Adoption agreement between Vietnam and U.S. falls apart
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The Associated Press, The International Herald Tribune
A child-adoption agreement between Vietnam and the United States expired Monday after the two countries were unable to resolve their disagreements over fraud and corruption, disappointing hundreds of prospective parents who will have to seek adoptable children elsewhere.
Both Vietnam and the United States said that they would try to iron out their differences, but said that for now the program is suspended indefinitely.
Hanoi will continue processing adoptions for parents who had already been matched with orphans before the pact expired. But a majority of the 1,700 families who had cases pending will be disappointed, said Vu Duc Long, the lead Vietnamese official at the talks. Long said he was still tallying the exact number and would release it later this week.
Chandra Wilmsmeyer of Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the hundreds of prospective parents whose cases were canceled Monday. She was disappointed that the two sides were unable to resolve their differences without suspending adoptions.
"Hopefully they'll be able to work out a new system quickly," she said. "Otherwise, there are legitimate orphans who are going to be in orphanages longer than they need to be."
Wilmsmeyer and her husband will now try to adopt in Russia.
Representatives of U.S. adoption agencies agreed that Vietnam's adoption program had problems, but said that the vast majority of adoptions were legitimate. They had hoped that U.S. officials would allow valid adoptions to proceed while working with Vietnam to eliminate abuses.
"The U.S. approach has been to blame Vietnam and let the system fail," said Tom Atwood, president and chief executive of the National Council for Adoption in Washington. "It is tragic for these vulnerable children that the U.S. government has not been able to manage this situation in a way that allows legitimate adoptions to proceed."
It remains unclear how long it might take for the differences between Vietnam and the United States to be ironed out.
"The U.S. has consistently been supportive of international adoption around the world," said a U.S. Embassy staffer who declined to be identified, citing department policy. "We will continue to work with the government of Vietnam to pursue the possibility of resuming adoptions."
But the United States will only agree to resume the program if it protects the interests of orphans, their birth parents and adoptive parents, she said.
One major issue is the fact that Vietnam has not signed the Hague convention on international adoptions, which includes safeguards aimed at preventing fraud and corruption, she said.
Long has sent a proposal to the Vietnamese legislative National Assembly recommending that the country join the convention.
Vietnam announced that it would stop accepting new adoption applications from the United States in April, after the U.S. government released a report that said Vietnam's adoption system was riddled with corruption, fraud and baby-selling.
The U.S.-Vietnamese adoption program also was shut down in 2003 after the United States raised similar concerns about corruption.
The program resumed in 2006 after the two countries reached an agreement intended to ensure that adoptions adhered to certain rules. But the United States says Vietnam has been unable to enforce the terms of that deal, largely because its central adoption authority lacks sufficient power to control orphanage directors.