' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: West Not Impressed by Adoption Practices in Nepal

Sunday, February 20, 2011

West Not Impressed by Adoption Practices in Nepal

Nepal continues to be on the front pages of the international adoption scene. Last summer the UN allowed adoptions to open again in Nepal and approximately 60 children were adopted during that time, most to the United States. This was after well-documented cases of kidnapping and child-trafficking, and allowing children who had been left at orphanages temporarily to be adopted out of the country. Supposedly the unethical practices such kidnapping and faked papers had come to an end.

But that reprise was short lived. A recent news (Feb. 19) report from Nepal states that the "West is not impressed by changes in the adoption process," and goes on to quote the US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Janice Jacobs, through a spokesperson:  “Assistant Secretary Jacobs noted that recent changes to the adoption process in Nepal are inadequate to address concerns about the origin of the children being matched for inter-country adoption,” said Heather Steil, spokesperson at the US embassy, when asked about the US stance on the recent reform measures, citing a continuing "lack of integrity" in the system.

We know what the words mean--that children continue to be kidnapped off the street, that sleazy adoption practitioners buy and sell street children--or outright kidnap cute ones--that birth certificates and adoption papers are falsified, all in order to feed children into the willing and hungry market for babies. Pound Pup Legacy has documented all kinds of cases, and written about the shoddy practices of Nepal and other poor countries who export children, as we might export cars and washing machines.

I freely admit the Nepal situation bugs the hell out of me because I know where one of those 60 children is. She will grow up and be well taken care of; she will be well educated. Before this adoption happened, I tried to pass on the UN Report about the situation in Nepal, but I do not know if she ever read it. What I heard from several mutual acquaintances is that this woman had to go through innumerable hoops and a long waiting period to adopt. Of course, the child may have been truly free to be adopted; nor am I against all adoptions, as noted in the page (What We Think about Adoption), but I find I can't get this little girl out of my mind whenever the word "Nepal" comes up, or there is a new report about the adoption situation in this poor country.

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
And to read yet is a new book, Little Princes, by an Irish guy, Conor Grennan, who set out to have a year-long adventure and ended up starting a nonprofit organization, Next Generation Nepal (NGN), dedicated to reconnecting families in Nepal torn apart by child trafficking:
"We care for over 50 rescued children at one time from ages 3-17 while our teams locate their families in remote regions of Nepal. These families have often given up hope of ever seeing their children again. To date, NGN has located over 300 families and reconnected them with their missing children." 
A cursory look at Little Princes, and other reading, indicates that these children were sometimes simply picked up on the street, and other times they were left in the temporary care of an agency, but with no thought by their parents that they should be adopted. I know Nepal is a terribly poor country, and living conditions there are nowhere near Western standards, but that does not mean that wealthy people from anywhere have a right to their children. Somewhere in Nepal is a sad and grieving mother who has lost her child, or the woman is dead.--lorraine
For more information see: Ethica: An independent voice for ethical adoption
and  Pound Pup Legacy

Update: From Huff Po: Orphaned or Stolen? The U.S. State Department investigates adoption from Nepal, 2006-2008:
...For the Americans in Kathmandu, this [closing down adoptions from Nepal] is a shocking disruption of their lives. But for longtime watchers of international adoption, the story is painfully familiar. Just in the past decade, this has happened to families hoping to adopt from Cambodia, from Vietnam, and from Guatemala. It may soon be about to happen to families hoping to adopt from Ethiopia. Once a U.S. Embassy begins to spot "irregularities" --signs of fraud, coercion, corruption, baby buying, and other serious problems--in adoptions from that particular country, it begins to post carefully worded cautions to prospective parents on the Embassy's website and on the State Department adoption website. Sometimes the nation reforms its adoption process. But if not, eventually the U.S. State Department comes to think it has no choice--given its limited powers to regulate or oversee adoptions--but to stop approving adoptions from that country altogether, lest the U.S. unwittingly approves adoptions of children whose birthfamilies never intended to give them up. U.S. adopting families get caught in the middle of this policy change, legally responsible for children they cannot bring home.
[I]n 2001, some international adoption agencies and facilitators discovered Nepal. International adoptions spiked from a total of 8 in the year 2000 to 394 in 2006--an enormous leap in a small country undergoing a civil war, when opportunities for corruption and fraud are often particularly rife.
With that rapid expansion, NGOs and the news media began to report on systematic adoption irregularities much like those that had already been seen in Cambodia and Vietnam. Orphanages were being started (or converted) specifically to focus on international adoption, rather than to offer temporary children's shelters and boarding schools for poor families during periods of illness or financial stress. Illiterate parents who left their children in these child-caring institutions, expecting to bring the child home a few months later, would discover to their shock that the child had been adopted abroad. Apparently, once some corrupt officials and unscrupulous individuals discovered what large amounts of Western cash were available for each international adoption, they began to "find" the healthy infants and toddlers that Westerners most wanted to adopt. In 2007, plagued by these accusations, the government of Nepal shut down its international adoption program for reform.


  1. Thank you for another great and timely post! I just finished reading Little Princes, and I am so glad to hear that the Dept. of State has upheld the ban on inter-country adoption from Nepal. It was so sad to read about the trafficking in Nepal, esp. during the recent civil war.

    In some villages, Maoist forces were conscripting children as soldiers, and the child traffickers seized upon this threat to coerce parents into allowing them to take their children. Traffickers demanded that parents give them most of their savings, based on the false promise that their children would be provided with an education and more adequate nutrition. Just as you mentioned, parents were told that they'd hear from their kids and have a chance to see them again, bring them back to their village, etc. Instead some traffickers sold children into slavery or left them as a group of 20, 30 in a one-room orphanage with very little food and no schooling. Documents were forged, and I imagine some these kids ended up in the U.S. last summer. So sad! Thanks for another good post.

  2. I would hope that people would actually pay attention. However, I know how entitled a great number of wannabe adopters are. Sadly, they are not thinking about the kids or their families.

  3. "West is not impressed by adoption practises in Nepal"

    Hahahahahaha... really? I almost fell off my chair when I read the title for this. So, they are ready to pick on other countries with appalling adoption methods and yet refuse to look ito their own (USA). Its like one criminal judging another for the same crime. Just because adoption is dressed differently in the States, doesn't make it any different. Kidnappings, trafficking, shady practises, coercive tactics etc... the States should start looking at their own state of affairs before going around and casting rocks at other countries.

    I just find all this hilarious... but yet incredibly sad.

  4. After clicking on the link of "well documented cases" [of trafficking] and not finding any documentation, it left me wondering about the true motivation of the writer. However, my curiosity was short-lived when I checked out your website.

    I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind listing actual sources for your "well-documented" information? Or, please list exactly how many cases of fraud have been uncovered that directly relate to the Nepal-American adoptions. Then again, is it "trafficking" you are opposed to or is it "adoption?" Mixing up the two, and playing on the same emotional heartstrings as those you criticize, negates the human trafficking that occurs when the orphaned children of Nepal reach 14 years of age. Or, does your concern for the child end after puberty?

    The vast majority of us in the adoption world concur with Ambassador Jacobs and stand behind her efforts to see the improvement of the Nepal adoption process. We praise her efforts and those of her colleagues in the State Department, but we question the motives of writers who would gladly see adoption stopped worldwide, even for those children who are truly in need, simply because they are opposed to a process that, if conducted ethically and professionally, has proven to be the salvation of hundreds of thousands of children through the centuries. Tom Velie, LMSW

  5. Dear Tom Velie, LMSW:

    Do check out Pound Pup Legacy. Click on the various countries. Do more reading about inter-country adoptions. Some of our previous stories link to stories by E.J. Graff in several publications, and one in Mother Jones by another writer.

  6. Also, Mr. Velie, LMSW, what agency do you work for? Or, what is your involvement in inter-country adoption. Here at First Mother Forum we are very upfront about our involvement in the adoption process/business (suppliers) and encourage those who comment to do likewise.

  7. Lorraine:

    In case he doesn't come back, he's a president of an adoption agency that, quelle suprise, works in Nepal, among other places.



  8. Thanks Dawn, I did check out your link and indeed he heads up an adoption agency who does adoptions in Nepal. His wife also works there.

  9. Anyone questioning whether instances of fraud in international adoption from Nepal have occurred should check out EJ Graff’s collection of documentation, including the series of warnings and reports of
    irregularities from the U.S. Department of State:




    Ethica wholeheartedly endorses efforts to improve the integrity of the adoption process worldwide. Unfortunately, debating whether the need
    for improvement even exists tends to detract from the real goal of
    making the process better.

    Usha @ Ethica

  10. Thanks Usha @Ethica,

    The post did link to one of Graff's stories, and to other blogs in which I link to them, but the director of New Beginnings Adoption and Family Services, an agency which handles adoptions from Nepal is obviously to read them!

  11. Orphaned or Stolen? The U.S. State Department investigates adoption from Nepal,

    Exclusive State Department internal cables
    from Freedom of Information Act requests

    The Huffington Post:


  12. Thank you Anonymous--but how about using something that is less anonymous?--I posted your link as an update to the blog and quoted a graf of the HuffPo story.

  13. Sorry. Was in a hurry -- hence the anonymous post.



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