Ethics|In The News

Child traffickers convicted in Vietnam

A Vietnamese court sentenced three people to jail terms ranging from three to seven years for trafficking babies and selling them to an orphanage in Ninh Binh. An additional 12 accomplices were given suspended sentences. They were convicted of selling 12 infants for 130 million dong (approximately $7,600 US) between April 2006 and May 2008. The deputy director of the orphanage, To Van An, committed suicide a month after the arrests last year.

A report from the Associated Press says:

Of the 12 babies sold to the center in Ninh Binh, six were adopted by citizens from the United States, France and Canada, five were transferred to the center in Hoa Binh, and one was returned to the family of an unwed mother, the judge said.

 The full article can be accessed here.


I am a mom to a biological son, a daughter adopted from Vietnam, and a son adopted domestically. I became interested in transparency in adoption after we brought our daughter home from Phu Tho, Vietnam, in March 2007. My husband and I were very naive when we began the international adoption process. We thought that all agencies, facilitators, orphanage directors, etc. had the best interests of the orphaned children at heart. Sadly, we learned that adoption is a “business” and that corruption can be widespread. We were bothered by things we saw in-country, and further disappointed by things we learned about our agency and the adoption system in Vietnam once we returned home. I do believe that ethical adoptions are possible, and I hope that by speaking out we can bring about reforms that will allow those children who are truly orphans to find their forever families. I also maintain a personal blog:


  1. I hope that these hearings were just and not politically expedient, so that the results will bring lasting change to the system and soon the children in need of homes will find one.

  2. I am wondering about the 6 that were adoption by foreign families – were the familles notified? does anyone know?

  3. Kim-

    I have wondered the very same thing. I have tried to research this and can’t find anything on these arrests except the same AP story quoted over and over.

    Since visas were issued for these children, we must assume that the corruption was discovered (or at least proven) after the adoptions were completed. I’m not sure if the government or the agency would have any obligation to tell the families, though I certainly hope they would. In other cases I have seen like this, it has ended up being the media that alerts the families.

    If the families were notified, there is no legal precedent for returning the children to Vietnam. A similar situation happened in Guatemala. Birthmothers whose children had been stolen tracked their children down in the US, but the US families refused to have contact with them and are under no legal obligation to do so (though I would certainly argue that at least having contact with the birthmoms would be best for the children). Check out this video on the Guatemala cases:

  4. Agency would have to be either Florida Homestudy or LSS of New England since those are the only two agencies from the US licensed in that province.

  5. There IS a precedent for illegally adopted children having to be returned to their birth families. It happened last year-Samoan children and U.S. adopters.

  6. Ruby-

    Were those children ordered to be returned, or was it up to the adoptive parents to figure out the best thing to do? I have to admit that I don’t remember the details clearly, but I thought that only one child was actually retruned to Somoa, and that was with the agreement of the adoptive parents. They were not given any sort of legal order to do so. I believe I did read that at least some of those children remaining in the US will have visitation with the birth parents. Am I wrong?

    Also, I believe the US citizens convicted only got probation, and the US gov’t could not extradite the guilty parties in Samoa. That is a sad, sad precedent.

  7. I might have found an answer to my own question. I found this recent article from People magazine:

    It says that the US and Samoa came to an agreement that Samoa would not challange the adoptions. It profiles two families. One family voluntarily returned their adopted daughter to Samoa (this is the one I had heard about). The second family kept their adopted daughter but have contact with the birthparents. So, as I understand it, US adoptive familes are still under no legal obligation to return children to their birthparents when fraud is discovered in international adoptions.

  8. Thanks, Tracy-
    I don’t think that I can say that I’m happy for the adoptive parents because no matter what, there is no happy ending in that situation. I do hope that sites like this and groups like ours will prevent this from recurring.

  9. This is off the topic, but has anyone heard if there was a meeting between the US and Vietnam in Vietnam in May? I thought I read somewhere that there was to be a meeting to discuss a MOA in May. Thanks for any information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *