WORKING WITH ORPHANS
The Light House Orphanage (LHO) in Phnom Penh is just one of the many organisations in Cambodia that exist to serve orphans and other at-risk populations throughout the Kingdom.
Khan Sophean, manager of the orphanage, said that the organisation has adopted 98 children from Phnom Penh and eight other provinces around the country. In spite of the pending International Adoption Law, he said, the orphanage remains focused on preparing children for a life in Cambodian society.
Though visitors may serve as godparents to one of the children at the orphanage, the organisation does not allow children in its care to leave for adopted homes.
Supported by international donors, LHO offers vocational training and general-knowledge classes for the youths in its care.
Im Dina, a disabled 19-year-old, came to LHO from Kampong Speu province one month ago. He said the organisation provides all he needs of a home.
"My new life is here because they provide me with food and other benefits including education," he said. "This is all I need, right here."
Sok Vangsa, 16, from Kampong Chhnang province, came to LHO in 2007 because her parents could no longer support her. She said that with the education LHO provides and all the friends she has made there, she would be extremely reluctant to leave.
"I think that the atmosphere here is good, and I have many friends," she said. "I don't want a foreigner to care for me because this organisation gives me everything I need."
THE proposed International Adoption Law approved last week by the Council of Ministers is set to open the door to foreign adoptions for the first time in nearly a decade, though uncertainty remains regarding the details of the legislation.
In a statement released on Friday, the Council of Ministers said that the goal of the legislation is to ensure transparency and security in the international adoption process.
"The draft law's purpose is to regulate the principles, conditions, and procedures for international adoption, with the goal of guaranteeing the protection of children's rights and interests," the statement read.
Seng Lim Nov, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said Monday that the Council would like to see the law passed as quickly as possible. "This law is considered a high priority, and we hope to have it in the National Assembly within the next week or two," he said.
International adoption was suspended in Cambodia in 2001 amid concerns about child trafficking and the lack of adequate legal mechanisms to control the practice. Cambodia is a signatory of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, an international agreement that sets forth principles for the adoption process, and the Council of Ministers statement said that the new legislation would be in keeping with the protections for children outlined in that agreement.
Am Sam Ath, a monitor for the local rights group Licadho, said the government will have to work carefully to ensure that fraud and child-buying, which were endemic to the Cambodian adoption process in the past, do not resurface after the proposed regulations take effect.
"I hope that the draft law on adoption will establish a sufficient legal framework and other safeguards that protect the best interests of children," he said.
No single parents allowed
Though the full details of the adoption law have not yet been released, a cabinet official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the law would prohibit adoption by single parents.
"Our cabinet worries that foreigners who want to adopt as single parents may be untrustworthy," the official said.
Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng could not be reached for comment on Monday. In February, however, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong raised concerns in a meeting with French officials about international adoptions by unmarried individuals.