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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Give back your kids, parents told

Give back your kids, parents told

Seven families who adopted children from the Asian Orphan's Association (AOA) claim

they have been told by their embassy to take their children back to the orphanage

and go home for a few months.

While all seven have finalized their adoptions, they claimed the embassy had refused

their children visas until the US Immigration and Naturalization Service investigation

was completed.

"That's not a viable option for any of us," said Kim Edmonds-Woulfe.

Parents complained of a lack of consultation and cooperation from the embassy which

they accused of being misleading and evasive.

"The embassy told us that it's not just AOA that's being investigated and they

say they're looking at each case on a case-by-case basis," said one parent.

But they say many other adoptive parents have been granted US visas in the past few

weeks.

An embassy official said officers had met parents several times and they were "understandably

upset" but the investigation meant the embassy had no choice.

"If the embassy thinks something is wrong and needs to be investigated then

we think that's great. However we should never have been given appointments [by the

embassy] only to come here and then be denied our visas," said Edmonds-Woulfe.

"We're losing money and our families are worried. If we'd known this was happening

we never would have come. I can't give her up now - this is my daughter," said

Greg Sferes, a business owner from the US state of Maine.

None of the group was aware of what their "Cambodia country fees" were

used for, but acknowledged that the fees might drive the illicit adoption industry.

"It happens for everything, if there's a demand for something then it's going

to get corrupted," said one parent.

John Fleming, an attorney from Pennsylvania, added, "We're not doing it for

an illicit purpose ... taking them from an environment of poverty to something much

more stable. So, as tragic as it is for a mother to be coaxed into giving up her

child, it is not for a terrible thing."

"I wouldn't want to go home with a kid that a mother didn't voluntarily relinquish,"

said Edmonds-Woulfe.

They say they have faith in both their agencies and in AOA which they say was thoroughly

investigated by their US-based adoption agents.

"I don't think it's anyone's sole responsibility. We adoptive parents, the US

government, our agencies and the Cambodian government all have a role to play [in

ensuring ethical adoptions]," said one of the group.

The families said they were determined to pressure the embassy into allowing them

to go home with the children and were seeking help from congressmen, the State Department

and anyone else they could think of.

"My wife wrote to Barbara Bush about this. That's how desperate we are,"

said Sferes.

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