New adoption regulations under debate
A proposal to end the illegal selling of adoption rights comes under fire as critics say it misappropriates government power.
The newly proposed Adoption Law aims to tighten child adoption policy as several officials stand trial for illegally selling adoption rights. But the proposal is not without controversy.
Adoption centers should not be given the authority to introduce children to foreign or local adoptive parents as they are vulnerable to bribery, said Deputy Minister of Justice Dinh Trung Tung at a recent National Assembly Standing Committee session discussing the draft adoption law.
The new regulation would delegate the Ministry of Justice as the only agency with the authority to introduce children to adoptive parents and issue official adoption decisions.
But members of the National Assembly's Law Committee were concerned that giving the ministry such authority would be inappropriate.
'This proposal is outside the ministry's legal purview,' said committee chairman Nguyen Van Thuan. 'Only social organizations should give parents the privilege to select children.'
Drafters of the new law said it aims to clamp down on illegal adoptions as sixteen former officials at medical and charity centers in the northern province of Nam Dinh are currently on trial for faking documents that allowed foreigners to illegally buy adoptions rights to hundreds of children.
Currently, prospective adoptive parents are introduced to a potential adoptee by local adoption agencies. If the parents are unsatisfied with the selection, they must wait several months for another.
These procedures have led many prospective parents to bribe adoption agencies in order to adopt children faster or illegally select specific children.
Currently, Vietnamese prospective adoptive parents have a choice between two forms of adoption, including 'simple adoption,' in which the child is still legally bound to its biological parents via inheritance and is even allowed the choice of living with its original parents.
In this case, the adoptive parents are bound only to give their inheritance to the adopted child though regulations say vaguely that they are technically supposed to ensure that the child is healthily supported. But as the mechanisms to enforce this support are unestablished, many adoptive families have used adoption as a means to gain easy money as government funds are granted to adoptive parents to support their kids.
In 'complete adoption,' all legal bonds tying the adopted child to his or her biological parents are severed.
The new law makes one key change in all this: that in complete adoption procedures, the adopted children would also receive inheritance from other members of the adoptive family, whether or not they actually lived with them.
'The simple form of adoption has been abused remarkably,' said Vu Duc Long, head of the Ministry of Justice's Adoption Bureau.
He cited a survey of six districts in the northern province of Ha Nam that 157 of the total 217 domestic adoption cases had been abused by adoptive parents seeking benefits for themselves.
Thuan from the National Assembly's Law Committee said that completely adopted children should not be tied to any other members of the adoptive family other than the parents in any way, including inheritance.
The new law grants all authority to the ministry. It also aims to ensure that adoptive parents support adopted kids no matter what, even in simple adoptive procedures. Such policies have been hard to enforce so long as adoptions have been governed by several unrelated agencies and laws - such as Marriage and Family Law, Civil Codes, and several government decrees - without an overarching law, such as the newly-proposed Adoption Law.
Domestic adoption encouraged
The draft law proposed that the adoption of local children by foreigners be used only as a last resort when qualified Vietnamese families were unavailable.
Nguyen Cong Khanh, deputy head of the Adoption Bureau, said the focus of the bill was that needy children be placed in Vietnamese homes and integrated into Vietnamese society.
The draft law lengthens the time limit for finding local homes for orphans and other needy children from 30 to 90 days, after which time they would be put up for adoption by foreign families.
The Nam Dinh Province People's Court on Tuesday opened the trial of 16 former officials of medical and charity centers accused of faking documents to have more than 300 children adopted by foreigners for a price.
Prosecutors alleged that health staff and charity workers in the northern province cooperated with each other to fake documents, earning millions of dong each from 2005 to July 2008.
The accused, charged with abuse of power on duty, are former employees of medical centers, the center for children with difficulties in Y Yen District, and the Social Welfare Center of Truc Ninh District.
In related news, the president of an orphanage in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong has been arrested for further investigations into allegations the children were being sold.
Provincial police last Friday said besides president Nguyen Van Manh, they are also investigating To Tuan Anh, who had established the Tia Sang (Ray of Light) School for orphan and disabled children. Anh has been accused of selling five children for VND20-25 million (US$1,122- 1,400) each from 2007 onwards.
School official Tran Van Huu who allegedly demanded and received money from people looking to adopt children has also been arrested.
Opened in Bao Loc Town early in 2002, Tia Sang School was dissolved late July after it was found to be in poor condition and unable to provide for the children's needs.
Reported by Xuan Toan “ Giang An