Cablegate: Vietnam Adoptions Baseline Study -- Danang

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) HCMC 1187

1. (SBU) Summary: ConGen HCMC extended its baseline study of
Vietnamese orphanages to Danang during a recent visit by CG and
Consulate team. We found that one Danang orphanage has
continued to receive funding from an American adoption agency,
despite the suspension of adoptions and in return is "reserving"
potentially adoptable children. Conversations with an American
NGO director confirmed information given to Post from other
sources regarding some of the in-country costs associated with
international adoptions. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On October 1 Conoff paid an unannounced visit on the
Rehabilitation Center for Malnourished Orphans in Danang and spoke
with Ms. Nguyen Thi Anh Dao, director of the orphanage. Dao
stated that Americans had adopted from her orphanage in the past
and that her orphanage was the only one in the Danang region
licensed to process international adoptions. Dao stated that the
orphanage was responsible for 26 children at the orphanage plus 11
other children who were living in foster care with Vietnamese
families. All of the children were under five years old and 12
were under one year old. Once the children at the orphanage
reached age six, they were moved to a nearby boarding school for
orphans. However, on a tour of the orphanage, Conoff directly
observed only 14 children: five healthy children between the ages
of 12 months and 24 months old; eight healthy children under 12
months old, including four infants under two months old; and one
special needs child age seven. Dao stated that three children
were currently at a local hospital receiving treatment for birth
defects. When Dao was later asked to account for the other nine
children, she changed her statement and said there were actually
six children currently at a local hospital and added that the
remaining six children stayed in foster homes each morning.

3. (SBU) Dao stated that the orphanage sought first to return
children to their natural parents. If this is not possible, then
they preferred to arrange domestic adoptions by Vietnamese
nationals. Finally, international adoptions were the last option.
Regarding international adoptions, Dao stated that she only worked
with American adoption agencies, despite the fact that Amcits had
not been able to adopt Vietnamese orphans in nearly two years.
She stated that she had worked with Danish, Canadian, and French
agencies in the past, but they refused to provide annual follow-up
reports about each child, which the Americans had agreed to do.
Therefore, she had ended her relationship with other agencies and
only worked with American agencies.

4. (SBU) Dao stated that her orphanage had a "commitment" to work
only with Holt International, an American adoption agency. When
pressed about the exact nature of their "commitment," she stated
that Holt had signed an agreement to provide 470 million Vietnam
dong (nearly 30,000 USD) to the orphanage this year. They had
signed similar agreements since 1992 and expected to receive
support in the future. Dao emphasized that the money was actually
given to the local People's Committee and was used to support her
orphanage and a local community center for senior citizens. She
must submit receipts for actual expenses to the People's Committee
to receive reimbursement. Any excess money not spent on actual
expenses remains with the local Department of Finance at the end
of the year. The annual budget for the orphanage ranges from
300,000,000 to 470,000,000 VND. Dao was adamant that none of this
money was ever given to birth mothers and stated that the majority
of the children under her care had been abandoned at birth at
local hospitals.

5. (SBU) As part of the "commitment" with Holt, the orphanage
continues to send referrals and pictures of orphans to Holt to
distribute to PAPs in the U.S. Currently, Dao had identified nine
children who would be adopted by named Americans as soon as the
moratorium on adoptions is lifted. Some of the PAPs had already
visited their prospective children, and they regularly send
birthday and Christmas cards to the children they have agreed to
adopt. Conoff verified that these "agreements" were entered into
after the moratorium on adoptions was announced in mid-2002 and
both the Department and the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City
had issued announcements urging PAPs not to enter into agreements
with adoption agencies to adopt in Vietnam. (NOTE: Since
adoptions by Americans were suspended on January 1, 2003, Post has
received notification from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services that they have approved 12 orphan petitions for Americans
to adopt named children.) Dao stated that she would hold the
children for the Americans to adopt until they reached age ten.

6. (SBU) Dao appeared to be a credible interlocutor who believed
that she was doing right by the children under her care. Although
she did not reveal the exact dollar amount given to the orphanage
by Holt International until pressed to do so, she readily
disclosed the relationship and did not seem to feel it was in any
way inappropriate. She expressed confidence that she was working
within the framework of current Vietnamese law. However, she was
unable to explain why she had agreed to hold nine children
indefinitely for American parents when her orphanage's stated
policy was to place children domestically first.

7. (SBU) In a separate meeting, the Consul General met with Mr.
Mark Conroy, former USAID officer and current Director of the East
Meets West (EMW) Foundation working in Danang, Vietnam. Conroy
has over ten years of experience working in Vietnam and his
organization has founded several orphanages in central Vietnam.
While EMW does not facilitate international adoptions, Conroy is
familiar with the issue and has experience managing orphanages in
8. (SBU) Conroy stated that EMW budgets 300 to 400 USD per year to
support each child living in its orphanages. They budget
approximately 250 USD per year to support a child to remain with
her/his family or with relatives; this money then supports all
those living in the child's home. Conroy strongly favored
spending funds to keep children with their families as opposed to
spending more money to support the same child deposited by the
family for care in an orphanage. Comment: According to Conroy's
figures, the 30,000 USD given to the Danang People's Committee to
support Dao's orphanage is far more than the amount actually
required to support the 26 children living there and the 11
children in foster care. End Comment

9. (SBU) Conroy stated that birth mothers often received money
from adoptive parents or agencies in the U.S. when they give their
children up for adoption. He stated that the money was given "to
help get the mother on her feet again" and was often only a few
hundred dollars. We pressed him for his views on this issue since
he has both years of experience in the region and no direct
interest in overseas adoptions. Conroy thought that the dividing
line between assistance and "baby buying" was somewhere between
USD400 and USD500, the latter figure being about twice the annual
income in the region.

10. (SBU) Conroy told us that colleagues in the region working for
the International Red Cross said that the Red Cross received about
1,500 USD to process international adoptions for Canadian
citizens. Of that amount, roughly 500 USD was spent obtaining
required paperwork from GVN authorities and 100 to 500 USD was
given to the birth mother, if identified. Conroy emphasized that
this was only a small fraction of the 10,000 to 30,000 USD total
charged to PAPs by adoption agencies in the U.S. and Canada.
Conroy's views were consistent with what post has heard from other
sources regarding the costs associated with international adoption
and the fees charged to PAPs by adoption agencies.


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