Cambodia to Resume International Adoptions on January 1

Cambodia will allow intercountry adoptions to resume from January 1 next year, four years after the government stopped adoptions amid claims of corruption and baby selling, government officials confirmed yesterday.

Speaking after a meeting with Susan Jacobs, the U.S. State Department’s special adviser on children’s issues, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Long Visalo said that after putting in place new child-protection measures, Cambodia would allow foreign adoptions starting in 2013.

Mr. Visalo also said that the U.S. would lift its own ban on adoptions from Cambodia at the same time.

“So we requested to start [adoptions again] on January 1, 2013, together. And America is going to start on the same day. We, too, start on the same day,” Mr. Visalo said.

Cambodia halted inter-country adoptions in 2009, and at the end of that year passed a new law on regulating the adoptions. However, the Ministry of Social Affairs postponed implementation of the law several times, saying it needed to work out how the new rules would be put into practice.

But Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said on the American side that no date had yet been set for adoptions from Cambodia to resume, and that the U.S. would continue to monitor the situation to ensure Cambodia’s compliance with international law.

“We’re continuing to talk to the Cambodian government about this. There’s no confirmation of an agreed upon date to resume adoptions,” Mr. McIntosh said.

“We can’t confirm—that between the U.S. and Cambodia at least—adoptions will resume on January 1,” he added. “As far as we’re concerned, we want to make sure Cambodia’s compliant with The Hague Convention.”

Mr. Visalo could not be contacted to address the apparent contradiction.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Visalo acknowledged the problems of the past in the adoption industry and expressed confidence that they were a thing of the past.

“We are not selling our kids,” Mr. Visalo said. “We will limit the quota and only allow between 100 and 200 children to be adopted to the U.S. each year,” he said.

“We don’t consider international adoption our first priority. Domestic is first…. If we can do it domestically we will,” he said. “But we have to see if there is an advantage to our children, if they have more opportunity.”

Only children under 8 years old would be eligible for foreign adoption, he added.

Ith Sam Heng, minister of social affairs, who also met with Ms. Jacobs, said the U.S. was working on a separate agreement to be put in place prior to the resumption on January 1.

“We will open the process on January 1, 2013. But the process will be slow and step-by-step in order to ensure quality, effectiveness and that it’s to the child’s advantage,” he said.

Prior to the adoption ban, Cambodia’s foreign adoption system had long been associated with institutionalized corruption and reports of baby buying from poor parents to provide children for overseas parents. As a result, the U.S. suspended Cambodian adoptions in 2001, as did the U.K. in 2004.

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