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As we reported on Friday, the U.S. State Department announced that adoptions with Vietnam are re-opening, on a limited basis.

Vietnam’s Central Adoption Authority, the Ministry of Justice, announced that it has authorized two U.S. adoption service providers to facilitate intercountry adoptions in Vietnam: 

            Dillon International, Inc.
Holt International Children’s Services, Inc.

Effective on September 16, the United States will process Hague Convention adoptions from Vietnam through a program for children with special needs, children aged five and older, and children in biological sibling groups (Special Adoption Program).

Soon after, the two agencies released their own Joint Announcement:

 “We are honored by the trust Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice has placed in our agencies to serve some of the nation’s most vulnerable children,” said Kyle Tresch, Dillon International’s executive director.

“Both Holt and Dillon consider it a privilege to continue in our long-standing commitments to meet the needs of children in Vietnam,” added Phillip Littleton, Holt International president and CEO. “We are grateful for all of the efforts of the Ministry of Justice to develop strategies to ensure ethical adoption practices in Vietnam and for the U.S. Department of State’s support for these efforts.”

Today the US Embassy in Vietnam posted details of the ceremony in which the agencies were officially given their licenses.

On September 16, 2014, Chargé d’Affaire Claire Pierangelo led the U.S. Mission delegation to attend a ceremony held by the Ministry of Justice of Vietnam, during which Mr. Nguyen Van Binh, Director of the Department of Adoptions, Ministry of Justice has officially presented the licenses to the representatives of two U.S. adoption service providers – Dillon International and Holt International Children’s Services

For those hoping for more detail about the program, USCIS posted this notice that clarifies the categories of children and how to go about starting the paperwork process:

Prospective Adoptive Parents Wishing to Pursue a Hague Convention Adoption in Vietnam

Under this Hague Adoption Convention Special Adoption Program, U.S. prospective adoptive parents must work with an Adoption Service Provider (ASP) that has been authorized by Vietnam to facilitate intercountry adoptions under the Special Adoption Program and may only seek to adopt a child or children from Vietnam referred by the Vietnamese Central Authority:

Who has/have special needs;

Who is/are age five and older; or

Who are in a biological sibling group.

If the child you are intending to adopt meets one or more of these qualifications, your adoption case can proceed under the Hague Adoption Convention Special Adoption Program.

Note: USCIS will not approve any Hague Adoption Convention petitions for children from Vietnam who do not meet one or more of these three categories under the Special Adoption Program, or who were not referred by the Vietnamese Central Authority.  Additionally, USCIS will deny any Form I-800 petition where an ASP was used in Vietnam that was not authorized to facilitate intercountry adoptions under the Special Adoption Program.

Dillon International has begun posting information on their website about the new program.  In addition to the requirements mentioned by USCIS, Dillon lists requirements that applicants be between 25-55 years of age, married a minimum of two years and have a maximum of five children already in the home.  Single applicants will also be accepted.  Dillon says both parents will be required to travel and stay in Vietnam for approximately 2-3 weeks.  The overall predicted cost of adopting from Vietnam with Dillon is $25,955 – $32, 165.  It appears that the Vietnamese government fees cover about $8000 of that total amount.  (We are still in the process of researching the exact fees required by the Vietnamese government. )

Holt International also posted an announcement on their website, but have not yet posted any additional information about their program and fees.

As to the exact definition of “Special Needs” the best information we have comes from a December 2011 Vietnamese Decree Document.

Article 3. Disable, dangerous disease children are specific adopted

Disable, dangerous disease children are specific adopted under provisions in point d clause 2 Article 28 of Law on Adoption include: children with cleft lip and cleft palate, children who are blinded with one or two eyes; mutism, deaf; dumb; children with curved arms or legs, children with missing fingers, hands, foot (feet), toes, children infected with HIV; children with heart diseases; children with navel, groin, belly hernia; children without an anus or sexual organ; children with blood disease; children with diseases requiring life-long treatment; children with other disabilities or dangerous disease which restricting the chances of adoption.


For more information, Dillon International’s contact is Jynger Roberts jynger@dillonadopt.com (918) 749-4600.  Holt invites interested applicants to contact them through their online webform.

We will continue to post updates and news as we receive them.

Holt and Dillon, the two agencies selected by the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Adoptions in Vietnam, have issued a joint statement after today’s announcement that they will be licensed for special needs adoptions.

The full statement is available here.


Adoptions Now Open

Today, the Department of State announced the commencement of  a special adoption program:


Vietnam’s Central Adoption Authority, the Ministry of Justice, announced that it has authorized two U.S. adoption service providers to facilitate intercountry adoptions in Vietnam:

Dillon International, Inc.
Holt International Children’s Services, Inc.

Effective on September 16, the United States will process Hague Convention adoptions from Vietnam through a program for children with special needs, children aged five and older, and children in biological sibling groups (Special Adoption Program). Please see our June 16th Adoption Notice outlining the Special Adoption Program.

The United States will not, however, process Hague Convention intercountry adoptions from Vietnam that fall outside the parameters of the Special Adoption Program.


Read the full announcment here.

We will provide comment on this latest news just as soon as feasible. Please direct media inquiries to media@adoptionintegrity.com

In Brief:

We believe that Senate bill 2475, “The Children in Families First Act of 2014” is flawed in its design.  Written without the consultation of either adult adoptees or first families, this bill pressures countries to open a pipeline of children for intercountry adoption and does so with funds redirected from current aid projects that serve vulnerable families and children around the world.  We strongly support ethical intercountry adoptions, but feel that this bill will open the door to more fraud and corruption throughout the system.  However well-intentioned it may be, CHIFF is not the comprehensive reform bill that intercountry adoption needs.


Our Full Statement:

You may have heard recently about a bill currently up for consideration in the House and Senate known as “Children in Families First” (CHIFF).  It has the support of many members of Congress, as well as some of the biggest names in the adoption industry.  What is this bill about?  At first glance, it seems like the kind of bill no compassionate person could ever oppose.  It says that children should be loved and cared for, that they should have a family, and should be protected from violence and abuse. And we agree. Absolutely.  Where CHIFF goes wrong is in its sense of priorities.  “Children In Families First” ironically gives little priority to keeping Children In Their First Families.  Based on the priorities spelled out in the bill, a more accurate title might be:  “Children For American Families FAST.”


As we have said before, we are in no way opposed to international adoption.  In many cases, that may in fact be the best solution for a child.  But without first seeing if that child could be reunified with his/her parents or extended family; without verifying that the child in the orphanage has no one who desires to care for them; without giving local families a real opportunity to adopt that child, how would we know it was for the best?  The reality is that adoption – any adoption – involves loss.  The loss of parents, extended family, a child’s first home.  To add to that the loss of their entire country, culture, and language is no small thing and should not be treated as though it is an equivalent – or worse, a better option — than any of the in-country solutions.  


The supporters of CHIFF say that family preservation and domestic placements are given priority over international adoption, but the actual wording of the bill belies that claim.    

The principle of subsidiarity, which gives preference to in-country solutions, should be implemented within the context of a concurrent planning strategy, exploring in- and out-of-country options simultaneously. If an in-country placement serving the child’s best interest and providing appropriate, protective, and permanent care is not quickly available, and such an international home is available, the child should be placed in that international home without delay.


Normally when something is given preference, it means that it comes first.  But in this case, though preference is supposedly being given to in-country solutions, those are not being sought first.  International adoption is being pursued concurrently.  In theory, this means that authorities should be seeking to reunify a child with his/her family, searching for additional family who could provide kinship care, and even seeking a family to adopt the child locally while at the same time they are going through the process of clearing the child for an international adoption.  Each of those very weighty steps takes time and money.  Only one of them results in a large paycheck for the authorities and others involved in finding “permanent care” for the child.  So while it may sound like the bill gives equal weight to all possible solutions, in reality the money that drives international adoption will propel that option to the top every time.


Unfortunately, it seems that money drives the priorities of this entire bill.


According to the promotional website for CHIFF, the bill requires no additional funds but simply “calls for the redirection of a modest portion of the $2 billion the United States currently spends on children living abroad toward ensuring that all children grow up in a family.”  That redirection might more accurately be called a sleight of hand.  Because if that money is “redirected” it means it can’t be spent in the ways it was originally intended.  The current budget includes funds for feeding children, vaccinations, and other aid that helps the most vulnerable children to survive with their families.  What happens if money that was previously spent providing aid to impoverished families is now redirected to a bureaucracy tasked with getting children placed without delay?  Isn’t it possible that some of those impoverished families will be forced to the brink, forced to relinquish their children rather than watch them starve to death?  Would we not then being exacerbating the very problem we say we want to solve?  Priorities.


But shouldn’t we give priority to the millions of children who need families now?  The backers of CHIFF say “By some estimates, there are 200 million orphans in the world, but because children in orphanages and on the streets are not even counted, we have no idea just how many need our help.” So, by that logic, there could be even more than 200 MILLION orphans in the world?  Why on earth wouldn’t we want to make a way for all those children to be adopted quickly?


In fact, that sentence says the very opposite of what it sounds like.  On the one hand “some estimates” say they are 200 million orphans in the world. Whose estimate is that?  In fact there is no reliable source for such a number.  The highest sourced number is one put out by Unicef a number of years ago, in which they said there were 143 million children who had lost one or both parents; a definition that expands the word “orphan” far beyond what most people understand it to mean, and one that does not allow for the possibility that a child is being cared for by older siblings or other extended family.  Suffice it to say that anyone who is making an estimate in the ballpark of 200 million is greatly exaggerating the numbers – and the most truthful thing in CHIFF’s statement is that they “have no idea just how many need our help.”  Further, the vast majority of children in orphanages and on the streets are older children – not babies.  Older children are much more difficult to place, and have a much more difficult time transitioning to an entirely new culture, language and way of life.  In some cases, in-country placements may serve a child’s best interests in a way that international adoption cannot.


Who is behind this bill?  The list of endorsing organizations is long.  The vast majority of them are adoption agencies.  Also JCICS and other lobbying groups that represent the interests of agencies as well as the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and other adoption lawyers.


Who is opposed to this bill?  The other two sides of the adoption triad – Adult Adoptees and Birth Families. The writers of the bill didn’t even bother to consult with them.  Also opposed are a number of organizations that advocate for ethical adoption practices, like PEAR.


Why?  A number of reasons, but it basically boils down to the fact that this bill makes international adoption a priority above all other options for vulnerable children around the world.  Consider the third section of the bill, titled “Promotion of a Comprehensive Approach for Children in Adversity” in which the Administrator of the new agency established by the bill is tasked with implementing the “Action Plan for Children in Adversity” in at least six countries within the next five years.  The purpose of this initial launch is to “establish model programs that… will be available for replication on a global basis.”   And the criteria for launching in those six countries?  All of them MUST agree to “support the full complement of permanence solutions” – including “intercountry adoption”.


In other words, money would be siphoned off of funds currently used to aid and support vulnerable children around the world for the clear and stated purpose of incentivizing intercountry adoptions.  Who stands to gain the most from that approach?  Adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and others who work in that industry.


As Adoptive and Prospective Adoptive Parents, please consider your part in this debate.  Our role begins when we are shepherded by adoption agencies who have the honor and responsibility of leading us through the adoption process and introducing us to our children.  We might feel a strong connection and sense of loyalty to our agency, but in the end, they are a business providing a service.  The lasting relationship is the one we have with our child.  It is our children who deserve our loyalty.  We must put their needs above our own.  Are we willing to put the best interests of children ahead of our own desires to adopt a child as quickly as possible?  Do we have the courage to insist that every effort be made to protect vulnerable families so that only children who truly need us will be made available for adoption?


In the Vietnam adoption community we have seen firsthand what happens when expediency is put ahead of ethics.  In the short term, it gets results.  But in the long term, it only leads to heartache.  Let us learn from the mistakes of the past.  And let us hold our agencies and our government officials to a higher standard.  Consider adding your voice to those speaking out against this misguided legislation.  Call or write to your Senators and Congressmen, and ask them to Say No To CHIFF.  



We are admittedly quite late to this conversation.  A number of other voices have spoken against CHIFF.  To learn more about why CHIFF is not a good bill, we recommend starting with the following links:







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