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Today’s Suspension of Adoptions of *Abandoned* Children in Nepal

Another day, another closure due to an ongoing pattern of falsified documents.

Today the U.S. closed off adoptions of children classified as “abandoned” or foundlings in Nepal after finding an ongoing pattern in previous American adoptions of children labeled “abandoned in Nepal, the “documents presented in support of the abandonment of these children in Nepal have been found to be unreliable and circumstances of alleged abandonment cannot be verified because of obstacle in the investigation of individual cases.”

Nepal is just one of several countries Americans have turned to due to the relative ease with which they have been able to gain access to children. As was noted in a MAy 2009 Slate article, The Orphan Trade: A look at families affected by corrupt international adoptions, their interest has had everything to do with the relatively shall we say, “lax” legal climate in Nepalese adoptions.

When one country’s adoptions are closed down to regulate or stop the trafficking, the adoption industry moves to the next “hot” and under-regulated country. (For Americans, these are currently Ethiopia and, to a lesser degree, Nepal.)

The joint statement on the Suspension can be found here. It really leads to questions of why only suspend the adoptions of those children deemed “abandoned” in light of this mess.

The Department of State’s recent interactions with the Government of Nepal and its efforts to review and investigate numerous abandonment cases, including field visits to orphanages and police departments, have demonstrated that documents presented to describe and “prove” the abandonment of children in Nepal are unreliable. Civil documents, such as the children’s birth certificates often include data that has been changed or fabricated. Investigations of children reported to be found abandoned are routinely hindered by the unavailability of officials named in reports of abandonment. Police and orphanage officials often refuse to cooperate with consular officers’ efforts to confirm information by comparing it with official police and orphanage records. In one case, the birth parents were actively searching for a child who had been matched with an American family for adoption. Because the Department of State has concluded that the documentation presented for children reported abandoned in Nepal is unreliable and the general situation of non-cooperation with and even active hindrance of investigations, the U.S. Government can no longer reasonably determine whether a child documented as abandoned qualifies as an orphan. Without reliable documentation, it is not possible for the United States government to process an orphan petition to completion.

The U.S. State Department Alert of the Suspension can be found here, and its Nepal adoptions page has a (now out of date) backgrounder including recent  adoption statistics.

A few highlights from the Alert:

Q. Why is the United States government suspending adoptions from Nepal

A.  The Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have decided to suspend processing of new adoption cases from Nepal that involve children who are claimed to have been found abandoned, because documents presented in support of the abandonment of these children in Nepal have been found to be unreliable and circumstances of alleged abandonment cannot be verified because of obstacle in the investigation of individual cases.

Q:  Adoptive parents have received immigrant visas for their Nepali children from the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu as recently as a few weeks ago.  What has changed since then?

A.  A review of recently processed cases established a disturbing pattern indicating that available documentation cannot be relied upon to make determinations that a child reported abandoned qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law.

Q:  Does the suspension apply to all cases or only to cases in which a child was allegedly found abandoned?

A.  The suspension applies only to cases where a child is alleged to have been found abandoned.

Q.  When is the suspension going into effect?

A.  The suspension is effective as of August 6, 2010, for all new adoption cases involving children from Nepal who have been reported abandoned.

and

Q.  Based on what authority is the U.S. Government suspending adoptions from Nepal?

A.  The Department of State has concluded that the documentation presented for children reported abandoned in Nepal is unreliable.  Without reliable documentation, such children cannot meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.  Based on this determination and obstacles in the investigation process the U.S. Government has suspended the processing of new adoption cases that involve children who are reported abandoned.

Q.  What evidence does the U.S. Government have to support the suspension?

A.  The Department of State’s ongoing interactions with the Government of Nepal and the review of numerous cases, including field visits to orphanages and police stations, led them to conclude that information regarding how children arrive at orphanages is consistently inadequate and that documents presented to establish that a child was found abandoned are unreliable.  Investigations of abandonment cases have been hampered by the unavailability of officials involved in reports of abandonment, and police and orphanage officials’ refusals to allow consular officers access to police and orphanage records.

Naturally, the American “solution” to the problem is to encourage Nepal to sign the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.

Q.  Has the U.S. Government made any effort to address the problems with the Government of Nepal?

A.  The U.S. Government, in cooperation with other countries that are active in intercountry adoptions, has consistently encouraged the Government of Nepal to ratify and implement the Hague Adoption Convention.  Nepal is a signatory to the Convention.  We have also urged the Government of Nepal to implement the recommendations made by the Hague Permanent Bureau Intercountry Technical Assistance Program (ICATAP) as a first step toward fulfilling its commitment as a signatory to the Convention.  We believe that the Hague Adoption Convention incorporates the best practices in intercountry adoption, which are intended to protect the rights of the children and the families involved in intercountry adoption.

Bastard Nation (among others) expressed concerns back before the treaty was enacted, pointed out a few of its many fatal flaws.

Once it was enacted, the U.S. has pushed it as the end all “best practices” standard that it believes all countries should sign on to.

Yet clearly, the evidence continues to mount, Hague signatory countries can be just as prone to abuses as non-signatory nations.

Roelie Post has shown in her important piece, “The Perverse Effects of the Hague Adoption Convention” and as I have been documenting here for some time now, (specifically, be sure to see my post, How’s that Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption workin’ out for you then?) that the Convention, far from any sort of a “fix” merely maintains the ongoing brokenness, while giving it a polite cover to hide under.

Simply put, the US and other countries are playing bully with a big stick, demanding other countries sign on to the Hague as a means by which to keep up appearances of “best practices” despite the clear failures of the treaty to actually prevent the abuses it was allegedly created to rectify. All of which has more to do with proving soothing reassurances to would-be-adoptive clients than any actual form of child protection or genuine family preservation.

Those would-be-adopters with adoptions “in the pipeline” should not be characterized as having been ‘taken off guard’ by this latest alert, as the American State Department had previously issued a broader statement this past March about the ongoing falsification of paperwork on adoptions from Nepal. Going ahead with an adoption at that point should have put couples and families on notice.

Note that in the March 4th State Department Alert the concerns were not narrowed to children deemed “abandoned.” It was a full on waving off of ALL adoptions from Nepal:

The U.S. Department of State strongly discourages prospective adoptive parents from choosing Nepal as a country from which to adopt due to grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children’s official files.

In May, in another Alert, the State Department spoke even more frankly about the situation (bold in the original):

The U.S. Department of State strongly discourages prospective adoptive parents from choosing adoption in Nepal because of grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children’s official files.  The Department also strongly discourages adoption service providers from accepting new applications for adoption from Nepal until reforms are made, and asks them to be vigilant about possible unethical or illegal activities under the current adoption system.

As to what may have changed since May 26th, causing the US to only close adoptions of kids deemed “Abandoned” instead of a full closure of all adoptions from the country, one can only $peculate.

The May alert is very clear about the situation, at least one child had been presented as an “orphan” for adoption, even as their parents were looking for their missing child.

Although the U.S. Embassy in Nepal has only seen a handful of adoption cases since the new Terms and Conditions went into effect, we share many of the concerns outlined in the Hague report.  As a case in point, in one of the first cases processed by the Government of Nepal after the revision of the Terms and Conditions, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu found that the adopted child was not a true orphan and that the birth parents were actively searching for the child.

Those of us who care about the children and families of Nepal are left to the obvious question, in light of such ongoing patterns of behaviour, does this latest suspension go anywhere near far enough?

Or does it merely continue to enable the people participating in these criminal practices to continue on, after just readjusting or refocusing their efforts?

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