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Vietnamese babies are being kidnapped, bought and stolen from their parents then - in effect - sold for adoption in America, Britain and other Western countries, according to a new investigation.
By Thomas Bell
25 April 2008 /The Telegraph
In some cases hospitals have sent babies to orphanages for adoption after their parents were unable to pay medical bills.
In another, a grandmother sent a baby girl for adoption without informing her parents. The child was reunited with its mother following embassy enquiries.
Fraudulent documents then record that the baby was "deserted". If the mother has a change of heart she must repay the facility for the accommodation she received.
More commonly, parents are persuaded by health officials or orphanage staff to place their children in orphanages in exchange for a typical payment of around GBP190.
They are often told they can visit the child regularly or that it will be returned to them after a few years.
"In a terrifying number of cases the parents had no idea that they would never see their child again," said Angela Aggeler, the embassy spokeswoman.
Forty-two American adoption agencies are licensed by the Vietnamese government.
Many note on their websites that they make charitable donations to orphanages in the country or fund them out right.
The average cost in official fees and travel expenses quoted to would-be adoptive parents is around GBP12,000.
According to the report, donations to the orphanages often amount to a kind of finder's fee.
One orphanage surveyed, "receives a fixed monthly donation for each child in the orphanage who is available for international adoption and the payment is made in cash directly to the orphanage director.
"This orphanage has seen the number of infants in its care increase by more than 2000 per cent in the past year, but it has not made significant increases in staff," the report states.
Some adoption agencies flew the government officials who licensed them to the United States for shopping trips - and paid for their shopping.
Vietnam's top adoption official, Vu Doc Long, called the report's allegations "groundless" and rejected DNA testing or spot-checks on orphanages as an "unacceptable" way to reduce the problem.
Last year 828 Vietnamese children were adopted to America and this year is on course to exceed that figure.
Other common destination countries include Ireland, Canada and France.
A British consular official said the number of Vietnamese children adopted to Britain averages under 10 a year.
In 2007 Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt adopted their fourth child from Vietnam, but there is no suggestion of impropriety in their case.
Ms Aggaler said she believes the growing popularity of American adoptions from Vietnam reflects the huge number of American couples anxious to adopt, rather than people following Ms Jolie's example.
The agreement allowing American adoptions from Vietnam is due to expire in September and may not be renewed if the problems are not addressed.
"We are very committed to international adoption," said Ms Aggeler.
"We just want to make sure that no child is not really an orphan."