The Government of Vietnam has been unable to comply with the 2005 Agreement as planned, and cases have frequently been tainted by corruption due to weaknesses in the Vietnamese adoption system. The U.S. and Vietnamese governments have agreed the current agreement cannot be renewed when it expires in September 2008. We will continue to encourage Vietnam to join the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions and to undertake measures that will advance Vietnam’s ability to meet Hague obligations.
Among the problems with the current system is that the Government of Vietnam has not established and published a fee structure for adoptions. Instead, individual orphanages and adoption service providers make private arrangements concerning the “voluntary donations” and other assistance the agencies will provide to orphanages where they arrange adoptions. These arrangements are kept private and there is no official accounting for how funds are spent. Because it is relatively easy to obtain fraudulent civil documents (birth and death certificates, for example) in Vietnam, U.S. officials must verify the information in the orphan’s file, in many cases, before a visa can be issued. U.S. authorities have been prevented from conducting these verification trips in a few provinces, although these trips have been completed without incident in most of the country. Most troubling, U.S. officials have discovered repeated instances of fraud and corruption in connection with some adoption cases in Vietnam. We believe systemic reform, and more effective safeguards, are needed to prevent the abuses.
In response to the growing number of questionable cases, U.S. authorities instituted “Orphan First” processing in November 2007, under which the child’s status as an orphan is confirmed before the new parents formally adopt the child.The purpose of the Orphan First processing is to protect prospective adoptive parents and children, as well as the integrity of international adoptions in Vietnam. It provides a framework to ensure that adoptions take place in the best interests of children, to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children in connection with intercountry adoption, and to ensure that the child who is being adopted is likely to be eligible for immigration to the United States.
Although it is only a first step to improve the process, overall, the new procedure appears to be working well. In the first four months of Orphan First processing, 287 I-600 petitions have been pre-approved. This is equal to the number of I-600 approvals for the same time period last year. During the first six months of FY 2008 (October 2007 to March 2008), 449 adoption visas cases were approved, compared to 353 for the same period in FY 2007.
Unfortunately, our field investigations continue to reveal some incidents of serious adoption irregularities, including forged or altered documentation, women paid or coerced to release their children, and children offered for adoption without the knowledge or consent of their birth parents. The U.S. Government believes that Vietnam’s accession to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions and Vietnam’s commitment to meeting Hague obligations offers the clearest and best-tested path to transparent and ethical adoptions in Vietnam.