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Stalled adoptions pick up speed in Nepal


Stalled adoptions pick up speed in Nepal

Saturday, May 17, 2008
By Beth Loechler
The Grand Rapids Press

Sue Ann Siebert met her adoptive son, Sunny, last May when he was 5 months old. In an orphanage in Nepal, a small country between India and China, she held him and gazed into his dark eyes.

Coming home to Grand Haven without him was tough, Siebert acknowledged, But she understood Nepal's adoption laws called for two trips to the country. She expected to return for him within a couple months.

Then political unrest stalled the process. Now, Sunny is nearly 18 months old and continues to spend his days with a caretaker, not a mom. But not for long, Nepalese officials assured Siebert.

"We should release your file very fast," Reeta Singh Baidya, chairperson of Nepal Children's Organization, said Friday.

Baidya and others from Nepal visited Adoption Associates Inc. (AAI) in Georgetown Township this week as part of an effort to encourage adoptions from their country and talk about streamlined adoption rules.

"I know he's loved and cared for and doing well," said Siebert, 45, who picked Nepal, in part, because it allows single women to adopt. "I just wish they'd hurry up."

Nepal's push couldn't come at a better time for international adoption agencies, said Michelle Dykema, AAI's program manager for Nepal.

China has new restrictions -- including one that prohibits obese people from adopting its children -- and the application process has stretched to nearly three years. Guatemala clamped down amid allegations of child trafficking and corruption.

Last year, AAI handled the adoptions of 135 children from China and Guatemala alone. So far this year, they have completed a scant 29 from those two countries, and the number is not likely to grow significantly before year's end, Dykema said.

AAI is one of 11 U.S. adoption agencies the Nepalese delegation planned to visit this month and the only one in Michigan. Already this year, AAI has placed three children from Nepal. Twenty more families are in the process of adopting from there. The country, home to Mount Everest, is about the size of Kentucky and contains 25 million people.

Adopting a child from Nepal will cost $22,000 to $28,000, which includes travel expenses, and is open to infertile couples who have been married for at least four years and to single women. The process could take as little as a few months, but is more likely to take 12 to 18 months, Dykema said.

An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 children live in orphanages in Nepal, said Punya Neupane, the country's secretary for the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.

Most are orphaned or abandoned because of war, poverty or because they were born to single women.

About 400 Nepalese children were adopted internationally last year, he said. Adoptions ceased mid-2007, however, and did not commence again until recently, after a new government was elected.

Susanna and Chad Engbers of Grand Rapids are among the couples who looked to Nepal after having been discouraged by China's policies and delays. Their paperwork arrived in Nepal last May and has "stayed frozen" for a year, Chad Engbers said.

"We felt really powerless," he said.

The Engbers hope the changes put them closer to collecting their daughter, Rita, who is nearly 18 months old and living in the same orphanage as Siebert's son.

Send e-mail to the author: bloechler@grpress.com


2008 May 17