Officials: Adoption Process Still Unreformed

As Britain distanced itself this week from Cambodia’s corrupt adoption system, government and NGO officials said Wednes­day that legislation to clean up the process is far from complete.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is drafting a new law to curb the baby-buying and institutional fraud that have led several Western countries to suspend adoptions from Cam­bodia.

But the draft law will likely undergo another round of consultations with donor countries be­fore it goes to the Council of Ministers and finally the National Assembly to be passed as law, said Nim Thauth, the ministry’s secretary of state.

“I cannot predict next year or the year after next, but we want to submit it soon,” he said.

Reports of mothers who sold their infants to be adopted for as little as $50 surfaced in 2001 and led to several countries suspending adoptions from Cambodia.

Britain joined that list Tuesday, echoing concerns about the use of adoption brokers here, rampant child trafficking and widespread falsification of official documents relating to adoption.

Adoptions from Cambodia to Britain have spiked in the last year as other countries have been slapped with suspensions, said John Mitchell, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy.

Fifty adoptions have been processed to Britain since the start of 2003, compared with only six adoptions between 2001 to 2003, Mitchell said.

The suspension resulted from a recent investigation by Britain’s Department of Education, but Mitchell said the embassy did not know whether the probe turned up specific cases of baby-buying.

Like other countries that have enacted suspensions, Britain said it would review its ban when Cambodia adopts a new law that meets standards laid out in a landmark 1993 Hague convention on inter-country adoptions.

The final legislation will meet those standard but there is no clear timetable, said Caroline Bakker, head of the child protection department at Unicef, which is helping draft the law.




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