Some disturbing allegations from Voice of Children.
Adopted Children always in disputes! (Voice of Children)
Voice of Children Monthly -- March 2010
Real parents of a child were found at the last minute when the child was made ready to be adopted by an American family. This child was a paper orphan. The parents from Nuwakot were searching their lost daughter. At last they found their daughter at a children home called Helpless Children Home, Ranibari. After finding the child, she was prevented from adoption by proving her not being a real orphan with the help of journalist, police and INGOs.
A drama was then made to punish the children home. Mrs Sabitri Basnet is the owner of this Children home who is also a member of the coordination committee of the CNFN. Her children home was then suspended by the Ministry of Women and Children but only for 2 years. For cases of similar nature other children homes had been dismissed earlier. Why this children home was given the negligible penalty? An authority at the ministry says that the lobbying of CNFN to safeguard the case had reached to the minister. The nominal action taken by the ministry is just to bear the external pressures and the recently publicized Hague Report on Adoption in Nepal; otherwise the children home would have remained without any penalty.
This is simply an example of how children are brought to children home and are sent abroad in the name of adoption. Several incidents of similar nature have already come to the light and still there's no sign of improvement, why? Mr. Sherjung Karki, Co-secretary at the Ministry of the Children and Social Welfare says - "Children homes which are producing paper orphans are punished" but when asked "why the Helpless Children Home was only suspended for 2 years?" he replied - "My decisions can't be the final one, what can I do alone on this?" It seems that there must have been a big play behind the curtain to protect the children home. It is obvious that, to resist the pressures outside, the ministry only took a nominal action against the children home just to keep the public in delusion. An owner of another children home says that if fake papers were found from other children home, not only the children home would be punished but also the owner would have to go underground. Authorities of the ministry also agree on the above statement. Co-secretary Karki says - "Yes, we have to bear external pressures but the ministry cannot compromise to such things."
There have been several incidents in the past that the children were adopted with fake documents. After many organizations and concerned parties raised the issues that the existing laws were not sufficient to do a legal adoption here, Nepal government published an amended law in 2065 Jeth 6. According to "The Hague Conference on Private International Law," an inter-government agency, though Nepal had signed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption in Jeth 2066, it was not fully implemented here. According to a report prepared by Jennifer Degeling, a high level officer of Hague Conference, Nepal has insufficient laws in the Adoption sector. Degeling had earlier visited Nepal in November and interacted with many children homes, police, government officials and other stake holders.
The Drama of CNFN!
The meeting of coordination committee of CNFN held on 4th Falgun 2066, decided to cancel the membership of those children homes which were actively involved in the Adoption process. According to a report prepared by Hague it has been advised that the CNFN should not be in the "Investigation, Monitoring and Recommendation Committee for Adoption" of the ministry because this could add pressure to the committee in the decision making process ("conflict of interest"). The report also states that CNFN itself is the head of the network of the children homes which is completely against the international concept and practice. In response to The Hague report, CNFN immediately cancelled the membership of such suspected children homes. These actions came in reaction to defend itself from the allegations of the Hague report. But it is obvious that the decision will be reactive to itself. Mr Ganesh Bhakta Shrestha, former General Secretary of CNFN says - "The act of CNFN to punish the children home is just a new drama to remain in the recommendation committee thereby continuing to earn the allowance. CNFN has been raising money from children homes in the name of conducting its daily operation, another 5000 Rupees for each adopted child and 10% service fee at the time of publishing the notice for claiming the children. Are the authorities of CNFN not involved in the adoption process? How can these people say that they are innocent while they are operating children homes themselves in the name of their wives and relatives?"
CNFN had been protecting the children homes, raising money from them and kept them under tight control but amazingly it is now punishing them, why? Mr Prachanda Raj Pradhan, chairman of the CNFN says - "CNFN is an organization working for the welfare of children. We cancelled the membership of some children homes on the basis of a provision of CNFN not to provide the membership to those children homes which are working in Adoption. When asked about why the same children homes were given the membership and protection earlier? He has no logical answer. He just admits - "I don't want to go into the details of the decision made by the former coordination committee; we just want to solve the current disputes." But according to the children homes there is a big flow of money behind this drama of membership cancellation. The ministry has permitted 38 children homes which can involve in the Adoption program and 36 out of them were members of the CNFN.
Tussle for money!
The exact amount of fee was not entitled to any conditions and process of Adoption. The right to fix the amount of fee "according to the need and situation" has been given to the minister. The minister does it in coordination of other individuals who are active in the adoption business. In 2065 Asadh, the ministry took a decision by which USD 3000 has to be paid to the ministry and another USD 5000 to the children home for each adoption. Earlier, individuals were involved in starting the adoption process in between the foreigners and children homes but later this was done by the adoption agencies after their registration. The agencies had to pay USD 10,000 in the name of the welfare of children through the children home.
Altogether 79 adoption agencies registered in the ministry. The flow of USD 10,000 from these agencies to the children homes was tried to be drawn into the CNFN but was not successful. It is after this incident that the drama of membership cancellation was plotted according to a member of CNFN. He said - "After the denial from the children homes to give the money to CNFN, the drama of punishment was started but now I don't think the children homes too will remain silent over this issue."
Recently an illogical provision has been made to draw the money into the ministry instead. The new provision called "Financial Aid Mobilization and Management 2066" contradicts itself to the act 11 and 20 of the "Rules and Procedures of Adoption Law." According to the act 11, a fixed amount of fee can be charged to renew the membership of agencies and according to the act 20, there is a provision for the right of clearing the "stoppage" rising during the process of Adoption. There is no such provision in the act 20 to make any "Financial Procedure" while clearing the "stoppage/Interruption" during the adoption. On the basis of this illegal and illogical "Financial Procedure," a fund called "National Child Rights Fund" has been created. This "Financial Procedure" was supposed to come into effect from14th Magh 2066 and it is operated by a board which consists of the chairman of CNFN, a member-secretary and a representative of the foreign Adoption Agency as the board members. More surprisingly, the money in the fund can be withdrawn just by the signatures of the member secretary and one of the members. Now the question to be raised here is that "Can any non-government person operate a Government Fund?" An official at the ministry says - "This fund has been created just to embezzle the money by the minister in the partnership of other individuals from the NGOs." According to the "Financial Procedure Act of Nepal Government," whenever a new source of revenue is found, it should be collected at the government's fund. But quite contrary to this law, a new bank account was opened for this Fund at the Nepal Investment Bank, Putalisadak in 6th Falgun 2066. What is more interesting here is that CCWB a government body working in the children sector has not even been made a member of this Fund.
A rumor was created that Nepal had floods of orphan children who could be easily adopted. Following the spread of rumor, 79 agencies were registered in the ministry. Many of them had record of being legally punished even in their own country and were denied already to work for adoption. But Nepal government didn't care about their background and opened the door to all the adoption agencies. An agency named "Florida Home Studies and Adoption" in USA was already dismissed in 2008 saying that it was not following the Child Rights Treaty. Despite this, Florida Home also appeared in the list of the Ministry because this Home is owned by a person who had access to the officials of CNFN.
In 27th of Magh 2066, after circulating a message to various diplomatic missions in Nepal, Embassy of Germany in Nepal declared that it wouldn't accept the Adoption process from Nepal any more. In the similar manner US Embassy in Nepal said that it would abandon the adoption process in Nepal if the process didn't go forward on the basis of the Hague Treaty. The notice issued by the US Embassy said that Embassies of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and UK had also supported the step. After expressing a concern over the non-transparency of Adoption process in Nepal, Denmark, Sweden and France has announced that they won't accept any Adopted child from Nepal.
According to the "Condition and Procedures on Adoption" formulated in B.S. 2057, the then chairman of CNFN Mr. Upendra Kesari Neupane has been representing in the ministry. Previous rules and regulations were easier for the children homes than the new ones formed in 2065. An owner of a children home says - "CNFN had admitted that there was no need to worry for the adoption process since CNFN had its own representative in the Recommendation Committee of the Ministry. For this purpose, children homes had given bribes several times at the ministry." The adoption program was stopped when Urmila Aryal became the minister. Then the children homes began to complain that the CNFN didn't carry its task effectively in the ministry. Though they agreed to start the process of forwarding the pending files, CNFN couldn't agree upon the amount of money to be taken from the children homes. A few disputes came into light when the panel of Mr Ganesh Bhakta Shrestha and Liladhar Bhandari weren't elected in the coordination committee of the CNFN. But all of them wanted to remain silent since this breakout would stop their money making business. The founder of CNFN Mr. Sharad Sharma says - "Had I known at that time that this would create such a mess later on, I would have never put effort to establish this Federation." The owners of children homes say that CNFN had done its representation in the ministry just to prevent the ministry from making objection over any fake documents. When one of the Adoption files was not forwarded ahead till 11 months from the CCWB, Mr Upendra Kesari Neupane denied signing the other files in the meeting of Recommendation Committee. He didn't involve in the decision making process of the Recommendation Committee saying that the file number 1 should be forwarded first and only after that the committee could consider about file number 25. Due to this, there rose a cold war between the CNFN and the children homes. This tussle was sensed by the officials of Hague Treaty who were in Nepal to prepare a report. Afterwards the Hague Report clearly stated that the CNFN be kept away from the Recommendation Committee. It also made it clear that the USD 10,000 taken from the Adoption Agencies is also not lawful according to the International Rules. Owners of children homes say - "A MOU was prepared to allow Agencies to work with children homes in a condition that the children homes would give CNFN a sum of money at the latter's demand. When children homes didn't pay the exact amount to the CNFN, a new fund called "National Child Rights Fund" was created. This statement seems to be true because it is backed by a fact that the responsibility to prepare the MOU was handed over to the CNFN later. But it is still not clear as to why CNFN tried to be the member of Recommendation Committee. Chairman Pradhan challenges - "It's not important what the third parties say and we are ready to quit the Committee if anyone comes forward with solid proof."
The children homes whose memberships were cancelled by the CNFN are now trying to establish a new Federation similar to the CNFN. In this new federation named "Confederation of NGOs for Child Integration-Nepal" (CONCIN) Mr Ganesh Bhakta Shrestha will be the chairman, Mr Liladhar Bhandari - secretary general and Mr. Hemanta Rijal the treasurer. According to these individuals, after the formal registration, its first task will be to disqualify the CNFN from the membership of Recommendation Committee of the ministry.
Due to the complexities roused by the illiteracy and poverty in the villages of Nepal, it's been easier to prepare paper orphans. After paying some money to the children homes, foreigners can easily adopt children. That's why Nepal is at the top of the list of many foreigners according to a representative of an Adoption Agency. On the basis of the previous Adoption Law active till 2065, 2247 and thereafter additional 22 children have been taken to abroad. There are still around 500 Adoption files pending at the ministry.