


Cambodian government officials announced that they would resume international adoptions in 2014, five years after a ban was put in place amid reports of child trafficking and exploitation in 2009.

Last year, the government said that it would lift the ban by early 2013. However, the countries that had banned adoptions from Cambodia did not feel that enough progress had been made to ensure that there would be no child abuse violations.

“Though we stated that we would begin adoptions in January 2013, we since accepted some of the regulations have not been completed,” said Nim Thoth, Secretary of State with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Youth Rehabilitation. “But, after taking advice from The Hague and various embassies, we have decided that we will now implement the adoption process in 2014.”

Foreigners will be able to submit applications to adopt Cambodian children next year, but no specific time frame was given.

Cambodia has a poor track record when it comes to international adoptions. Before the ban in 2009, there were reports of impoverished parents being tricked into handing over their children. These children would be taken to orphanages under the belief that they would return to their families when their parents had the means to support them.

Instead, they were adopted by foreign couples who would pay thousands of dollars in processing fees, most of which would go into the pockets of brokers and corrupt government officials. The birth parents who later contact these orphanages find out that their children are gone. Amid these concerns, countries such as France, the United States, and the United Kingdom banned adoptions from Cambodia in 2001.

In a country where only 38 percent of people have a birth certificate, some argue that adoptions cannot commence without proper regulations and enforcement mechanisms in place. Attendees at a two-day workshop in Phnom Penh stressed the need for Cambodia to implement the 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption before adoptions can be resumed.

In a statement, UNICEF suggested limiting the number of international adoptions each year to prevent overburdening authorities who also have to address the problems of falsified documents and child abduction. In 2009, Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng said that they would cap adoptions at 150 to 200 each year.

Although it is not clear whether other countries will lift their ban on accepting adoptions from Cambodia, the U.S. embassy had placed an ad in a local newspaper for a “InterCountry Adoption Assistant.” An embassy spokeswoman wouldn’t comment whether the U.S. would lift its own ban but stated that they would “continue working with” Cambodia toward “the eventual resumption of the process.”

Peter Dodds
December 12, 2013 at 06:37

I was adopted from a German orphanage by a couple from the United States.

International adoption is a system filled with documented and never-ending patterns of adoption agency corruption, re-homing, baby stealing, child trafficking, coercion of the biological parents and legal violations. The corruption and abuse are so widespread and pervasive that nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption from 1995-2008 temporarily halted adoptions or were prevented from sending children to the United States. Every few weeks another scandal breaks illuminating the sleaze that is all part and parcel of this system.

In this TV interview, I describe international adoption from a unique perspective–that of a foreign orphan adopted to the United States–and harm caused by uprooting children from their native countries and cultures.

Peter Dodds

John McCollum, Executive Director, Asia's Hope
December 11, 2013 at 02:36

As an organization that provides family-style residential care for orphaned children in Cambodia (and also in India and Thailand), Asia’s Hope feels that international adoption in general – and Cambodian adoption specifically – comes with ethical, economic and practical baggage that would introduce the potential for multiple negative outcomes for our organization and few if any benefits.

The introduction of the profit motive into our funding model undermines our commitment to financial stability, accountability and transparency. We do not want to incentivize anyone working in or with our organization to take ethical shortcuts, especially in the identification and intake of children into our homes.

Because we work so hard to foster a real family environment for each child in our care, we’re extremely hesitant to introduce factors into our organization that would threaten family cohesion. We do not wish to create multiple classes of children within our homes: those who are likely to be adopted and those who are not. This erodes existing (biological) and newly established sibling bonds that are essential for each child’s current and future wellbeing.

Most importantly, we believe that by opening Asia’s Hope to international adoptions, we would forever enshrine a negative perception among our kids that we’re working so actively to dispel – that ‘escape’ to the West is the ultimate goal for a Cambodian kid. Fundamental to our model is the fervent believe that we are preparing our children to thrive – in Cambodia – as adults, and that they represent the hope for Cambodia’s future.

We urge other orphan care providers to move with caution as Cambodia transitions itself back into the world of international adoptions.

John McCollum, Executive Director, Asia’s Hope

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief