U.S. Government Closes Adoptions
Joint Council’s Nepal initiative stems from the joint announcement on August 6, 2010 by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stating the suspension of new adoption cases for children presented as abandoned in Nepal. Additionally, DOS has published a Q&A on the suspension. The primary cause of the closure appears to be that U.S. government has determined the documentation on the children is not reliable, the origin of child cannot be adequately assessed and the child’s adoptability cannot be assured.
A History of Concern
The closure of adoptions in Nepal follows a long history of concerns regarding corruption. Most recently, DOS announcements in March 2010 and May 2010 strongly discouraged adoptive parents from choosing to adopt from Nepal. And on July 14 2010, DOS requested the contact information of adoptive parents with the apparent intent of determining the number of families adopting Nepalese children and informing them directly of DOS actions.
Nepal adoptions were previously suspended in May 2007 and only reopened in early 2009. Since the reopening, concerns regarding corruption have been raised by not only the U.S. government but also in a report by Terre des Hommes and through the decision of virtually all European countries to cease adoptions with Nepal.
Joint Council has also expressed concerns. In 2007, Joint Council launched the Nepal Initiative for Families and Children which successfully contributed to the adoptions of over 400 children caught in the 2007 closure. When the suspension was lifted in 2009, Joint Council stated its concerns regarding the worldwide total number of service providers licensed by the Nepalese government. And at our Annual Conference in March 2010, Nepal was added to our list of ‘countries at risk of closing’.
Alternatives to Closure
Regarding the substantial allegations of corruption surrounding adoptions in Nepal Joint Council continues to forcefully advocate that those who are responsible for abuses be investigated, arrested and prosecuted. Failing to take aggressive action against the individuals involved only further compromises children’s rights. And when the reaction to abuse is not the prosecution of the perpetrators but rather the elimination of intercountry adoption, children are further victimized and their rights stripped away.
Joint Council and all others concerned about those children who live without parental care, must be more aggressive in our role in the elimination of corruption and abuse. Whether through intentional illegalities, unintended consequences or weak oversight, our collective failure to ensure ethical adoptions and the development a full spectrum of permanency services, only contributes to the elimination of a child’s right to a family.
As just one part of a more aggressive role, Joint Council joins many other leading advocates in supporting the recommendations delineated by EJ Graff in her recent article on intercountry adoption. These recommendations include laws which would make ‘baby buying’ illegal and require Hague accreditation for service providers with programs in foreign countries. Joint Council’s position on Ms. Graff’s recommendations can be found here.
Children and families can best be protected and their rights ensured through the proactive leadership of the U.S. government and a policy that states “children belong in families”. Without aggressive leadership, family-centric policies and the resources to back it up; children’s rights will continue to be slowly stripped away. And perhaps most sadly, upon the closure of adoption, the U.S. government offers no programs to support the parentless children the closure is purported to protect.
A “children belong in families” policy is the goal of the Families For Orphans Act. This landmark legislation is our best hope at preventing children from being abandoned and of finding permanent families for children without parental care. Without such a ‘game changer’, existing families will continue to be forced to abandon their children, domestic adoption will continue to languish and intercountry adoption will continue to be eliminated one country at a time .
Joint Council will continue to work aggressively with the governments of Nepal and the U.S. along with adoption service providers to ensure that the children of Nepal will once again have the right to a family through legal and ethical intercountry adoption. Joint Council calls on members of the international community, including the U.S. Department of State, to both assist the government of Nepal in reopening a ethical adoption system and to provide life-giving aide to the growing number of Nepalese children who remain without the love and nurturing of a safe and permanent family.