Tracking the fee schedules

Date: 2000-12-22

Tracking the fee schedules
Written by Stephen O'Connell and Lon Nara

The Dec 13 adoption case has highlighted the role that money plays in facilitating foreign adoptions of Cambodian children.

Both Sar Kheng and Khieu Kanharith say the Government has never charged an adoption fee, adding that no payments were made for the special approval in the Dec 13 case.

This might come as a surprise to clients of the American agencies who adopted prior to the suspension and paid heavily for the non-existent fees.

Until then clients were told by the agencies that they must pay a $5,500 adoption fee to the Government of Cambodia. The agencies directed their clients to wire that sum of money to Cambodia within 48 hours of notification that a child was available for adoption.

The adoption agencies have so far refused to explain how the $5,500 charged to their clients was spent. But sources familiar with Cambodia's adoption business told the Post that the $5,500 was used to "...expedite the Government paperwork process".

Information SIA and Hawaii International Child sent prospective clients stated that on top of the $5,500 "Government fee" there was a $3,500 "orphanage donation" fee that had to be paid before clients left Cambodia.

Galindo, who facilitates for both these agencies, told the Post last May that the "orphanage donation" fees were actually optional and clients gave her discretion on how their donation money was spent.

Officials at the Ministry of Social Affairs' Adoption Bureau - the department charged with examining the dossiers and applications of foreigners wanting to adopt - said they never reviewed the paperwork of the American agency clients. These applications were handled at the Secretary of State level at the Ministries of Social Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Council of Ministers..

The price people pay adoption agencies is apparently well worth it in relation to the amount of time and trouble encountered by people who attempt to adopt Cambodian children independently. While independent adoptions come at a fraction of the cost American agencies charge to expedite the process, potential adoptive parents routinely spend several months in Cambodia waiting for their applications to move through the bureaucracy.

But clients of the American agencies normally can claim their children and the requisite Government approval in a matter of days.

Munith told the Post that the Council of Ministers would begin debating the latest draft of the adoption law on December 20.

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