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US puts adoptions of Nepalese on hold

UPI
2010 Nov 01
The U.S. State Department says it will no longer grant visas to Nepalese children waiting for adoption unless abandonment can be proved.
Amid allegations of child trafficking in Nepal, U.S. officials will require proof of abandonment, which has left a number of American families adopting Nepalese children in limbo, unable to bring the children into the United States, The Seattle Times reported Monday.
The United States is joining 12 countries in taking such action, officials said.
Jenni Lund of Seattle went to Nepal to meet Pukar, the 2-year-old boy matched with her for adoption, but has been told she cannot bring him home without a visa. She and Pukar are still in Nepal while the State Department investigates.
In an Oct. 27 letter to Lund, the State Department said a preliminary investigation into Pukar’s background found “insufficient evidence” for him to qualify as an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
Some 80 U.S. families find themselves in the same situation, the Times reported.
John Meske, a Tacoma attorney and executive director of Faith International, the leading U.S. authority on Nepal adoptions, says the ban on visas doesn’t take into account the culture or the reality of life in Nepal, one of the world’ poorest countries.

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U.S. Still Suspects Fraud In Nepalese Orphanages

WBUR/NPR
2011 May 10
Last August, the U.S. government suspended adoptions from Nepal because it was concerned about fraud in Nepal’s adoption system. The suspension left dozens of American families in limbo.
After months of investigations almost all of those American families have been granted visas for their adopted Nepali children.
But there’s still concern about whether many of Nepal’s orphans really are orphans.
Children Sold By Traffickers
The desire to be a mother was so strong for 45-year-old Dee Dee Milton that she went halfway around the world from Boston to Nepal to try to achieve it.
“I tried to adopt through the American foster system here and was not matched with a child and was told they had no idea when I would be matched and if I would ever be matched,” she says.
In July, Milton was matched with a 4-year-old Nepali girl. Just after Milton landed in Nepal and took custody of her daughter, Bina, the U.S. closed the program, saying too many children who were reported to be abandoned by their families may actually have been kidnapped or sold into the orphanage system.
Milton and 65 other American families were caught in the middle. Milton ended up living in Nepal and hiring lawyers and investigators to help prove Bina was legitimately abandoned. Milton had to take out a home equity line of credit to afford the delay.
“I was on an unpaid leave from my job, so I literally had no funds coming in the entire time I was gone and then came home to unemployment,” she says.
Janice Jacobs, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, says while she sympathizes with what Milton went through, Nepal’s child adoption system isn’t trustworthy.
“They estimate — the NGOs with a lot of on-the-ground experience — estimate that perhaps 10 percent of the children who turn up in orphanages are in fact abandoned,” she says.
That means as many as 90 percent of children in Nepalese orphanages may have been sold by a child trafficker under false pretenses. UNICEF estimates there are 650,000 orphans in Nepal.
Conor Grennan says that happens all the time. He’s the founder of Next Generation Nepal, an NGO that has reconnected 400 trafficked children with their families. He says some of the children have been kidnapped. Other children have been sold by their families to brokers, who claim they will educate and care for them.
“And in the worst cases I’ve seen … they are actually forging death certificates for families and putting these children up for international adoption,” Grennan says.
Grennan says the child trade continues because it’s lucrative. Orphanages can make $5,000 per child from an international adoption — a lot of money in a country where more than half of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, according to UNICEF.
Difficult To Prove Fraud
Five months after Milton went to Nepal, Bina got a U.S. visa once a government investigation found no fraud. Now Bina lives a typical life of an American little girl, attending preschool, visiting her nana and tormenting her cat.
Eventually, U.S. investigators determined there was no fraud in the cases of 65 of the 66 children waiting to be adopted by American families. Only one is still pending, which leads Milton to ask: Where is the fraud?
“I mean, the law of averages and the number of cases — [and] there was absolutely no fraud found?” Milton says.
But proving fraud is very hard, says Grennan. He says the only way is to travel to mountainous villages.

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Adoptions in U.S. Near Six-Year Low

Bloomberg News
2010 Nov 4
The number of U.S. foreign adoptions is near a six-year low due to greater barriers overseas and fewer orphans coming from a wealthier China, U.S. Special Adviser for Children’s Issues Susan Jacobs said.
Total adoptions to the U.S. fell last year to 12,753 and will “be somewhere in that ballpark” in 2010, Jacobs said in a telephone interview. “Domestic adoptions in China are on the rise and international adoptions are taking longer, so it’s harder to adopt there.”
Over the next decade, Ethiopia is set to surpass China as the biggest source of U.S. adoptions. The number of children adopted annually from Asia’s biggest economy has dropped to 3,000 from 7,900 over the past five years, State Department figures show. There were 2,277 Ethiopian children placed in American homes in 2009 compared with 442 in 2005, the data show.
After peaking in 2004, total U.S. adoptions began to drop as standards became more stringent and applications from countries such as Vietnam and Guatemala were suspended amid allegations of corruption and fraud. Processing adoptions from Nepal were the latest to be put on hold this year.

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