US reports adoption fraud widespread in Vietnam

The US embassy released a report Friday detailing pervasive corruption in Vietnam's international adoption system, prompting angry denials from the Vietnamese government, dpa reported.

The nine-page report by the embassy's Consular Investigations unit charges that some Vietnamese orphanages pay parents to put their children up for adoption in order to obtain donations from foreign adoption service providers, who fund most of the orphanages' budgets.

The report says foreign adoption agencies' contributions are sometimes embezzled by orphanage officials, and another US report details ten cases of egregious abuse, including babies put up for adoption without their parents' consent.

The head of Vietnam's Department of International Adoptions categorically denied the charges, and stated that his agency had never seen a case of baby selling or fraud related to international adoption.

"They can say whatever they want," said Vu Duc Long. "It's like the human rights issue. The US side says that Vietnam violates human rights, but Vietnam doesn't."

Long said the only cases of baby trafficking discovered by police in Vietnam were destined for regional countries like China, and were not related to official international adoption procedures.

"The report speaks for itself," said US Embassy spokesperson Angela Aggeler. "The information we have gathered over a long period of time, looking at hundreds of cases, make us feel confident that our report is accurate."

The US's report says adoption fraud stems partly from the requirement under Vietnamese law that foreign adoption service providers, or ASPs, must provide funding to a Vietnamese orphanage in order to receive adoption referrals from that orphanage. Agreements between orphanages and ASPs require the orphanage to refer a set proportion of children for adoption in exchange for donations from the foreign ASP.

When the orphanages do not have enough children to refer, they come under pressure to find more, since foreign ASPs are their principal source of funds.

The report lists cases in which prospective adoptees were falsely reported to have been abandoned by unknown parents, in order to prevent US Embassy officials from verifying that the parents had not been coerced or paid, a requirement under the US-Vietnamese agreement on international adoption. In some cases, the report alleges babies were put up for adoption by hospitals when parents were unable to pay their medical bills.

In other cases, the report says parents were promised payments averaging over 300 dollars in exchange for signing papers putting their children up for adoption.

The US's current agreement on adoption with Vietnam is scheduled to expire on September 1. The US insists that a future agreement allow DNA checking of adoptees' and parents' identity and spontaneous US investigations without the consent of provincial governments, conditions the Vietnamese side has refused to meet.

Also on Friday, the US Embassy issued a recommendation that US parents not initiate any new adoption procedures from Vietnam.

The US issued over 800 adoption visas to children from Vietnam in 2007, and has issued over 300 so far this year. Because of concerns over fraud, the applications of some dozen American adoptive parents who have already been matched with Vietnamese children have been delayed, some for many months.

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