Flawed Adoption System Highlighted by Nepal's Stolen Children

from: medindia.net

Illiteracy has allowed kids to be stolen in Nepal in what is surely shocking news.

Rajan Kumar Nepali did not know he was giving up his two young children when he put his thumbprint on a document handing custody to an orphanage in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

The owners of the children's home had promised to take care of his son and daughter while the 28-year-old labourer, who cannot read or write, tried to get his life back on track after he became addicted to drugs.

Instead, the children were put up for adoption abroad -- a highly lucrative business in impoverished Nepal, where campaigners say orphanages can make up to 10,000 dollars from each child.

By the time Nepali returned to retrieve the children his three-year-old daughter Karuna had already been placed in the custody of an American couple who were applying for a visa to take her to the United States.

"The names of my son and daughter had been changed, and they had been declared orphans. I was so shocked," Nepali told AFP in an interview in the one-room house in Kathmandu where the family now lives.

"The people who run the orphanage told me I could not even see my son and daughter because it might affect the other children.

"Then some local people told me that pictures of my children had appeared in the newspaper under fake names. With their help, I found out that both my children had been put up for adoption abroad."

Eventually, Nepali and his wife Maya managed to get their six-year-old son back from the orphanage.

But it was not until the couple filed an official complaint with the help of a local charity that they discovered their daughter Karuna's whereabouts and she was finally returned to them.

Child protection groups say the family's ordeal is only the tip of the iceberg in Nepal, where unscrupulous agents are effectively trafficking children to foreign couples for large profits.

Nepal introduced new legislation in 2008 to try to prevent such abuses, and only restarted international adoptions last year under the new system.

But campaigners say widespread problems persist, and last month a team of legal experts from The Hague called for international adoptions of Nepalese children to be suspended.

They said their investigations found documents were routinely falsified and children's homes were largely unregulated, with the interests of the child often not considered at all.

United Nations children's agency UNICEF said little has changed since a 2008 report found that around 60 percent of the children up for adoption in Nepal were not genuine orphans.

"The best interests of the child are still not at the centre of these adoptions and these must be the guiding principles for all those working with children, no matter how complex the issue," said UNICEF Nepal representative Gillian Mellsop.

UNICEF has called for the government to ratify the Hague convention on international adoptions, which sets out guidelines and procedures to safeguard children and their parents against abduction and trafficking.

In all, 20 children from Nepal have been adopted by foreign parents since the system restarted last year.

Seven have gone to the United States, but the US State Department this month warned prospective adoptive parents that the system in Nepal was "not yet reliable," citing the case of the Nepalis.

Germany moved to suspend adoptions from Nepal after the findings of The Hague team's investigations were made public, and 14 foreign embassies issued a statement urging the government to tighten controls.

Authorities in Kathmandu have banned the children's home that took the Nepalis' children from arranging international adoptions for the next two years.

But the orphanage, called Ashaya Balbalika Samrechhan Griha (Helpless Children Protection Home), remains open.

Sarvadev Prasad Ojha, minister for women and children, admitted that the government lacked the resources to prevent abuses of the system.

Ojha said poor parents in rural areas were being fooled into giving up their children for adoption by agents who claim to be taking them to Kathmandu for education.

"We have been closely monitoring the activities of those organisations. We have also closed down 14 children's homes that did not meet minimum standards," he told AFP in an interview.

"But we still don't have adequate resources to monitor outlying rural areas, and this allows children to be taken by criminals."

Campaigners say the system remains riddled with corruption, and allows orphanage owners themselves to decide whether a child can be put up for adoption -- a clear conflict of interest.

Karuna's mother Maya, who still lives a stone's throw away from the orphanage that took her children, accuses the owners of "trying to take advantage of our poverty and illiteracy."

"I could never think of allowing my children to be taken abroad," she said. "They are my babies, I gave birth to them. How could I give them away?"

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Industry's response

Of course the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys only sees fault in the reporting about trafficking charges in Nepal, as can be read in this letter to the U.S. State Department.

A question about consent

What, if anything, is being said about the validity of a parent's consent to relinquishment if the parent cannot read or write?

If a biologic family member cannot read or write, is a signed adoption agreement legal?

Adoption Fairness Act, seeks to ease some of red tape

It doesn't surprise me that those two Senators represent the states with the highest amount of International Adoption.  Could it be that the agencies in those states influenced this bill?  I think the extra red tape is for checks and balances in clean adoption practices.

Klobuchar, Landrieu introduce legislation for adoptees

Washington, D.C. -- Today (Tuesday, March 9) U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced legislation to streamline and simplify the international adoption process for American families.

The Adoption Fairness Act will ensure that all international adopteesreceive their certificate of U.S. citizenship in a timely manner at no cost to the adoptive family.

“International adoptions should be as straightforward and affordable as possible for American families,” said Klobuchar. “The certificate of U.S. citizenship is an essential part an adopted child’s life in this country.  This bill will not only help reduce the bureaucratic obstacles in the adoption process but it will also eliminate the high fee inconsistently imposed on adopting families.”

“Most families wait more than two years to finalize their international adoptions and bring home their children,” said Landrieu.“This bill will minimize the additional red tape that families, who have already endured a lengthy adoption process, have to cut through after they have been united.”

Currently, children whose international adoptions are finalized in their home countries automatically receive their U.S. citizenship certificate free of charge when their adoptions are finalized.  However, children whose adoptions are finalized after arriving in the United States must apply for the citizenship certificate and pay a $470 fee.  This certificate is the only permanent and irrefutable proof of citizenship issued by the U.S. government.

Due to the expensive fee and complicated paperwork process, many children, who are full American citizens under law, never obtain their certificate of citizenship.  Without a certificate of citizenship, adopted children can experience complications with, among other things, student loan applications, obtaining extra medical help, and job applications.

Klobuchar and Landrieu’s bill eliminates the double standard for international adoptees by removing the fee for the U.S. certificate of citizenship for all adopted children who are eligible for immediate citizenship, whether their adoptions are completed in a foreign country or in the United States.  The legislation also requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a report to Congress within 120 days of passage that outlines a plan to streamline, expedite and simplify the process of providing the certificate to eligible children.

In January, Landrieu led a press conference with Klobuchar and six other members to urge federal agencies to expedite international adoptions from Haiti.  Klobuchar and Landrieu also sent a letter to administration officials calling for greater coordination between federal agencies while implementing the emergency humanitarian parole policy enacted after the earthquake.

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