The U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS) has posted an announcement regarding the suspension of dossier acceptance by the government of Vietnam on July 1, 2008, and the planned suspension of referrals on September 1, 2008. This announcement, found below, details the process by which prospective adoptive parents and children will be qualified as having a referral by September 1, 2008.
Based on this announcement and ongoing dialogue with the U.S. Department of State and Vietnamese Department of Intercountry Adoption (DIA), it is our understanding that;
On July 1, 2008, the DIA stopped accepting new dossiers from American prospective adoptive parents;
Prospective adoptive parents who have received a formal referral by September 1, 2008, will be allowed to process the adoption to finalization ;
Prospective adoptive parents who have not received a formal referral by September 1, 2008, will have their dossier returned by the DIA to the adoption service provider;
A referral is considered formal when the DIA and provincial authorities have agreed to the match of a child to prospective adoptive parents and the prospective adoptive parents receive a letter from the DIA confirming the approval of the match;
Any referral formally issued to prospective adoptive parents and subsequently finalized by the Vietnamese government will be processed by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.
It is also our understanding that as of July 1, 2008, approximately 1,728 dossiers were filed by American prospective adoptive parents with the DIA. The DIA estimates that approximately 780 of the 1,728 dossiers will receive formal referrals by September 1, 2008. The approximately 950 dossiers that are not processed and matched by September 1, 2008, will be returned to the appropriate adoption service provider.
The 780 prospective adoptive parents who may receive a referral prior to September 1, 2008, represent virtually the same number of referrals issued and processed in Vietnam across all of calendar year 2007. Joint Council extends it appreciation to the Vietnamese DIA for its commitment to finding families for the orphans of Vietnam and its intention to issue close to 800 referrals in a 2-month period. This effort on the part of the DIA will certainly benefit these children who are in need of permanent, safe and loving families.
For those prospective adoptive parents who have submitted a dossier prior to July 1, 2008, Joint Council is unaware of a means by which it can be determined if a specific dossier will be issued a formal referral. This determination rests with the DIA and provincial authorities. We certainly empathize with all prospective adoptive parents during this most stressful period and will provide any information should it become available.
In recognizing that the DIA will attempt to issue close to 800 referrals in only 2 months, there will certainly be some confusion and unexpected hurdles. We also recognize that given the current capacity of the U.S. Consular office and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (U.S. CIS) office in Vietnam and the many issues of concerns continually expressed by key stakeholders, the processing of referrals issued in August and September could create a considerable backlog that may take many months to process.
Some have suggested that the DIA should be urged to continue issuing referrals past the September 1, 2008, deadline. Given that referrals issued past September 1 may not be in accordance with Vietnamese law, Joint Council believes that the appropriate advocacy is for both governments to put a new MOA into place by September 1, 2008. As detailed in the Joint Council Child’s Right Campaign, a new MOA will strengthen child protections, continue the provision of needed services, increase humanitarian aid and allow children to find a family through intercountry adoption. Advocating for and achieving a new MOA will serve not only the 900 children who may not be referred by September 1 st, but also thousands of Vietnamese families and children for years to come.
Based on the series of announcements by the U.S. DOS beginning in November 2007, many prospective adoptive parents chose to delay their application for adopting from Vietnam. Similarly, many adoption service providers ceased accepting applications and/or submitting dossiers in the months preceding the July 1st cutoff. Given that many families and adoption service providers voluntarily delayed their adoption, the unknown number of families willing to provide a permanent, safe and loving home for Vietnamese orphans far exceeds the 1,728 families who did submit a dossier.
With the knowledge that a minimum of 900 orphans may be denied their right to a family* and that many more parents are willing to give an orphan a loving family, Joint Council continues to advocate with the governments of Vietnam and the United States for a prompt resolution to all issues and the implementation of a new MOA by September 1, 2008. We continue to dialogue with all stakeholders and remain confident that with the continued advocacy by American families, the growing interest of the U.S. Congress and the commitment of the U.S. DOS and Vietnamese DIA, a new MOA can be a reality for the families and children of Vietnam.
* Clarification: Joint Council seeks to clarify this statement in that we do not intend to indicate that over 1,700 orphans currently reside in Vietnamese institutions. Neither Joint Council nor any stakeholder knows the cumulative total of orphans in Vietnam. When we indicated that 900 children would be denied their right to a family, the intent was not to focus on the number, but rather was a statement that without a new MOA, children who could find a family through intercountry adoption will be denied that right.