At least 45 US families whose adoption plans have been in limbo for months have received permission from their government to travel to Cambodia to finalize their adoptions, US officials said Tuesday.
They are the among hundreds of families whose adoption applications were halted when the US Immigration and Naturalization Service suspended Cambodian adoptions last December in order to investigate allegations of child trafficking.
The 45 families are the first whose cases have been investigated and approved by a task force made up of members of the INS, the US State Department, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Cambodia’s director of immigration, US officials said.
“There are roughly 20 orphanages correlated with the 450 cases we have. We are not approving orphanages, but individual cases,” US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said. “Those 45 families have been notified through the INS in Washington and invited to [Cambodia] to effectuate the adoptions.”
Adoptive mother Liz Fitzgerald, who has been in Cambodia since early February but whose adoption has not been approved, said she is approaching the end of an arduous process, but alleges favoritism on the part of US officials in Cambodia. “It seems as though certain orphanages were preferred by the embassy staff,” she said.
“There were a very large number of cases being pressed before the suspension,” Wiedemann said. He added that the task force was operating in the most efficient manner possible.
“We are working with the Cambodian government and they have some influence over the sequence of orphanages, but we are attempting in principle to follow a first-come, first-serve basis,” he said.
“Now we are pretty confident,” said Dawn Smith, an adoptive mother who expects her orphanage to be investigated this week. “It took [authorities] a long time to get where they are now, but we are not so frustrated anymore.”
Smith said she would even consider adopting from Cambodia in the future because her ordeal has made her feel “connected to Cambodia.”