Protestant and Catholic oganizations now arranging adoptions

Date: 1973-08-25

By Edward B. Fiske
New York Times News Service

NEW YORK - Two religious social service agencies, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic. have begun programs to arrange the adoption of South Vietnamese orphans by American couples.

The agencies are the Holt International Children's Fund an Evangelical Protestant organization in Eugene Ore., and the Catholic Committee for Refugees of the United States Catholic Conference, the administrative arm of the American bishops.

The new programs are the latest in a series of recent efforts by public officials and private individuals to regularize procedures for the intercountry adoption of Vietnamese orphans. They bring to four the number of American agencies licensed to arrange such adoptions.

The others are Travelers Aid International Social Service of America, which has been operating in S. Vietnam for several years and is now stepping up all of its programs there, and Friends of Children of Vietnam, which was started by a group of housewives in Boulder, Colo.

(Mrs. William Boll, who lives in Stonington with her family during the summer is president of the Connecticut Chapter of Friends of Children of Vietnam.)

interest in the welfare of Vietnamese children disadvantaged by the war in Southeast Asia has increased considerably in this country since the end of direct American Involvement in the war effort.

Officials say that much attention is being focused on the plight of orphans available for adoption. "People are frustrated about Vietnam," sand Wells Klein, the former general director of TAISSA who is now head of the American Council for Nationalities Services.

Authorities estimate that there are 25.000 children in South Vietnamese Orphanages but add that perhaps only half of them may ever be available for adoption. Social workers also emphasize that in individual cases lntercountry adoption may or may not be a desirable step.

Former Policy

In the past it has been policy of the South Vietnamese  government to discourage intercountry adoptions. There are signs. though, that this ls changing, and American agencies have been taking steps to establish regular procedures for such adoptions in cooperation with Vietnamese authorities.

John E. Adams. executive director of Holt said that his agency, which ls Protestant in orientation but nonsectarian in its placement policies, was licensed by the South Vietnamese government to February and now has a building in Saigon that serves as a reception center, office and living quarters.

The Catholic Committee for Refugees began organizing its program two months ago. Betty Dorney, supervisor of the adoption program, said that the agency is still in the process of finding a center and developing procedures.

Another relatively new organization is Friends of Children of Vietnam, which was organized several years ago by Colorado housewives and now has more than a dozen autonomous chapters around the country. The Colorado chapter was licensed as an adoption agency on March 1 by the state and subsequently registered with the Vietnamese Ministry of Social Welfare.

Waiting lists

Mrs. Wende Grant, executive director of the adoption program said that the group now has a list of 900 families waiting to receive applications. Their program is directed on the Vietnamese end by Rosemary Taylor, an Australian nurse who until recently was helping people arrange adoptions on a relatively informal and unofficial basis.

Taissa which has had a small-scale adoption program in South Vietnam tor several years, has announced plans to expand Its efforts in this and other areas. William M. Taylor, executive director, said that, depending on financial and other resources available, his agency hopes to complete 100 or 200 adoptions in the coming year.

Bolstered by the widespread public interest In the plight of Vietnamese children, social workers and others have been putting pressure on the administration for other changes.

Much of the pressure has come from the subcommittee on refugees and escapees of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has held a series of public hearings on Vietnam relief. The general consensus of the testimony was that the United States should exert influence on the South Vietnamese government to give higher priority to child welfare.

"Disadvantaged children are the one group of war victims who don't understand their situation and articulate their needs," said Klein, one of the witnesses. "They are totally dependent".

Understandably slow

Klein, who spent several years in Vietnam, said that the Vietnamese have been understandably slow in developing child welfare programs because this has traditionally been taken care of by a strong family structure.

"As societies get more complex there is increasing need for services by the broader community," he declared. "Modem Vietnam has these needs. but they aren't widely recognized. The Ministry of Social Welfare doesn't have much political clout."

Special attention has been focused in this country recently on the situation of American-fathered orphans, 800 to 1,000 of whom live in orphanages who are expected to face special problems in Vietnamese society because of their mixed blood.

Both public and private officials emphasize that the situation of adoptable children constitutes only a small part of the problems of aiding Vietnamese children disadvantaged by the war and that intercountry adoption must be approached in the contest of the over-all situation.

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