US Pushes For Reform of Adoption System

A US State Department official met with Foreign Minister Hor Nam­hong last week to negotiate re­­forms to an overseas adoption system that essentially has been frozen since the US and several other countries imposed moratoriums beginning in late 2001.

Hor Namhong and Maura Harty, the State Department’s as­sistant secretary of consular af­fairs, agreed that the adoption of Cambodian children by US parents should be handled directly by the two governments and exclude third parties such as adoption agents, according to Ham Heng, director of the ministry’s press department.

Their talks, held Friday at the ministry, highlight the slow pace of adoption system reform as well as the political pressure in the US to lift the moratorium and resume adoptions of Cambodian orphans, a practice seen by many in the US as a humanitarian mission.

US Embassy spokeswoman Heide Bronke declined to discuss the specifics of Harty’s visit here, but said it was a routine trip and that there was no indication that the suspension will be lifted soon.

“There are a number of steps that need to be taken to get to that point,” she said.

Since a US ban was imposed nearly three years ago on adoptions from Cambodia, groups such as the US-based RathCare —Resume Adoptions Truthfully and Honestly/Cambodian Adop­tion Rescue Effort—have mounted letter-writing campaigns to US lawmakers lobbying for an immediate end to the moratorium.

Adoptive parents in the US who sought Cambodian orphans ex­ceeded any other country, until re­ports surfaced that the system was rife with corruption, prone to baby-buying and abetted by profit-seeking adoption agents.

One of those agents, Lauryn Galindo, has been found guilty in the US of multiple offenses and will be sentenced later this year.

In Friday’s talks, Harty also sug­gested that Cambodia collect a formal adoption fee, Hem Heng said.

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