Joint Council staff and Board of Directors met with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last Monday in conjunction with our quarterly Board meeting. The following update was supplied to us by DOS:
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services, Catherine Barry, discussed the Vietnam situation during her November testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations. As she said at the time, and as State and JCICS have spoken about previously, DOS wishes they could say the bilateral agreement was a silver bullet that solved all of the problems they saw in Vietnam before the Vietnamese Government’s 2002 suspension, but this is not the case. The process in Vietnam remains largely decentralized, despite the creation of a Department of Inter-Country Adoptions (DIA) within the Ministry of Justice. There are a lot of actors, each with his or her own interests, and little oversight or centralized control. Vietnam has yet to publish a schedule of fees, as required by the bilateral agreement, and while there may be differences of opinion about the amount of authority the DIA may have in theory, no one disputes that in practices it is not taking remedial or punitive actions. Also, DIA does not have the ability to address problems at the provincial or local level, which is, unfortunately, where the problems were primarily found in the pre-2002/2003 period. Both the State Department and CIS are continuing to assess the situation in Vietnam and look for solutions. DOS urges JCIC Member agencies operating in Vietnam to also work on improving the situation. DOS believes there needs to be better coordination among adoption service providers operating in Vietnam, a willingness to report improper behavior to U.S. Government officials either in Vietnam or Washington, and the strictest adherence to ethical adoption practices. Joint Council will continue to update the caucus on any new information or developments as they are made available.