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East-Asian orphans illegally adopted and abused: report

by Kate McPherson, Radio Australia 18th March 2011

Children in Cambodian and Vietnamese orphanages are being abused and adopted illegally, says a UNICEF representative.

Richard Bridle, UNICEF Representative to Cambodia, says there is insufficient regulation and inspection of orphanages in these countries.

"The number of children in orphanages has doubled from 2005 - 2010," he said.

"There's approximately 12,000 children in these institutions today, of which less than one third are actual orphans."

"There have been cases proven in court of abuse of children in those orphanages and we have fairly substantial anecdotal evidence of identities being falsified and children being offered into illegal adoption."

The United States is working to re-introduce inter-continental adoption of Cambodian and Vietnamese children, but Mr Bridle says the country is yet to meet global adoption standards.

Inter-continental adoptions were suspended in 2001 due to concerns of fraud and the inhumane buying and selling of children.

Dr Diane Coones, head of the Centre for Adoption in US says she is not happy with this law.

"We would hope there would be a more nuanced response that would allow proper adoptions to go through and adoptions that are not proper to be stopped, rather than wholesale shutting down of countries to leave children to be in care or even worse," she said.

But Mr Bridle says it is important to focus on alternatives to inter-continental adoption so the number of children in orphanages can be reduced.

"Family and community solutions need to be focused on as an alternative to adoption," he said.

"[Orphanages] are being used as a means of placing children from families in acute poverty as a temporary coping measure or as a good opportunity to have their children educated."

"We should not re-enter a situation we've had in the past where families are coming and offering money for kids and in essence buying children here."

The US Special Adviser to the Office of Children's Issues is meeting with Cambodian and Vietnamese officials next week to discuss progress made to comply with international obligations.

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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