By: KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, Dec 31: Amidst serious concern in the international community that inter-country adoption from Nepal was subject to widespread abuse, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) has amended the conditions and procedures relating to inter-country adoption.
The amendment that came into effect recently adopts new measures to ensure that children being approved for inter-country adoption are genuinely ´orphan´ or ´destitute´.
The amendment published in the Nepal Gazette makes it mandatory for any children´s home, orphanage or children´s organization facilitating inter-country adoption to submit details of each orphan child to a Probe and Recommendation Committee (PRC) within seven days and to a Family Selection Committee (FSC) under the ministry within 14 days after the concerned District Administration Office (DAO) verifies that the child in question is an ´orphan´ or a ´destitute´ seeking foster parents.
The ministry has made it mandatory for the children´s home, orphanage or children´s organization to have been engaged for a minimum of six years in the field of child welfare to be eligible for facilitating inter-country adoptions. Such organizations should be duly registered with the government agencies concerned and should apply to the ministry for ´listing´ as an eligible organization for inter-country adoption.
The amendment also has a provision to ´delist´ a children´s organization found involved in fraudulent practices from its roaster of organizations eligible for inter-country adoption. Once ´delisted´, such organizations will be barred from facilitating inter-country adoption for the next five years.
The move comes in the wake of many countries including the US, UK, Germany and France raising questions about the ´reliability´ of inter-country adoption. Many Western countries have already suspended inter-country adoption from Nepal after the Hague Conference on Private International Law reported that inter-country adoption from Nepal was subject to widespread abuse.
"We believe these new measures will ensure that children sent for inter-country adoption are genuinely orphan," said Hari Poudel, the ministry´s spokesperson.
The amendment has included a joint secretary-level officer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as one of the members of the Probe and Recommendation Committee for coordination with the line ministry and prospective foster parents abroad and also for checking possible abuse in inter-country adoption from Nepal.
Likewise, the amendment makes it mandatory for foreign children´s organizations or agencies facilitating inter-country adoption from Nepal to set up a liaison office duly registered here with the government authorities concerned. Such foreign organizations should pay the government an amount specified by the ministry on annual basis to work for the cause of orphan and destitute children in Nepal.
Among other things, the new changes have made special provisions to send children with a need for special care and protection for inter-country adoption after selecting appropriate families for such children. The Family Selection Committee under the ministry will select appropriate families on priority basis from among applications received from prospective foster parents for such parents.
The amendment in the conditions and procedures relating to inter-country adoption has made a separate arrangement in case internationally renowned personalities choose to adopt children from Nepal.
A head of state, head of government or foreign minister of another country, a Nobel laureate, an international celebrity or a person or business entrepreneur with over $300,000 annual income can apply directly to the government body concerned in Nepal along with an official recommendation letter from the head of state, head of government or foreign minister of their country if they wish to adopt children from Nepal.
Int´l Community cautiously welcomes govt move
Terre des hommes Foundation, a Swiss-based organization working in the area of child protection, welcomed the improvements but noted that the new legal framework focused only on inter-country adoption. Issuing a press statement, the foundation said it is required to develop local solutions as a priority to be in line with international commitments (e.g. Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption signed on April 2009 as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child).
Terre des hommes, which is also an observer for the Adoption Working Group composed of various Diplomatic Missions from recipient countries, indicated that the first task should be to help children stay with their parents and the identification of local solutions for children without parental care. "These solutions include kinship, foster care and domestic adoption," Joseph Agtettant, country representative of Terre des hommes said in a statement to Republica.
The foundation said it supports drafting a comprehensive legislation on children´s rights, in line with international standards, in which inter-country adoption would be part of a comprehensive alternative care policy. But it would not be the most favored or, in the present situation, the only option for a child without parental care.