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By Laurinda Luffman
October 5, 2011 / SOS Villages
In Nepal, there are an estimated 650,000 children who have lost either one or both parents (according to the United Nations Children’s Agency).
Many childless couples therefore look to adopt Nepalese children in want of a family. However, a recent BBC report has highlighted the continuing issue of cases where children with parents still living are given up for adoption. Western couples are paying thousands of dollars in fees and ‘donations’ to orphanages and this money is encouraging fraudulent practices, where children who are not in fact orphans are given to foreign families.
The problem has been known about for some time and many Western governments have suspended adoption from Nepal. One diplomat told the BBC that investigations were difficult to conduct, but when cases were looked into, adoption documents were sometimes found to be falsified or inaccurate. Because of the potentially lucrative nature of Nepalese adoptions, there are believed to be around 20 agents working out of the capital Kathmandu, who are sent out into rural regions of Nepal to find suitable children. The mostly female agents approach poor families, particularly in the remote Himalayan districts of the country. They persuade struggling families that their children will be better looked after in the capital and that their children will also receive a proper education.
Foreign couples are asked to pay 5,000 dollars to Nepalese orphanages in order to arrange the adoption of a child. An additional 3,000 dollars must be given to government officials for dealing with the paperwork. In some cases, other fees are also paid. Prospective parents are shown pictures of youngsters in care, but are given little further information about the children they plan to adopt. Official documents record that the children are either without parents or have been abandoned by their families.
Nepal has signed up to the Hague Adoption Convention, which lays out standards for international adoption procedures. However, so far, these standards have not been put in place. Reform has been slow in coming and reports in the local press have accused officials of corruption. Though changes have yet to go through, some governments are feeling the pressure to reopen adoptions to Nepal.
One mother tells the BBC her story to highlight the current dangers involved in child adoption from Nepal. Sarita Bhujel was persuaded to send her seven year-old daughter to a children’s home in the capital when she was struggling financially. Told she could visit her daughter at any time, the mother found that after a while the home came up with excuses as to why she couldn’t see her child. Eventually, she discovered her daughter had been adopted by an Italian couple. Ms Bhujel says she has cried for many years over the loss of her beloved daughter.