April 27, 2008
VIETNAMESE babies are being bought or stolen from parents to be sold for adoption in the West, according to a US Embassy investigation.
In some cases hospitals sent babies to orphanages after their parents were unable to pay medical bills. In another, a grandmother sent a girl for adoption without telling the parents.
The report by the US Embassy in Hanoi said: “In five provinces, we discovered unlicensed, unregulated facilities that provide free room and board to pregnant women in return for their commitment to relinquish their children upon birth.”
The babies were then recorded as “deserted”, said the report. If the mother had a change of heart she had to pay back the cost of her accommodation, the report said.
More commonly, parents are persuaded by health officials or orphanage staff to put their children into care in exchange for a payment of about $A400. They are often told they can visit the child or that it will be returned to them after a few years.
“In a terrifying number of cases the parents had no idea they would never see their child again,” said Angela Aggeler, an embassy spokesman.
Some of the 42 American adoption agencies in Vietnam paid for the government officials who licensed them to fly to the US for shopping trips.
These agencies quote an average cost to would-be adoptive parents of about $A25,500 for fees and travel.
Many note on their websites that they make donations to orphanages or fund them outright. But, according to the report, these donations often amount to a kind of finder’s fee.
It said the director of one orphanage was paid a fixed amount in cash every month for each child available for international adoption.
“This orphanage has seen the number of infants in its care rise more than 2000% in the past year, but it has not made significant increases in staff,” the report said.
Vu Doc Long, Vietnam’s top adoption official, called the report’s allegations groundless and rejected DNA testing or spot-checks on orphanages as an unacceptable way to reduce the problem. “We are very committed to international adoption,” said Ms Aggeler. “We just want to make sure that every child is really an orphan.”