Corruption in international adoptions

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News Reports of Adoption
 Irregularities in Nepal

"Nobody's Child," Prakriti Pathak, January 30, 2011, The Himalayan Times.

"Stranded in Kathmandu: A single mother's struggle to bring her daughter home," Andrea Poe, January 20, 2011, The Washington Times.

"U.S. Suspends Processing New Nepal Adoption Cases Based on Abandonment," August 6, 2010, United States Citizen and Immigration Services.

"Spain, Italy suspend adoptions from Nepal," July 14, 2010, MyRepublica.com.

Italy suspends adoptions from Nepal, June 25, 2010, Commission for International Adoption, Italy.

"Fake police document to adopt a girl (Kantipur)," Pratima Baskota, June 22, 2010, Kantipur Daily. English translation by Mr. Purushottam Lamsal (for Prayog Publication, Kathmandu).

"Inter-country adoption: Canada’s nay to Nepali kids," June 5, 2010, The Kathmandu Post.

The trend at the international level is catching on — putting a stop to the adoption of children from Nepal. After Germany, it is now Canada that has called for a blanket ban on adopting Nepali children. The call comes on the heels of reports of extensive cases of abuse, fraudulent documents and false statements about the children’s origin and other related information.

"How fate smiled on foundling," Baburam Kharel, May 31, 2010, The Kathmandu Post.

U.S. Department of State: Caution About Pursuing Adoption in Nepal

May 26, 2010: The U.S. Department of State strongly discourages prospective adoptive parents from choosing adoption in Nepal because of grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children’s official files.

"Cash crunch renders ministry toothless," May 10, 2010, Himalayan News Service, The Himalayan Times.

"Trust’s money goes to Minister’s account," YAM KC, April 22, 2010, People's Review.

Kathmandu--Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare Sarwadev Ojha has been putting the money given by the donors in the name of Children’s Rights Trust into [h]is own bank account, reports Nepal Samacharpatra daily.

"CIAA freezes Minister Ojhas relief fund, bank account," Himalayan News Service, April 21, 2010, The Himalayan Times.

Kathmandu--The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) today directed Nepal Investment Bank to freeze the account of the financial relief fund being operated by Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare Sarvadev Ojha.

"Umbra over child fund," April 20, 2010, The Kathmandu Post.

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has questioned the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) over the reported anomalies in the newly established Child Rights Fund.  

"Baby dearth snags adoption," April 12, 2010, eKantipur.com.

Despite government measures to make inter-country adoption foolproof and hassle-free, prospective adoptive parents are unlikely to get the children of their choice if the present situation persists... "The adoptive American parents won't get babies of their choice as most of the children registered at the ministry are above three years old," said an MoWCSW official. This means adoptive families either have to shelve their plans to adopt Nepali babies or opt for older ones. 

MoWCSW spokesperson Tilak Ram Sharma expressed hope that the matching committee would do its best to meet the demands of the adoptive American parents.

U.S. Dept. of State Adoption Alert: Nepal

April 9, 2010: The U.S. Department of State strongly discourages prospective adoptive parents from choosing adoption in Nepal because of  grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children’s official files.

"Special Restrictions on Adoptions from Abroad (Nepal) Order 2010," from the Office of Public Sector Information, United Kingdom.

The Special Restrictions on Adoptions from Abroad (Nepal) Order 2010 imposes a statutory suspension on the adoption of children from Nepal by British residents, currently subject to Parliamentary approval. For more information, contact Veronica Berti at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Tel: 0207 7340 7180 or email veronica.berti@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk.

"Paper Orphans," op-ed, Anita Krishnan, March 23, 2010, The Kathmandu Post.

"Care homes make false papers for fast buck," March 15, 2010, The Kathmandu Post, Pear.

Controversy has not stopped dogging Nepal's inter-country adoption. There are cases galore that expose how adoption has become a money-making tool for some. Officials at the Ministry Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) say use of falsified reports is rampant in lower level making way for adoption of even those children who are otherwise not eligible.

British Columbia halts international adoptions from Nepal, March 10, 2010.

Effective March 10, 2010, British Columbia has made the formal decision to not facilitate adoptions from Nepal. Exceptions will be made for only for those applying to adopt relatives.

U.S. Dept. of State cautions those considering adopting from Nepal, March 4, 2010, Pear.

The U.S. Department of State strongly discourages prospective adoptive parents from choosing Nepal as a country from which to adopt due to grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal's adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children's official files.

"Nepal's stolen children highlight flawed adoption system," Claire Cozens, March 2, 2010, AFP.

A Nepali couple almost lost their son and daughter when a nearby children's home, where the parents had put their children temporarily, put them up for international adoption.

"Dalit couple foils adoption of offspring," Om Astha Rai, February 24, 2010, MyRepublic.com.

After desperate searches, a downtrodden Dalit family from Nuwakot district has retrieved its lost children, who were nearly adopted by an American couple.

"Germany suspends adoption from Nepal," February 11, 2010, MyRepublica.com.

"IAWG urges better adoption process," February 24, 2010, The Himalayan Times.

Issuing a press statement by the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu on behalf of the ad hoc International Adoption Working Group, it recommended the implementation of all the 1993 Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption regulations, including implementing measures aimed at ensuring authenticity and accuracy of documents, promoting family preservation and, most importantly, safeguarding children’s well-being.

"Looking for a home: A suspension on inter-country adoption will give the government time to work on strict adoption legislation," Mallika Aryal, February 19, 2010, Nepali Times.

The Nepal Government suspended inter-country adoption in 2007 following evidence that Nepali 'orphanages' were selling children for thousands of dollars to foreign parents. Nepal then drafted new Terms and Conditions on adoption and once again opened shop for potential adoptive parents. Although the new policies were an improvement, they were still full of loopholes and did not prioritise the best interests of the child.

"Cinderella Children: Suspending inter-country adoption will deny kids in need the chance of a better life," Philip Holmes, February 19, 2010, Nepali Times.

Report on rescue of three Nepali boys from Indian juvenile homes where the two eldest had been detained for four years and the youngest for three. The boys' release coincided with calls from organisations such as UNICEF and Terre des Hommes to suspend, once again, inter-country adoptions from Nepal.

Intercountry Adoption Technical Assistance Programme Report of Mission to Nepal, 23-27 November 2009, Jennifer Degeling, February 4, 2010.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law has recently released a report on its Intercountry Adoption Technical Assistance Program, based on a visit by the Hague delegate to Nepal in November 2010. This report is based on an independent analysis of Nepal’s inter-country adoption system under its new Terms and Conditions 2008. The report details a number of weaknesses in Nepal’s current system, including the falsification of documents, improper financial gain and lack of a child protection system.

"Embassies push for transparency in adoptions from Nepal," Kiran Chapagain, December 7, 2009, MyRepublic.com.

The countries entertaining inter-country adoption from Nepal, diplomatic sources said, are concerned over the rise in the number of adoptable children after the resumption of the inter-country adoption in 2009.

"The number of adoptable children dropped when adoption was suspended in 2007. But we have noticed a sudden rise in the number of such children in child homes and orphanages after the inter-country adoption was resumed in January 2009..."

Adoption Notice: Nepal, September 29, 2009, U.S. Department of State, Pear.

Update on changes pertaining to intercountry adoptions from Nepal, from the U.S. Department of State.

"Nepal signs Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention," May 1, 2009, The Himalayan Times OnLine. 

On Tuesday 28 April 2009, the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption was signed by H.E. Mr Pramesh Kuman Hamal, Ambassador of Nepal to the Benelux and the European Communities.

"Nepali Govt ratifies Hague Convention," April 28, 2009, HCCH Press Release.

The government of Nepal on Tuesday signed the Hague Convention, an international agreement between participating countries, on the best adoption procedures. The procedures of the convention consider the best interests of children and prevention of abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children.

"Million dollar babies," Bhawana Upadhyay, April 3, 2009, eKantipur.com, Pound Pup Legacy.

Promoting domestic adoption is one of the best ways to stop the orphan trade

Although efforts to curb international adoption illegalities have been undertaken by the government, this writer urges adoption officials in Nepal to promote domestic adoption and suggests other policies that might be implemented to stop the illegal trading of children out of Nepal.

"Nepal restarts international adoptions," January 2, 2009, AFP.

Nepal has begun accepting applications from foreigners who want to adopt Nepalese children. Foreigners now have to deal with registered adoption agencies from their home country, and can have no direct contact with children's homes and orphanages. The ministry will be responsible for matching prospective parents and children, and fees have been fixed at 8,000 dollars, with 5,000 going to children's homes and 3,000 to the government.

Nepalese and international child welfare organisations have welcomed the reforms, but are worried that problems remain within the system.

“Nepal to Allow Foreign Adoptions,” October 27, 2008, BBC News.

Nepal is reopening international adoptions in a select few nations including the US, Germany, and Canada. The countries were selected based on their health care and education systems. Only 58 organizations will be allowed into Nepal to act as middlemen to eliminate the issue of child trafficking and selling.
“Lifting of Nepal child adoption ban,” October 27, 2008, Australia Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Australia.
Nepal's government says it will allow 58 foreign agencies to process requests by families wishing to adopt children from the Himalayan nation, ending months of uncertainty.
“International Adoptions to Resume Soon,” October 21, 2008, eKantipur.com.
Reports that the Nepali government will soon allow international adoption to resume. The government is finalizing a list of adoption agencies and orphanages which it will allow to participate in adoption practices with a new, stricter set of regulations.
“Nepal: Concern Rising Over Illegal Adoptions,” September 2, 2008, IRIN Asia.
UN news service reports that in Nepal, the international adoption process is under-regulated and some children are falsely claimed to be orphans. Profiles 35-year-old Nirmala Thapa, who “has been fighting to get her three children back from Spain after they were adopted illegally through a Nepalese children’s home.”
Quotes Madhav Pradhan, director of the NGO Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN). Reports on UNICEF/Terre des Hommes study. Reports that in 2006 alone, international adoption brought in nearly US$2 million, which was expected to be significantly higher for 2007, with 300-500 adoptions. “ 'The profiteers are largely the children’s homes running orphanages and corrupt government officials,' maintained one child rights activist, who asked not to be named.”
“Adopting New Safeguards,” September 12, 2008, Nepali Times.
“UNICEF and the Swiss-based Terre des homes (TDH) in a report released on Friday in Kathmandu said there were major irregularities in the way children were tricked by unscrupulous agents pretending to run 'orphanages'. The two-year study revealed instances of abduction of children and babies being put up for adoption without their parents' consent.”

“Adoption Business in Nepal Source of Child Abuse: Report,” August 30, 2008, Nepalnews.com.

“Inter-country child adoption business in Nepal has created a culture of child abuse including abduction, trafficking and sale of children, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) mentioned in its latest report released Friday. The report jointly prepared by UNICEF and Terre des Hommes (Tdh), an INGO states, ‘Child rights, not profit, must be at the centre of all adoptions in Nepal.’”

“Nepal Urged to Focus on Child Rights in Adoption,” Gopal Sharma, August 29, 2008, Reuters.

Reports on a UNICEF/Terre des Hommes study that says the sale, abduction, and trafficking of children is rife in Nepal, and that the international adoption process is corrupt. Includes officials’ and NGO officers’ responses.
“Nepal Urged to Tighten Adoptions,” August 29, 2008, BBC News.
Reports on a study by UNICEF and the child rights charity Terre des Hommes of Nepali orphanages that urges the Nepalese government to tighten its control over adoptions. Notes that despite the ban on international adoptions, only four in 100 adoption cases remains in Nepal. Says that children are often sold, abused, and separated from their birth families without consent, and as many as 80 percent of children in institutions should be reunited with their families.
“Stalled Adoptions Pick up Speed,” Beth Loechler, May 17, 2008, The Grand Rapids Press.
Nepal is encouraging international adoptions while other countries such as China and Guatemala are becoming more restrictive in their policies.
“Nepali Delegates Eye Tupelo Agency for Adoptions,” Gallen Holley, May 16, 2008, Daily Journal.
The Nepali government is considering a partnership with New Beginnings International Children's and Family Services after reopening their country for international adoption.
“New Inter-Country Adoption Terms Passed,” May 11, 2008, Kathmandu Post.
Reports that new adoption terms have been passed in Nepal. All adoptions must go through the Ministry for Women, Children, and Social Welfare and the Ministry must be contacted through recognized international adoption agencies or concerned embassies. No freelance brokers will be used.
“New Terms and Conditions on Adoption,” May 2, 2008, Nepali Government.
The Nepali Government’s new terms for adoption. The Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare will be responsible for matching children and parents; efforts will be made to locate the parents of Nepalese orphans, and restrictions will be placed on unregistered adoption agencies.
“Mushrooming Orphanages: The use(lessness) of children’s homes in Nepal,” Wilko Verbakel and Susan Van Klaveren, board members of a Dutch NGO, the International Council for Friends Of Nepal (ICFON), February 15, 2008, Nepali Times.
Nongovernmental organizations have set up over a thousand orphanages in Nepal; estimates suggest they house 15,000 children. But USAID figures suggest only 20 percent are orphans, while 50 percent have both parents. For some Nepalis, running orphanages is a business; the orphanage system may be enabling corrupt adoption practices as well as sexual abuse. The money spent per child could support several families. Urges NGOs to invest in self-sustainability projects instead of orphanages.
“Flood Gates Closed – Government Preparing New Laws on Inter-Country Adoption,” Mallika Aryal, February 15, 2008, Nepali Times.
“Following the exposure of a market in 'orphans' and the taking away of children without their birth parents' consent in Nepal's poorly regulated adoption process last year, the Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare, headed by a Maoist minister, suspended inter-country adoption.” The Ministry processed around 400 pending adoption files but has announced it will not process any more until a new, more transparent set of regulations is  established.
“Letters,” August 10, 2007, Nepali Times.
Three letters to the editor. The first advocates international adoptions. The second and third say that the 400 pending adoption cases which remain after the suspension of adoptions in Nepal should be processed.
“Kids In Limbo,” Millika Aryal, July 27, 2007, Nepali Times .
When former Maoist rebels joined the Nepalese government in April 2007, Khadga Bahadur Biswokarma, the new Minister of Women, Children, and Social Welfare, suspended intercountry adoption. No adoptions have been processed since the suspension, including the 400 cases that were pending before the ban. Article criticizes the government’s delay in completing those adoptions."
"International Conference on Adoption Kicks Off,” May 11, 2007, NepalNews.com.
The first International Conference on Inter-Country adoption began in Kathmandu. It comes in the midst of growing concern about adoption becoming an industry in Nepal. UNICEF is quoted.
Conor Grennan and Next Generation Nepal, Desiree Smolin, March 17, 2007.
“Backed by a small NGO he created called Next Generation Nepal, Conor has walked mountainous backroads into remote villages looking for the families of 24 children who were allegedly trafficked.” Includes information about some of the families found, with a link to Conor Brennan’s blog about his experiences.
“On Sale: Adoption from Nepal is Beginning to Look like Trafficking,” March 15, 2007, Nepali Times.
Apparent rewrite of Daily Telegraph report, below. Reporters pose as a British couple interested in adopting, as they investigate the Nepalese system of international adoption and conclude that it is riddled with corruption. “Children are often put up for adoption without their parents' knowledge or consent. The racket thrives in part because there are no laws governing financial transactions in the process.”
Reports that officials are bribed; adopting parents are extorted from and lied to; Nepali parents are defrauded of their children. Says that the reporters have corroborated their allegations but that many would not speak on the record for fear of retaliation because “powerful people are involved.” Reports on rapidly increasing numbers of adoptions. Outlines the amounts of money involved.
Noteworthy: Includes picture of Padam Bahadur Shahi, a 32-year-old forest guard who is haunting the Kathmandu's District Administration Office's Child Welfare Council, asking when his child—who was adopted to Spain—will come back. He left the child for temporary care while his wife was ill.
“Orphanages in Children ‘For Sale’ Racket,” March 10, 2007, Thomas Bell in Kathmandu, The Daily Telegraph.
“An investigation by The Daily Telegraph has uncovered the extent of the malpractice as Kathmandu prepares to host an international adoption conference this weekend, aimed at attracting foreign adoptive parents and lobbying for deregulation. Posing as a British couple seeking to adopt, reporters found one agent who demanded cash advances in an attempt to, in effect, sell us a Nepali baby.”
Identifies Padam Bahadur Shahi, 31, a forest guard from the remote Himalayan region of Humla, as having been defrauded out of his child. “A friend told him that a children's home in Kathmandu would help him care for the child." "They promised education and well-being," he said. "There was no agreement about adoption.” But the child was adopted to Spain. “The Telegraph spoke to a local lawyer, a child rights activist, a government official and staff at a well-known international children's organisation. None wanted to be identified, citing the power and influence of the adoption lobby, but they told the same story of corruption.”
“NL charity in Nepal child sex abuse probe,” February 16, 2007, Dutch News.nl. 
“The Dutch director of a children’s home in Nepal has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing youngsters in his care. Local children's rights organisation CWIN, which initiated the investigation into Henk Molhuysen, says the police believe the man abused almost all 48 children at the home.”
"1500 Humla kids live in City shelter homes," Mudita Bajrachaya, December 15, 2006, The Himalayan Times, LonelyPlanet (scroll to middle of the page).

The government has identified at least 1,500 children from Humla living in shelter homes in Kathmandu. The children were brought to Kathmandu by agents over the period of many years. The agents had assured the children’s parents of educational opportunities in the capital city, according to data collected by the District Child Welfare Committee (DCWC).

"Nepal's Oliver Twists rescued," June 4, 2006, Indo Asian News Service, WebIndia123.com.

Nepal's child welfare officials have rescued two dozen minors who were starved and forced into begging by an illegal childcare centre. The children, aged between seven and 12, were brought from Humla, an inaccessible and mountainous district in northern Nepal lacking access to healthcare, education and job opportunities, to the Kathmandu valley by a man running an illegal centre, media reports said.

NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. For the systemic analysis of corruption in international adoption, please read “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008, and visit our webpages dedicated to international adoption. For ideas about fairer policy solutions, please read “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010.

© 2008-2014 Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454. All rights reserved.

Last page update: February 21, 2011