Monday, February 8, 2010

Children of the night (Kathmandu Post -- editorial)

The process of inter-country adoption of children from Nepal has never been free of controversy. In 2007, when it surfaced that many orphanages made lucrative business sending children out of the country, inter-country adoptions from Nepal were temporarily suspended; the orphanages that didn’t meet the minimum government criteria were closed down. Inter-country adoptions were restarted in 2008 — partly owing to the pressure of the adoptive parents abroad who had already completed the necessary paperwork. To close the existing loopholes, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare was made the final authority on all international adoptions.

But the latest survey report of the Hague Conference on Private International Law makes it clear that many of those loopholes remain. The report pointed out, among others flaws, the continuing stream of falsified documents being presented to facilitate adoption process. The Conference report is based on the Swiss-funded charity Terre des homes’ study which found that 60 percent of children in Nepali orphanages had parents to take care of them. In light of this continuing malpractice, the Conference has urged Nepal to suspend inter-country adoptions until rigorous provisions to safeguard child rights are put in place.

Opinions inside the country are divided on the report. But there does seem to be some truth to the claims of wrongdoing by those involved in the process. Besides Terre des homes’, the UNICEF has also been voicing its concerns time and again about the trend of abduction, trafficking and selling of Nepali children.

It isn’t surprising that some unscrupulous middlemen are exploiting the loopholes in existing laws considering the money involved: Prospective parents have to pay US $5,000 to foster homes before adopting a child. But, according to some child rights activists, much more changes hands as orphanages persuade parents to part with their children through lucrative offers. And if there any truth to the allegations make by the Hague Conference, it is likely that some of the certified orphanages are engaged in the unholy business. But money is not all that is being offered to biological parents. Some parents, it has emerged, are given to understand that their children are being taken away for education.

The reforms introduced in 2008 have thus proven insufficient to halt illegal inter-country adoption. Some problems, for a time being, seem intractable. For instance, the government is finding it devilishly hard to vet the parents for their intent. How do the authorities find out if the biological parents are putting up their children for adoption owing to their financial constraints or due to monetary incentives from orphanages? Hard as these problems are to tackle, the trend of profiteering from children is unlikely to stop unless they are. What is undeniable is that whatever step the government takes, it has to be with the best interest of children in mind. The monetary stakes of the government and the orphanages are clearly secondary here.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

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