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The End of an Era

On the eve of the September 1st expiration date of the current Memorandum of Understanding, a sort of sad silence has fallen over the Vietnam adoptive community. Agencies are saying little to nothing. Both governments are mum. Advocacy groups are waiting. Without speaking at all, the anxiousness is palpable. You can hear a pin drop in our community, waiting for something – anything – to be said about the future of adoptions in Vietnam.

Many are left without referrals while their dossiers wait in Vietnam, soon to be returned without a match. Some have been waiting for years already, having carefully chosen highly reputable agencies while watching hundreds of parents receive referrals and come home with their babies. For some, Vietnam adoption was their last best hope to build a family.

Some are left holding “soft” referrals that do not meet the DIA’s definition of a referral quite yet. They wonder whether this child whose face they have grown to love will be allowed to come home or whether they will just silently receive their returned dossier with the rest.

Still others have completed adoptions or have referrals and are just waiting to travel. We are considered to be, by some, the lucky ones. But many of us, while feeling blessed to be afforded the opportunity raise our beloved children, are dealing with the harsh realities of the deep and serious corruption that may have tainted our own adoptions and the likelihood of never knowing the full truth either way. Many of us are finding, as arrests are made in our children’s provinces and investigations are revealing further and further examples of corruption that we are going through our own period of confusion, mourning, depression and anxiety. How will we explain to our children the histories that were robbed from our children? How do we explain the shutdown, the arrests, the closed provinces and the stories of corruption? Can we assure our children that they were not a part of this corruption? Can we hire someone to uncover more information in Vietnam? Can we find out the truth? If not, what do we tell them? How much? And when? How?

Many people are wondering  what  we can do now? What do we do next? How can we help? How can we exact change upon a failed system? How can we help the orphans left behind? How can we work to open up adoption again in Vietnam without sacrificing ethics?

The answers to these questions are difficult and complicated and often evoke more questions than answers.

Do we hire investigators to search for birth parent info? If so, how do we find an ethical investigator? How do we assure that the information uncovered is free of its own brand of corruption? How do we assure that birth parents are respected and privacy is not overstepped?

Do we continue to send financial aid to agencies or other humanitarian aide groups that promise to continue to care for the meek and needy? If so, how do we tell a con from a real path to change? How do we know our dollars are going to help families and children in need and not just continuing to line the pockets of greedy intermediaries as we have seen in the past?

Do we fight with our government for change? If so, is it better that a million single voices are heard or one strong united voice? Is it better to approach our state representatives and advocate for change on the state level? Or does it make more sense to fight for change on a federal level? What can be done to convey our desires to Vietnam’s government?

What goes into the creation of an MOU? Can it be done quickly? Should it be done quickly? Can we learn any lessons from the weaknesses of this expiring MOU? Should, instead, Hague implementation be advocated for?

Although this day brings heartbreak and sadness to so many families, it also brings hope. The MOU offered us a path to adoption but that path was riddled with problems that have affected so many children and their birth families and adoptive families as well. As this adoption program draws to a close, we can close a chapter riddled with corruption and instead focus on a new chapter where all parties- birth families, children and adoptive families – are put first.

In the coming days and weeks we will bring you some of the answers to all of those many questions posed above. We will share resources, we will talk through some of the ethical conundrums we all face, we will talk about the reality of creating a new adoption agreement and we will talk about ways we can all collectively come together to advocate for change from the ground up.

This does not have to be the end. In fact, it is just the beginning.

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2008-08-31 20:25:56

[…] for Vietnam Adoption Integrity has a blog entry up tonight entitled “The end of an era.” While it spells out much of the “conundrum” American adopters and […]

Comment by rainbowmom
2008-08-31 20:57:23

My heart just breaks today for the families who have waited down to the last minute for a referral that has never come. For those of us who love Vietnam, and our children from that nation, we are saddened that human greed and corruption on so many levels has robbed children in orphanages from having a family. And, that corruption has robbed waiting yearning families of the very children who need them. I pray that VN will reopen. I do not know what that will look like. But, as much as the faces of children in the orphanages haunt me, I hope that adoption does not open again until there is ethical accountable reform, for the sake of the orphans and the families…all the families.

Comment by K
2008-08-31 23:26:17

As a parent of a child from Nam Dinh, our paperwork is signed by at least one of the people arrested recently. We are currently exploring options as to investigating whether our child was one of the “paperwork fraud” cases.

I agree with all of the points made by you, Nicki. This is very sad but has put me into a situation that means I must act. I thought I had done many things right with ethics and asking questions. But I do have to talk to my child someday about his circumstances.

I am saddened for the people who find themselves with no referrals. However, I hope that Vietnam does NOT open again until there is a system that is accountable. I search the listserves each day for new articles. No parent, adoptive or birth, should have to do what many of us are doing—- questioning the legitimacy of the process we participated in. Any new system should have safeguards for all built into it.

Comment by sue
2008-09-01 13:27:18

I am totally upset on many levels. I have wasted two years of my time and yet I end up with nothing. Why should I be the person to throw away thousands of dollars and receive nothing. I agree that if corruption exists, adoptions should end, but someone should be resposible for giving me my money back at the very least, since there is no way of repairing my broken heart or giving me back lost time. There is not even insurance available, Why should I have to be punished like this, after all that I was my hard earned money, I did nothing wrong, except for want to help a child.

2008-09-01 14:55:47

[…] with corruption and unethical actions, arrests and human trafficking. It won’t be easy. I wrote more about it here in a post that started out as an insanely long novella (who me? yeah I know) and eventually ended […]

Comment by Laurie
2008-09-01 20:13:59

Thanks for writing this Nicki. I was too depressed to write much.

Comment by Jen
2008-09-02 06:43:13

I’ll be looking forward to the discussions that follow about telling our kids and finding out what we can about their histories.

Comment by Mark
2008-09-03 08:37:42

I disagree on the very harsh statement that ‘Adoption should end’. This is very cold statement to make. The issue is related to individuals who prey upon the hopes and needs of people who only want one thing. To be a family.
The correct statement should be that we want Vietnam to open up again in the future with a system that is accoutable.

2008-09-04 07:45:41

[…] Nicki has a great post up at VVAI that sums up a lot of my feelings.  But the two things that haunt me the most are what Lion-boy will do with all this information some day, and if/when/how we bring child #4 into our family.  As I have blogged about before, our hearts are in Vietnam for #4.  We are currently in the midst of several situations that make it very clear that now is not the time for #4 any way, so maybe we’ll just wait out this shut down and be able to adopt again from Vietnam using Holt or PSBI again.  […]

Comment by Erin
2008-09-09 22:21:47

Thanks for writing this Nicki. I really look forward to future posts especially how to be truthful but also protective while raising the children you love.

Comment by Tamara
2009-01-03 01:19:14

My husband and I lost our beautiful 7 year old boy, Nguyen Trung Kien, whom we were going to call Dylan in the above discussed fiasco. We were and are EXCITED about our international family. You see, I am an African-American woman and my husband is a Danish. The prospect of another culture in our family that would/will enrich our lives and show the world what love really is, was intoxicating. We moved to a new house in the hills of Southern California so that our son could have a yard, a bike, and a dog.

Even before all of turmoil in association with Vietnamese adoptions came to a head, we noticed things that that were being said and done that made us suspicious. Our agency tried to quiet our fears. For MONTHS when we would voice our suspisons we would be dismissed. We became more and more uneasy as we were pushed to get things done faster and faster. We were even being pushed to do our homestudy as quickly as possible. It was with broken hearts we realized that our precious little boy would not come home.

I know for a fact that our agency knew that there was a risk that Vietnam would close. It was not until we called their sister agency, where our agency actually got their children, and was told that they were telling their parents to change countries that we realized that our agency was not being completely honest. I had to contact the President, CEO, and founders of the agency and demand that they be honest with the parents that were waiting for their precious Vietnamese children that any action was taken.

I believe that SOME agencies were not honest about the sitution as it was and is in Vietnam. (From what we could see, ours had a good reputation) However, I also believe that there are agencies, such as the one that told us what was really happening, should be commended for how they have handled this crisis.

This has been a difficult time for those of us who wanted so badly for our children to come home. I know that for me, personally, my heart is still attached to my son, Dylan. I think about him everyday. I pray for him, and cry for the lost memories and love that could have been ours. He is my little boy, the child that I lost in the midst of corruption.

I don’t know when Vietnam will open again. I don’t know if my little boy will ever come home. I do no know that my husband and I are allowing ourselves to heal. Since we lost Dylan, we have not tried to have children, naturally or through adoption. It was too painful to think of other children in our home.

But things are slowly changing. We plan to have our first child, naturally, within the next year or so. We want to adopt our next child from Ethiopia. Maybe in the years that stretch between then and the time we adopt our third child, Vietnam will be open again. If not we will bring our third child home from the Philippines.

I do know this. I WANT Vietnam to be opened by time we are ready to adopt our Asian child. Maybe, at that time, Dylan, who will be a teenager, will come home. We know where he is. We know what orphanage he is in. However, even if he doesn’t there will be another child; a beautiful child with dark, slanted eyes and olive skin that will come home. One that we will love and cherish.

I still have Dylan’s pictures. I cannot throw them away. In his eyes, I see the eyes of the brothers and sisters that he may not know but will still know about him. I am more determined now than I ever was before to make a difference for the children of the world.

You see, even in the pain of our loss. There is hope. Hope that one day our home will be filled with laughter and love that only children can bring. Hope that one day, our little boy really will come home.

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