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Guidelines seek to streamline domestic adoptions

Children take part in a painting activity earlier this year at a Phnom Penh orphanage.
Children take part in a painting activity earlier this year at a Phnom Penh orphanage. Athena Zelandonii

Guidelines seek to streamline domestic adoptions

New guidelines aimed at clarifying domestic adoption procedures in Cambodia were released yesterday, with officials saying the so-called explanatory note could increase the number of in-country adoptions by helping would-be adoptive parents more easily navigate the byzantine process.

The guidelines were released by the Ministry of Justice and UNICEF at the beginning of a three-day national workshop. They are based on legal provisions that already exist but are scattered throughout multiple government prakases and the civil code.

“In Cambodia, many children are still deprived of family and community care, and grow up in inappropriate environments, such as institutions that cannot possibly replace the individualised care and love of a family,” said Debora Comini, UNICEF representative for Cambodia.

The guidelines are an “important step” as the country seeks solutions to the issue of children not having a proper place to grow up, she added.

Though the adoption process used to be prohibitively difficult to navigate, the explanatory note will provide guidance and streamline the process for judges, social workers, lawyers and adoptive parents.

“Very few cases of domestic adoption have happened in Cambodia because of the lack of clarity,” said Lucia Soleti, a child protection specialist with UNICEF. Several officials in both the ministries of social affairs and justice yesterday weren’t able to provide the number of children who are currently eligible for adoption.

But a preliminary March report from the Ministry of Social Affairs found that there were 11,788 children living in 267 facilities across five provinces. Many of them have parents who are not able to care for them.

Jesse Blaine, general manager for Children in Families, a foster care placement provider, called the guidelines “a step forward in establishing standard policy for domestic adoption”.

However, Sambath Sokunthea, child rights technical co-ordinator for Plan International Cambodia, said she would request that both ministries work closely, otherwise, the guidelines might not make much of a difference.

“If they work separately, maybe they won’t find a clear approach,” she said.

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