Domestic adoptions are expected to increase following the release of new guidelines that will make it less fraught for prospective parents to offer permanent homes for children, experts said at a meeting on Wednesday.
Adoption among Cambodians has rarely been viewed as an alternative to institutional care partly due to a lack of clear regulations, Unicef’s Cambodia representative Debora Comini said at the presentation of a new explanatory note on domestic adoptions.
“Domestic adoption so far has been rarely used in an appropriate way in Cambodia, and in order to promote its practice, the Ministry of Justice has developed the explanatory note on domestic adoption,” she said.
Ms. Comini said the guidelines would help to explain adoption principles, requirements and proceedings to authorities and social workers involved in the adoption process.
She said she was unable to provide figures on domestic adoptions, but expected the number to rise.
“There are prospective parents that would like to legally adopt in Cambodia, but they find legal obstacles or they don’t know how to go about it,” Ms. Comini said after the meeting. “We think that it is going to make it transparent and we think that it is going to increase the numbers.”
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana acknowledged reports of child trafficking previously linked to inter-country adoptions, which, alongside allegations of corruption, prompted the government to ban the practice in 2011.
“That was a bad experience and was why the government issued an order to develop a legitimate law,” he said.
International organizations including Unicef have said the government must further strengthen its domestic adoption laws before lifting the ban on foreign parents adopting Cambodian children.
Nget Thy, executive director of the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights, said that while the guidelines were a step forward in protecting children, families still lacked a basic understanding of children’s rights.
“They want to adopt children and OK, they look after them and provide them with an education, but sometimes the reality is that this is not always true,” he said. “Some of them exploit the children” by taking them out of school and sending them to work.