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Position Statement on Inter-Country Adoptions (ICA)
Background: Inter-Country Adoption: The term Inter-Country Adoptions (ICA) describes arrangements which involve children leaving the country where they have been living in order to be placed with a family in another country.. Inter country adoptions first began on a large scale in the aftermath of conflicts such as the Second World War and the Korean and Vietnam wars. At that time inter-country adoption was described as a humanitarian response from Western countries. However from the 1970’s onward, motivations in receiving countries started to change and inter-country adoption became less motivated by post-conflict humanitarian concerns and more by the demands of families unable to adopt in their own countries. The regulatory framework: The ‘United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (UNCRC, 1989) states that every child has the right to be cared for by his or her own family whenever possible, and international guidelines and standards provide clear guidance on the process for providing appropriate care for children that cannot be cared for by their own families. For example, the UNCRC further states that families should be provided the necessary assistance to care for their own children. The ‘Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoptions’ (1993), ratified by more than 80 countries including Cambodia, sets out the obligations for the authorities of countries both sending and receiving children for inter-country adoption. The Convention stresses the principle of ‘subsidiarity’, by which domestic care solutions should be given preference over those that may be available outside the country. Similarly, under Cambodian law the ‘Minimum Standards on Alternative Care for Children’ (Prakas on Implementation, 2011) states that children unable to be cared for at home should be “placed within a similar family setting, considering wherever possible cultural, religious, lingual and regional similarities”. The above laws and conventions are designed to protect children by ensuring ethical and transparent processes in providing alternative care, and in recent years international efforts have been directed at ensuring adoptions are carried out in a transparent, non-exploitative and legal manner. The Cambodian situation: There have been tangible changes both in the needs of children, and how those needs are being addressed, in Cambodia over the last two decades. True orphan numbers have decreased in a climate of peace and increasing development, in tandem with an increased capacity and desire by the Cambodian Government and Cambodian Communities to better care for their own children. There have been many examples of successful initiatives over the past 20 years in the reintegration of children into family-based care. It is widely recognized that in the past the process of ICA in Cambodia was severely flawed due to a number of issues. These included fragile legal frameworks leading to instances of corruption and dishonest management of orphanages, which in turn resulted in a massive and unchecked number of cases of ICAs. This situation led to most countries eventually closing adoption from Cambodia. Despite an improved framework and the strong positioning of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) on the issue of Alternative Care, there have been numerous well documented cases of adoptions not processed in ways that served the best interests of the children or families involved. For example, the sale and abduction of children, the coercion or manipulation of birth parents, falsification of documents and bribery. The experience of the 3PC partner NGOs is that such incidents continue in Cambodia today, and that the procedures currently in place are insufficient to prevent such unethical practices. The challenge is to ensure that the processes related to adoption are followed according to the policies, regulations, procedures and existing laws; that money does not buy children or allow some to by-pass the system; that the status of a child as eligible for adoption is clearly and transparently established through proper case management and that the best interest of the child is always the primary consideration – not the best interests of any other party to the adoption. The Cambodian Government, MoSVY, UNICEF and 3PC partners are working, and will continue to work together on improving the child protection and alternative care systems for all Cambodian children. This work includes developing domestic adoption laws, increasing the number and improving the capacity of social workers working with children out of family care, expanding domestic foster care and working with a range of stakeholders to strengthen family and community based care options for children in Cambodia. Partnership Program for the Protection of Children (3PC) Position 3PC implementing Partners support inter-country adoption when pursued in accordance with the process clearly defined by the Cambodian Government in the Prakas ‘Implementation of Minimum Standards on Alternative Care for Children, 2011’, the standards and principles of the ‘Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoptions’ and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, 3PC Partners agree and support that:
- Alternative Care options for the placement of children within a Cambodian family in Cambodia need to be systematically and thoroughly explored in a transparent manner and only once all options for suitable alternative care within Cambodia have been genuinely exhausted, should Inter-country adoption opportunities be explored.
- Inter-country adoption is the last option for the placement of children who cannot be cared for by a Cambodian family in Cambodia.
- The 3PC Partners are committed to continue to develop and strengthen the Alternative Care system in Cambodia, increasing the number of children effectively cared for by Cambodian families, thereby significantly reducing the number of children effectively in need of inter-country adoption services.
This statement is endorsed by:
|Cambodian Children’s Trust
|Children In Family
|Transcultural Psychosocial Organization
|M’lup Russey Organization
|Samatapheap Khnom Organization
|First Step Cambodia
|Action Pour Les Enfants
|Investing in Children and their Society
|Social Services of Cambodia