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New adoption regulations hurting orphans

091204_08
Children gather around a television screen at the Cambodian Lighthouse Children’s Orphanage in Phnom Penh.

Dear Editor,
I am writing in regard to an issue which has been largely unreported by the media, but has a huge effect on the hundreds of people involved. The issue concerned affects the lives of Cambodian children and foreign parents. I write to you about the issue of international adoption.

On November 17, the Cambodian government passed through the Senate a law which has taken many years to approve. This law has been designed to make the adoption of Cambodian children much more transparent and also bring Cambodian law into line with that of International Human Rights. For the large part, this law is applauded by parents wanting to adopt.

For years the current system has been shrouded in confusion and misinformation. Nonetheless, it was the only system we, as prospective adoptive parents, had to work with. During the time it has taken to draft the new law, the Ministry of Social Affairs has continued to accept dossiers that cost time, money and heartache to prepare.

They have continued to issue letters of referral which accept people as adoptive parents and grant the adoption of a specific child. They have continued to offer hope and expectations that parents would soon have their children home. That was all until November 17.

At that point, the Ministry of Social Affairs apparently suspended all cases pending under the newly obsolete law. The ministry told one prominent embassy that all cases outstanding would now be defunct and parents must reapply under the new law. How do I know all this? Because I am one such parent, a “pipeline case”.

My wife and I had been referred our daughter since March of this year. It should have been the final step before she came home, and we wrongly assumed that we would be united with her shortly after. Every week we would wait for news. Every week none would come. During the eight months that have passed, we have visited her every chance we could. Our daughter’s drawings, letters and photos cover our fridge at home. Her school has reserved her place. Her room is decorated with her favourite things, and her clothes are in the cupboard waiting for the day she comes home. On the darkest of days, it seems she may never come home.

We are not alone. There are hundreds of people waiting to become parents to Cambodian children. They too have been referred their sons and daughters. They too, for all but a few signatures, were approved under the old law. They are decent people offering a child love and appreciation.

One day they were eligible and yet the next day they were not.

The problems with this are many, but could probably be best summed up this way: The new law, although approved, has as yet no structure by which to apply. There are still many more months, possibly years, before parents can adopt through this channel. Many parents stuck in the pipeline will not be eligible under the new law, either by age, marital status or the age of their child. This is all aside from the immeasurable heartache caused by more months or years of waiting.

These children were part of a better future until the parents who offered love and hope were cut off at the final hurdle.

The Cambodian government is in real danger of abandoning these children a second time. There is no social welfare system to catch these children. There are no second chances for some of these children. I implore the government to open its mind. There is no logic in doing things this way. Please give these children the home they deserve.

To our darling daughter, we love you, sweetheart. You are in our thoughts every minute. Although we are separated by what seems an impossible challenge, we promise never to give up on you. We will fight until you are home. We love you very big. Mum and Dad.

Group of concerned parents

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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