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New step towards adoptions

Young boys watch a television at an orphanage in Phnom Penh
Young boys watch a television at an orphanage in Phnom Penh. The Ministry of Social Affairs announced earlier this week that they would welcome the restart of international adoptions in Cambodia. Sovan Philong

New step towards adoptions

Despite Cambodia’s unofficial freeze on inter-country adoptions, the Ministry of Social Affairs recently urged partner countries to reforge, in principle, their adoption partnerships with the Kingdom.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ministry opened the application process for international adoption agencies, as only adoption agencies accredited by receiving countries and licensed by the ministry are allowed to provide inter-country adoption services in Cambodia.

Though the ban on such adoptions was officially lifted in January 2013, Cambodia, lacking an adequate framework, still has not processed any.

Monday’s move is the most recent step in a long, drawn-out attempt to bring order to a process that has, due to weak laws and lax enforcement, been plagued with allegations of human trafficking.

“It is different from before,” said the ministry’s Inter-Country Adoption Administration (ICAA) director Roeun Rithyroath. “Now we have a lot of regulations to protect our children … and though we can’t process adoption requests yet, we want to announce to other countries that we wish to start signing new agreements with them.”

Italy, so far, is the only country to have re-established its memorandum of understanding on inter-country adoptions.

Since the accession of the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption in 2007 and the passage of the Law on Inter-country Adoption in 2009, Cambodia has been working to comply with international standards.

Rithyroath, however, explained that the country wouldn’t be ready to commence adoptions until the ICAA, with the help of UNICEF and other partners, develops a procedure for adoptions within the country – which is expected to be finalised by the end of March – and strengthens its case-management system.

“These checks and balances should ensure that … domestic options have indeed been exhausted and that an inter-country adoption does not result in improper financial gain for those involved; to assess the proposed adopting parents and … be certain that they can care for the child,” UNICEF communication chief Denise Shepherd-Johnson said.

The US, which initiated a case management training program for local officials in 2014, said yesterday in a statement that it has yet to re-up its agreement with Cambodia, but is working to “ensure that when inter-country adoptions to the US do resume, they are ethical, transparent, and in the best interests of each adopted child”.

According to Rithyroath, the first wave of inter-country adoptions will focus on children with special needs, because “maybe the international adoptive parents can help them by giving them better lives in countries with better health systems”.

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