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.”