It is a difficult time for prospective adoptive parents hoping to adopt from Vietnam. Things have been somewhat turbulent for months and now the US – VN Agreement is about to expire and there are questions about whether it will be re-signed in time to prevent a defacto shutdown of adoptions. People are asking for advice from anyone who will give it – fellow PAP’s, agencies, social workers. It’s hard to nail down what is fact and what is someone’s best guess. But some sources are more reliable than others. The United States government, for instance, can be expected to have hard knowledge about the status of Agreement negotiations. So what did they say in their statement posted in late January?
Discussions about revision and renewal of the Agreement are a priority for both governments, but there is no certainty a new Agreement will be in place on September 1. In view of the processing time required in Vietnam from placement to the Giving and Receiving Ceremony, an adoption process begun now cannot be completed before the current Agreement expires. We do not know whether the Government of Vietnam will continue to process pending cases if the current Agreement expires before a new Agreement takes effect. Moreover, given concerns about the existing level of protection for children in Vietnam, it is unlikely that the Agreement can be renewed in its current form.
We must continue to caution families that, at this time, no one can guarantee what will happen on September 1. Some families are reporting that their agencies have assured them that all families with dossiers in Vietnam on September 1 will be assigned a referral and completed. Some report that their agencies have received assurances or one sort or another directly from DIA.
Ethica believes that such guarantees, even when made in good faith, are ill-advised in the current situation, and reminds parents that there have been endless conflicting reports about what DIA has said about several issues, including the practice of “umbrella’ing” and donations to orphanages. Therefore, families are cautioned against putting their faith in anything that is not an official announcement from the U.S. government that transmits what the DIA has decided about in-process cases. While such official pronouncements can also be changed at a later date if Vietnam were to choose to do so, an official announcement is a stronger indication of what will likely occur.
While both of these statements make it clear that there are no guarantees the Agreement will be re-signed before it lapses, neither explicitly says PAP’s should not start an adoption at this time. PAP’s wonder if perhaps a lapse would be very short, only a matter of weeks or one to two months, and therefore would not really affect their timelines all that much. Agencies have been making a range of statements on this issue. One agency says the Agreement will never be re-signed and adoptions are going to close permanently. Another agency says the lapse will hardly affect PAP’s at all and they continue to take on new clients. Others have stopped accepting new clients but are still hopeful that the Agreement will be signed without much delay. PAP’s are left to analyze each and every word posted by any source that is even somewhat “in the know” in the hopes of predicting what will happen next.
I received an email today from a source at the State Department. This source has asked to remain anonymous because the views they shared should not be read as an official statement of any kind. However I would suggest that PAP’s take this advice seriously, because it is an honest assessment from someone close to those who are involved in the negotiations. This person took a risk in emailing me, because we all know full well that any scrap of information posted these days tends to get a wild range of reactions and responses. For that reason I am heartened by this effort by a government source to reach out to the community and share what I consider to be the clearest advice to date:
I am very concerned that I saw a major agency is still accepting applications for Vietnam and saying that in their judgment any lapse between the current agreement and a new one would at most be only a few months. Those familiar with negotiations and Vietnam tell me the process is inevitably very difficult; they are not optimistic that a new agreement will be reached by September 1 or any time soon. Frankly, if I were a prospective adoptive family, I would not accept a Vietnam referral/placement without a clause in my agreement that the agency will fully refund any payments made, should Vietnam adoptions be halted because a new agreement has not been reached by September 10. (I’m sure no agency would not accept that clause—which to me is proof that they know they are being very optimistic by continuing to make placements on the “hope” that adoptions will continue.)”
Based on the statement issued by the State Department in January, this is hardly earth-shattering news. But it is less encouraging than many of us were hoping to hear. It is also very practical advice. While we often don’t like to talk about it, international adoptions cost a lot of money. Unfortunately if something goes wrong it often means that families are out a great deal of money and may not be able to afford to start again. My own advice is if you can’t get an agency to agree to a full refund, at least choose an agency with mutiple country programs that you would be willing to switch to in the event that Vietnam is closed longer than your family is willing or able to wait. And then make sure the agency puts in writing that you can switch to another program without additional cost. We all hope and pray that Vietnam adoptions will remain open for many years to come. But in light of these less than optimistic statements regarding the Agreement, it is important for PAP’s to take precautions to protect their hearts and their finances during this uncertain time.