Cambodian officials met last week with the United States Special Adviser for Children’s Issues as they prepare to implement a new law on international adoptions, an attempt to bring order to a process that has been plagued by allegations of corruption and human trafficking.
The Kingdom’s Law on Inter-Country Adoption, passed in December 2009, is set to be implemented next month, said Khoun Ranine, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs. The law aims to bring Cambodia in line with the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, which sets strict terms for who should be eligible for international adoptions and how those adoptions should be regulated.
Although Cambodia has already ratified the convention, countries including the US, Australia, France and Canada have effectively placed moratoriums on adopting children from Cambodia, citing concerns about the Kingdom’s ability to comply with the guidelines.
US Special Adviser Susan Jacobs met with government officials and local diplomats on Thursday and Friday of last week to discuss the implementation of the new law and its compliance with the Hague Convention, the US embassy said in a statement.
“The United States looks forward to working with the Cambodian government as it establishes a child welfare system and will review carefully the implementing regulations related to the new law on inter-country adoptions as they are issued,” the embassy said, adding that a date had not yet been set for the resumption of inter-country adoption with the Kingdom.
Under the new law, Khoun Ranine said, the Social Affairs Ministry will establish a body called the Inter-Country Adoption Administration that will regulate the adoption process and coordinate with foreign countries.
The ICAA will be responsible for arranging and approving adoptions, he added, matching prospective parents with Cambodian children. Local agencies facilitating international adoptions will be required to work through the body.
Questions remain, however, about whether the new legislation will be able to overcome the issues of “baby selling” and corruption that have dogged the Cambodian adoption process in the past.
“I have nothing against the parents who will love these children,” Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ly Srey Vyna said. “However, these people will inadvertently enrich corruption in adoption, because the process in Cambodia is full of illicit activity.”
UNICEF country representative Richard Bridle said the government needed to make sure that it had the resources necessary to properly manage and monitor the adoption process. For orphaned children, he added, the government should “promote community-based alternative care and only use inter-country adoption when all local and national options are exhausted.”