Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Families confident of visas

Families confident of visas

Families confident of visas

Three families seeking US visas for children adopted in October are still confident

visas will be granted soon, but said earlier hopes they would be home for Christmas

have disappeared.

"That's simply not going to happen," said Kim Edmonds-Woulfe. "Not

unless a rabbit is pulled out of a hat. We tried to get hold of people at INS in

Bangkok, but it appears they have gone home and forgotten about us."

"I think it is a shame they could not find it within them [to look at the paperwork],"

she continued. "The three families submitted our responses December 17, and

they told me they haven't looked at them yet."

The families' responses were to a "notice of intent to deny" issued by

the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) after an INS investigation concluded

documentation proving the children were orphans was suspect.

The INS began its investigation after allegations of baby trafficking were raised

against the Asian Orphans' Association (AOA), the Phnom Penh orphanage from where

the families adopted.

"They've reached certain conclusions about those documents but we feel our responses

will satisfy them," said Jeff Fleming of the INS notices.

"There was nothing about baby trafficking or baby stealing [in the INS report].

We're extremely confident that whatever the INS wants to know [about the documents]

we can prove it. There's no solid case against issuing our visas. If we thought we

couldn't answer those queries then we'd already be gone," added Greg Sferes,

44 of Maine.

The INS told Edmonds-Woulfe her paperwork had been "forwarded to the international

affairs office in Washington DC, and there would be no information until the person

in Bangkok is back from holiday around January 8".

She has decided to head home for two weeks "to spend Christmas with my eight-year-old

son, but I will be back in two weeks to continue the fight".

All agreed that they would continue to fight any ruling that did not allow them to

return to the United States with the children.

"We're not even considering losing this. It's not going to happen. I'm here

with her forever. I bonded with her the minute I met her so, unless a real birth

mother comes forward, it's just not going to happen," said Sferes.

The only circumstance under which the families are prepared to give up the child

they adopted is if the birth mother comes forward, but at this stage they believe

that is unlikely.

"With all this publicity if there were women out there looking for these babies

then they would have come forward by now," said Edmonds-Woulfe.

All said AOA director Puth Serey retained their confidence and the questions over

their paperwork would be easily answered. Edmonds-Woulfe said the decision by the

appeals court December 20 against AOA keeping custody of ten babies and two children

did not change their opinion of Serey.

The case has generated worldwide media attention from CNN, the New York Times and

London Sunday Times. The US current affairs program 20/20 screened a one-hour program

on the families' plight December 19.

International adoption from Cambodia has long been subject to accusations of bribery

and child trafficking. Currently there are two child trafficking investigations under

way against AOA and a third investigation on staff from a separate institution, the

Khmer American Orphans' Association.