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Baby fees 'very low'

I have read the articles you have published recently regarding adoption in Cambodia.

I am writing to shed a different light on the subject. I imagine that the public

may read your articles as factual reporting and may believe your assertions are conclusive

even though no proper process of research and investigation or proceeding in any

court of law has occurred.

I am not an expert on Cambodian adoption. I was only a visitor in Cambodia for two

months. However, I can tell you my own experience, and I think the experience of

individuals should be weighed against the generalities and unproven allegations made

in your articles.

I came to Cambodia on May 9 of this year to adopt my daughter. My facilitator was

Lauryn Galindo. The orphanage where my child was residing was Cham Chao (Women and

Orphan Vocational Center).

My experience with Seattle International Adoption, Lauryn Galindo and the orphanage

at Cham Chao, where my daughter was living, was outstanding. I found the fees to

be reasonable, very low by comparison to the fee we paid in connection with our adoptive

child from the US. The personnel were friendly, supportive, understanding, patient

and efficient.

When I arrived in Cambodia, I went directly from the airport to the orphanage at

Cham Chao. I was impressed immediately by the ratio of personnel to children. There

appeared to be a nanny for each of the babies. The children were being carried, fed

and carefully tended. Despite the primitive facilities, loving nannies seemed to

be doing the best they could, and the children were showered with attention.

I traveled to Sihanoukville to visit the orphanage there for the "graduates"

of Cham Chao. These toddlers also appeared to be receiving good care. They were rocked

and held, carefully fed and even potty-trained. The atmosphere was that of a small

summer camp for young children.

At these orphanages, I saw at least as many boys as girls, if not more boys. I saw

a baby who was hooked up to an intravenous feeding tube who was being treated for

dehydration and tuberculosis, a child who was blind in one eye, and a number of children

who were being treated for a variety of illnesses.

An orphanage with many boys and a number of children who are ill, undernourished

and malformed is not likely to be "buying" its babies, as your articles

asserted. As I understand it, Americans usually want to adopt "perfect"

babies, and the demand is far greater for girls than for boys.

I understand that a new and better orphanage near Phnom Penh is under construction,

a project of the Sharing Foundation, an organization established to help to care

for Cambodia's children.

I was told that plans are under consideration to use the Women and Orphan Vocational

Center at Cham Chao as a place to counsel mothers who are considering abandoning

their children for adoption. The idea is to encourage Cambodian mothers to keep their

children and to provide them with vocational training to help them to learn marketable

skills in order to support themselves and their children.

I learned that orphanage donation money from the adoptive families pays for food,

salaries for care givers, clothing for the children and many of the costs of these

orphanages. I know that a great deal of money is spent by Lauryn Galindo from the

orphanage donation funds on the support of the orphanages at Cham Chao, Sihanoukville,

Kampong Speu, and Siem Reap. Many of the children in these orphanages are not going

to be placed for adoption, because their health is not sufficient or they are over

the age of eight.

I personally witnessed the expenditure of money received by Lauryn Galindo. The money

my husband wired to Cambodia as a voluntary donation was put into a cashier's check

and donated for the construction of a public school. I got to go along on a shopping

trip with Dr Nancy Hendrie, an associate of Lauryn's and the founder of the Sharing

Foundation. Twenty-one big cloth bags of rice, strings of dried "hot dogs"

and rack after rack of various kinds of dried fish were purchased for the orphanage

at Siem Reap.

While in Cambodia, I met a number of people who had received financial aid from Lauryn

Galindo. One such young man, Peaou, told me that he was very grateful to Lauryn Galindo,

because he lost his parents during Pol Pot time and she helped him when no one else

would. He told me that Ms Galindo paid for his education and gave him a job. He is

now employed at the orphanage at Sihanoukville and is still attending college in

the town. Others received an education in dentistry, and money for their children's

operation and medical care.

The real treat for me was watching the adoptive parents the day they received their

children. A tiny baby suffering from severe malnourishment was being rocked and fed

special formula by her new daddy, the father of two older adopted Cambodian boys

waiting back in the US for their new sister.

A number of the little girls and boys I had seen at the orphanage in Sihanoukville

were dressed in new clothes, little sandals, holding a toy in one hand and their

new mommy or daddy's hand in the other. The parents appeared to be filled with love

and pride. The little ones I had come to know at Sihanoukville seemed truly happy

to be welcomed into their new families.

I believe that the orphanage conditions were good by comparison with those in many

countries and that this is largely because of the orphanage donation money provided

by the adoptive parents and the efforts of many wonderful individuals. Nevertheless,

it was graphically clear to me that a future with loving parents, good medical care,

bedtime stories, a quality education and the promise of rewarding life is a far better

option for these children.

In your crusade against bad practices, I believe you have made harmful errors and

exercised media "spin" to the detriment of a truly beneficial practice

of adoption.

From what I understand, this is the work of someone who is new to Cambodia and somewhat

inexperienced and certainly not a qualified or certified investigator. It appears

that the report is garnered from unsubstantiated anecdotes and the unproven word

of a few individuals who may have their own questionable reasons for telling such

stories.

The harm you may have done is immeasurable in terms of human life. Children may have

died in orphanages due to delays precipitated by your reports; certainly, they have

been detained in orphanages.

Some of these children have weaknesses due to illness or malnutrition, dangerous

birth conditions, etc. Time lost in getting these children to their adoptive families

who can give them the care, food and medical attention they need can cost them their

lives.

As an example, while on vacation recently, I happened to meet the honorary consul

to the Thai Embassy from the midwestern US. She inquired about my beautiful daughter,

and I told her about my daughter's Cambodian origins.

This woman told me that a friend of hers was trying to adopt a baby from Thailand

who has Downs Syndrome. She said the adoption had been aborted due to some negative

articles regarding adoption published in Cambodia, because the article mentions an

organization that was involved with this child's placement.

Her friend was very eager to adopt this baby, since she has special training in the

area of special needs children. It is highly unusual for anyone to seek to adopt

a child afflicted with Downs Syndrome, and there may not be another opportunity for

this boy.

It makes me sad to think how your article may have adversely impacted this baby's

future, such that he faces spending the rest of his life in an institution in Thailand

without the love of a family and superior medical care he might have had.

I encourage you to do some more balanced reporting and cast a bright light on the

positive work being accomplished in adoption both in the government and in the private

sector.

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