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Heeding the Warnings

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.

Ethica responded to the State Department statement with advice for PAP’s based on conversations they have had with U.S. governement officials and other parties involved in Vietnam adoptions:

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.

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19 Comments »

Comment by SueCQadopt
2008-03-02 08:35:26

Christina;
Thank you for your post. Although it’s not the news I was hoping for this morning, at least it slightly more “official” than the rumors flying around on the support boards. My only question, from what I understand of your source’s message, is: is your source warning against accepting a placement/referral now b/c he/she does not believe that “in-process” adoptions will continue to be completed up until and after the expiration on Sept 1? Also, the date Sept. 10 is mentioned. Does that date mean something significant, or was it a typo, intended to be Sept. 1? Thank you again for the post and for any clarification you can give me.

Comment by Christina
2008-03-02 16:42:19

Sue,

I literally cut/pasted the entire comment by my source… so you know as much as I know. It may be a typo, I don’t know.

Comment by SueCQadopt
2008-03-02 20:46:47

Ok, Christina. Thanks!

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
Comment by e.
2008-03-02 12:39:09

Christina, Do you get any sense from your contact that they differentiate between SN/older kid adoptions and infant referrals? Do they have any shame for what they are about to do to the kids who genuinely need loving homes and might find them in this country? Do those kids get any consideration from the State Dept?
Furthermore, if they are granting approvals RIGHT NOW, then how can they possibly say that all future adoptions should be halted? Is it not hypocrisy to say that at some random date in the future, adoptions will no longer beconsidered ethical while right now they continue to (albeit slowly) process them? This makes no sense at all. Do you have a chance for any dialogue with your source to allow for some q&a so we can make sense of their rationale?

Comment by Christina
2008-03-02 16:48:33

e., as I told Sue, you know exactly what I know. From what I understand, no one in the U.S. government has ever said that all future adoptions should be halted. In fact their statement says, “The United States is strongly committed to continuing intercountry adoptions from Vietnam if possible. ” What they’ve said is that the agreement is expiring and “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. ” I share your frustration in how long diplomatic matters seem to take to resolve, but I can’t fault the U.S. government for trying to protect Vietnam’s children and families from trafficking. I have not seen an authoritative statement on special needs/older kids being processed differently or faster than infants. That would be more compassionate, but we should not assume that those adoptions are completely free from corruption. In Cambodia a number of older children revealed (once they started speaking English) that they were taken from their intact families. Hard to imagine why, but it happened.

 
 
Comment by D
2008-03-02 15:20:30

I think there’s a big question regarding the extent to which they are really granting in-process approvals right now. This process has slowed to a trickle and babies are suffering as a result. Many I-600 applications are past 90 days (when families were originally told 60 days) and these families have received absolutely no communication. These investigations and approvals used to take 2-3 weeks while the families were in country. What has changed? There doesn’t seem to be any reason it suddenly take 3+ months to grant I-600 approvals. That is, unless there’s an agenda to begin to shut Vietnam adoptions down now rather than wait until the MOU expires. How can this be in the best interest of the orphans? Or, the PAPs who started this process long before the warnings began to be issued? Is it too much to ask for the DOS to live up to their stated “Orphan’s First” guidelines while the MOU is still in place?

 
Comment by Alix
2008-03-02 17:29:22

Thanks for sharing this. I would be very interested in seeing/hearing which agencies – if any – agree to a full refund. I think the more common “relief” we’ll see is an agreement to switch to another country program without additional cost, or maybe with minimal cost.

SueCQadopt – regarding the 9/10 date, iirc, the MOU called for expiration “60 days” after the anniversary of the implementation date. It may be possible that the actual implementation date was July 10th or so and not July 1st.

I am also frustrated by the slow processing of the I-600s, but I tend to think that has more to do with the number of petitions submitted and lack of staff. I don’t know how many families were in country at one time, but I would think that may have been more manageable than all the PAPs submitting them from here. Also, I think that what has changed was that the US wanted more time to investigate each case, or at least a larger portion of the cases. I would imagine the Embassy felt considerable “unspoken pressure” to process families that were in country and anxious to go home. That being said, I would love to see/hear of more I600s being approved. The adoption community could use some relatively good news….

JMHO.

 
Comment by Mama
2008-03-02 18:17:45

I would be interested to hear if anyone is succesful in getting their agency to agree to any refund or re-negotiating the contract for a partial refund. I will attempt htis week to get my agency to give me a breakdown of what is paid to whom and when, from the foriegn fee. I am “next in line” and was told I would be getting a referral this month ( I was also told that fpor Jan and Feb too..) so I have decided to stick it out til April, and see what happens. I want to accept a referral, but sending that big chicnk of maney makes me queasy.. I guess it is a gamble we have to decide if we are willing to make. My agency does not do any other countries I am willing to go to.

 
Comment by Marcy
2008-03-03 11:15:07

This whole thing scares me to death, especially after our disappointment with China. We are hoping for a referral this summer. I dug out the pile of papers we received from our agency and it appears that if the program closes, we will get a 50% refund of the agency fee and a 30% refund of the first part of the foreign fee. It appears that the second part of the foreign fee is not refundable at all (unless for some reason the agency or VN withdraws the child). The thought of losing our baby as well as a huge chunk of money makes me queasy, also, because if this adoption falls through, I’m not sure we’ll have the financial capability to start a third adoption. I’m a nervous wreck all the time. It’s nice, though, to have a place like this to go to find some information and answers, even if it’s not exactly what I want to hear.

Comment by Mindy
2008-03-03 11:54:56

Yes, this officially scares the crap out of me too.

 
 
Comment by yvette Subscribed to comments via email
2008-03-03 14:59:55

I’m guessing that the “major agency” that they are talking about is Children’s Hope International. I found this on someone’s below.
In the first half of the statement they sound like there’s no problem, in the second half it sounds more serious. Sounds like a terrible contradiction.

The 2005 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), required by Vietnamese law to authorize adoptions between the United States and Vietnam, expires on September 1, 2008. The US State department is warning families just now applying to agencies for the Vietnam program. Due to the timing of the process, a family now applying will not receive a referral or submit their completed adoption paperwork to Vietnam prior to the MOU expiring in September. If there is a short moratorium (in English this means shut down, all of this adoption lingo gets confusing), during which the two countries come to a new agreement if necessary, the impact could be minimal to our families and another agreement may be signed soon thereafter. Hanoi Quarterly US Embassy Meeting: Thuy, our main representative in Vietnam, attended the quarterly US embassy meeting in Hanoi for all adoption agencies. The new I-600 procedures were discussed for agencies whose families had not yet traveled under the new I-600 (immigration form for internationally adopted children). A group of US officials will travel to Vietnam in March to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Vietnam government. In March, written letters may be exchanged between the two governments to resign the MOU which expires this year. If the written letters are not exchanged in March, then the MOU will expire on September 1, 2008, and agencies will no longer be allowed to submit new dossiers after this time. Therefore, more details concerning the MOU will be coming soon. (I bolded this section in black b/c this tells us in a nutshell that if they (the U.S. and Vietnam) don’t get things resolved this month adoptions will cease come September 1) For us that would mean our process is halted (whether it be temporarily or permanently)

http://leeseadoptionadventure.blogspot.com/2008/03/march-should-prove-to-be-informative.html

 
Comment by yvette Subscribed to comments via email
2008-03-03 15:05:03

I’m guessing that the “major agency” that they are talking about is Children’s Hope International. I found this on someone’s below.
In the first half of the statement they sound like there’s no problem, in the second half it sounds more serious. Sounds like a terrible contradiction.

The 2005 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), required by Vietnamese law to authorize adoptions between the United States and Vietnam, expires on September 1, 2008. The US State department is warning families just now applying to agencies for the Vietnam program. Due to the timing of the process, a family now applying will not receive a referral or submit their completed adoption paperwork to Vietnam prior to the MOU expiring in September. If there is a short moratorium (in English this means shut down, all of this adoption lingo gets confusing), during which the two countries come to a new agreement if necessary, the impact could be minimal to our families and another agreement may be signed soon thereafter. Hanoi Quarterly US Embassy Meeting: Thuy, our main representative in Vietnam, attended the quarterly US embassy meeting in Hanoi for all adoption agencies. The new I-600 procedures were discussed for agencies whose families had not yet traveled under the new I-600 (immigration form for internationally adopted children). A group of US officials will travel to Vietnam in March to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Vietnam government. In March, written letters may be exchanged between the two governments to resign the MOU which expires this year. If the written letters are not exchanged in March, then the MOU will expire on September 1, 2008, and agencies will no longer be allowed to submit new dossiers after this time. Therefore, more details concerning the MOU will be coming soon. (I bolded this section in black b/c this tells us in a nutshell that if they (the U.S. and Vietnam) don’t get things resolved this month adoptions will cease come September 1) For us that would mean our process is halted (whether it be temporarily or permanently)

http://leeseadoptionadventure.blogspot.com/2008/03/march-should-prove-to-be-informative.html

Comment by jodean
2008-03-07 16:03:44

I am working with Children’s Hope, and have recieved the same information from them. I am feeling very uneasy about their decision to continue accepting new applications with all the uncertainty right now….. We spent a lot of time researching agencies and up until recently have been very confident in our decision. It just doesn’t seem very responsible.
Just trying to figure out what this means for us….

 
 
Comment by yvette Subscribed to comments via email
 
Comment by L
2008-03-03 15:48:41

As a former government employee, I am disheartened by an “anonymous source” and their effort to “reach out to the community”. Where on earth are the official statements and people who are willing to have their name attached? Have our government employees forgotten who their employers are? The more I learn about our Vietnam process and our investigations and negotiations, the more ashamed I am. My goodness gracious, it is beyond time for the State Department to advise parents one way or the other and stand behind that advice with adequate documentation to support their position.

 
Comment by Waiting three
2008-03-05 18:37:23

Well said, L. Thank you.

 
Comment by Nat
2008-03-07 14:12:22

L., what better advice could the State Department give right now? As frustrating as it is to read the tea leaves as a PAP, what I have seen so far in intercountry adoption–in Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala and Ethiopia — is that quite often, these situations are works in progress. There is no secret “decision” that has been made, or hidden path. The State Department has already put out several warnings about Vietnam, and alerted PAPs to the fact that things COULD change or shutdown. It seems to me it would be irresponsible of them (and harmful to the ultimate goal of keeping adoptions open) to “advise parents one way or the others” — to tell people either to abandon their plans altogether, or not to worry because it will all work out. If they tell everyone to jump ship, and it turns out the MOU gets renewed, then everyone would say they were alarmist; if they tell everyone to jump ship and the MOU does NOT get renewed, people will say it’s because they told everyone to leave; and if they said nothing, then a lot of PAPs would simply believe what unscrupulous agencies tell them and fork over a lot of nonrefundable money at a time when they shouldn’t. And if they shut a country down completely, then people get angry that they weren’t allowed to take their own risks.

What could they do differently when things are still uncertain?

 
Comment by Janine Olsen Subscribed to comments via email
2008-05-01 02:04:32

I, like many of you are devastated by this. My first dossier never made it over to Vietnam because things halted for a few months, and so I had to do my dossier again because everything expired. Dossier #2 had just been sent to the US embassy. I have been with my adoption agency for a year and a half. In almost a year, my dossier never made it over to Vietnam, and now this!!! I’m getting too old to adopt, so if Vietnam doesn’t open back up, I’ll be through. What a shame that all of us with love to give and a good home can’t help the orphans!! It is so heartbreaking………

 
Comment by Kathy Subscribed to comments via email
2008-05-06 13:54:16

Hi Janine,
I am in the same boat as you. My Dossier is currently not in Vietnam and I am not sure at theis point it I even want it sent. I know there is no way that I will be able to get a referral now. Not sure what I am going to do. Not very many countries wil accept a single person. My heart is broken for everyone, especially all of the children.

 
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