Ethics|In The News

Senator Landrieu: VN Adoptions May Restart “In The Near Future”

While visiting Vietnam this week, Senator Mary Landrieu said she is hopeful that adoptions between the U.S. and Vietnam will be able to restart soon. According to the Associated Press:

Senators and adoption lobby groups have been urging Vietnam to pass stronger laws and better monitor the process so that adoptions can resume. A leading advocate, Sen. Mary Landrieu, said Vietnam now has safeguards in place to resume adoptions, including a central authority overseeing the process.

“The government of Vietnam seems to be willing to restart, and there are just some final details to be worked out with the government of the United States,” the Democrat from Louisiana told reporters late Wednesday in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. “We hope that it will be in the near future.”

Not all parties involved are as optimistic, however.

A U.N.-commissioned report into adoptions in Vietnam in 2009 said the demand from prospective parents, most of them in the United States, had essentially created a supply of young babies. Cash payments by adoption agencies to orphanages led them to seek out children for adoption abroad, often without proper checks into their background or their family circumstances.

“The availability of children who are adoptable abroad corresponds more to the existence of foreign prospective adopters than to the actual needs of abandoned and orphaned children,” the report said.

Senator Landrieu’s response?

“There is always going to be a possibility of something going wrong, but just because one or two or three or a handful of cases is not handled right, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have an opportunity for kids to have families,”

While we share Senator Landrieu’s hope that stronger laws and better monitoring will result in a safeguarded system, we believe the rights and needs of all children are paramount; any number of mishandled cases is too many. And sadly, too often where “one, two, three or a handful” of cases are found to be mishandled, there may many other cases that slip by. We should never push for expediency when children and families are involved – we must insist on every case being handled right. While some in the American adoption community seem to be overly concerned with the numbers of intercountry adoptions, we hope the authorities involved will focus their concern on protecting children’s rights and identities, as well as the rights of their families. If we want to see intercountry adoptions with Vietnam restarted with a system healthy enough to remain open, we can not settle for less.

Christina Chronister

Christina has adopted two children from SE Asia in 2002 and 2006. Her experience adopting at the time of the U.S. shutdown in Cambodia was eye-opening and led to the creation of a parent-led advocacy group which successfully lobbied for the review and subsequent approval of hundreds of adoptions caught in the pipeline. Her involvement, which included meeting with State Department officials and working with members of Congress, did not end when all the pipeline cases were resolved. Rather it became clear that accountability was sadly lacking in adoptions around the world. The most vulnerable (and yet the most vital) parties in adoptions – children and families – were underrepresented at the table in nearly every discussion. In 2006 she co-founded Voices for Vietnam Adoption Integrity to continue to raise awareness of the need for ethical practices at every step of the adoption process. In 2018 Voices for Vietnam Adoption Integrity changed their name to Voices for Adoption Integrity, recognizing that the struggle is not limited to any one country or program.


  1. That’s plain unrealistic. There are corrupt people looking to take advantage whenever and however they can, not the majority, but where’s there money, there’s corruption. Nothing is perfect. I’m not condoning unethical behavior–not at all–just trying to express that it exists. Everywhere, always has, always will. We should strive for the best possible scenario, but not reopening adoption until its *perfect* is just not realistically possible. If life were perfect, adoption wouldn’t be necessary. So to say that these children can’t have families because there is some corruption somewhere is just impossibly idealistic.

  2. Erin…
    You are absolutely right. There are corrupt people looking to take advantage, and *perfect* is not possible. That said, if we go into it *expecting* to see mishandled cases, aren’t we doing the children, their families and PAP’s a terrible disservice? Shouldn’t we do everything humanly possible to prevent mishandling? There are “best practices” which we have seen in S. Korea and elsewhere that eliminate nearly all opportunities for corruption – it CAN be done, and it must be done in Vietnam as well.

  3. I agree completely. And that is the hope, and should certainly be the expectation, but more as you said above “…nearly all opportunities for corruption…” somehow, someone may find a way to exploit it. I did not take Senator Landrieu’s comment as meaning that it is okay for a few children/families to get trampled in the process. If she were to say “it’s perfect, no wrong can be done from here on out,” that just is not something that anyone can predict 100%. I am glad Vietnam has been working toward improving its process, and hopefully their new system is transparent and tremendously improved.

  4. South Korea’s adoption program isn’t exactly what I would call a “best practice.” If anything, I’d say it’s far from it. While there may not have been the same “corruption” that Vietnam experienced, their program comes with problems too. The S. Korean government doesn’t want to be seen as a baby exporter, so they limit the number of emigration permits each year, and are currently decreasing that by 10% every year. The number of children available for adoption isn’t decreasing. Their government is forcing more children to grow up in foster care just to save face. To make matters even worse, kids are being referred to American families, but then they can’t get an emigration permit for a year or longer, so the 6 – 18 month old may be closer to 2 – 3 years old by the time they get home. Even if the child is special needs, they don’t usually make an exception on this. NO ONE WINS. Their laws and regulations, even though aren’t considered “corruption” should not be what any program looks like. Good intentions gone very very wrong, and the kids are the ones that suffer the greatest.

    There’s always going to be corruption and negative consequences, intentionally and/or unintentionally, but is it fair for all the children waiting to be adopted not have the chance because the US is waiting for the program to be “perfect,” to continue? These kids could have been adopted years ago, and now they are 4-5, and their chance of finding a home decreases the older they get. In a perfect world there would be no corruption (and no need for adoption) but that has never been and will never be the case.

    I wonder how many more children were negatively affected by the closure of Vietnam than by the actual corruption that caused the closure? Just a thought. Don’t get me wrong, something has to be done about corruption in international adoption, but “perfect” is impossible.


  6. We also adopted from Vietnam and even had our papers filled out to apply for a third time but after our second experience and seeing things getting murkier by the month we didn’t apply a third time. Last year we took our daughters back and we had a fantastic time however if anybody here thinks that the orphanages are full of healthy babies waiting to be adopted you are wrong. We saw four babies all with special needs there were no others. There were a handful of toddlers again all with obvious special needs. Most of the E.U. countries adopting are only allowed adopt children with special needs and there is a quota per country. In France you have approx a three year wait to referral, Ireland will facilitate approx 20 special needs adoptions a year, the Italians are adopting both special needs and healthy toddlers and Spain has closed it’s special needs programme due to irregularities with medical reports. They now have no adoptions from Vietnam. It was quite a shock to see the empty baby rooms and unfortunately makes one ask not where have they all gone but where did they all come from to begin with. How can an orphanage go from 100+ adoptions of healthy babies to 1 special needs adoption two years after the US, Ireland and Sweden pulled out. I would love to see Vietnam reopen but considering the fact that Spain has closed it’s programme I am not convinced that enough has been done to stop corruption. Unfortunately until large sums of money are removed from the “fee” the temptation for corruption remains great.

  7. Mitch, see there is the problem. It is NOT about you and your desire to have another Child. No one deprived you of anything. There are other countries with children waiting for families. Too many families have this idea that adoption is about supplying them with children. Adoption should be about supplying children with families.

    I agree with Erin though that “perfection” is not possible and what it boils down to is making the system as safe and effective as possible and in the best interest of the Children. In my opinion, I think other countries seems to be doing a good job of adopting the non-special needs kids from Vietnam, so if adoptions between VN and the US are to start again then it should be a very limited NSN program with a focus on older children and special needs. That and no more than 5 of the best agencies should be given licenses to to adoptions in Vietnam. One of the biggest problems before was that too many agencies were involved and babies started going to the highest bidder.

    Call me a dreamer, but I do believe it is possible to have an ethical and efficient adoption system between Vietnam and the US that focuses on the best interest of the children. I don’t think it will be perfect, but it can happen.

  8. And another thought. I do find it funny how the US Government is so critical about other countries adoption systems when our own is so corrupt. Take the GIANT plank out of your own eye before you pick on some one elses splinter.

  9. Una Mullen – did you visit all of the orphanages in Vietnam? Did you claim that there are no “babies waiting to be adopted” after visiting one orphanage? Sweeping statements to prove a point that are not based on fact have damaged many lives.

    This kind of false accusation has resulted in mass hysteria, but commonsense will prevail. Reforms to a broken system will take place. There are many legitimate orphans in Vietnam who need a family. Thankfully, there is now a movement to make that happen.

  10. Suzanne,
    I also recently visited Vietnam and went back to my son’s orphanage. There were, in fact, many children at the orphanage – nearly all of whom were over the age of 4. There were only 2 babies and just a few toddlers. There ARE many legitimate orphans, but the truth is that very few of them are babies. It is when prospective adoptive families flood the system all asking for young babies (and FAST) that corruption takes off. That is where I see the “mass hysteria”… not in thoughtful comments like Una’s.

  11. Suzanne – there are not just one but many first hand accounts of the status of orphanages in Vietnam during past shutdowns as well as present. There has existed a definite pattern that continues today: MANY orphanages have few or no infants during a shutdown but become extremely “busy” with abandoned infants when there is suddenly a demand. I saw this with my own eyes in my daughter’s orphanage where there were less than a dozen children in the orphanage – most older and special needs – during the shutdown that preceded her adoption. When we arrived to adopt her, her orphanage had over 50 brand new babies – all the same age – matched with mostly US families. And that was just in the front building. I didn’t even know there was another building full of newborns behind this building until other parents reported this. It is extremely suspect when any small province with few orphaned newborns suddenly becomes over-saturated with same-aged newborns when an international adoption program begins. And sure enough just a few months later there was such systemic corruption province-wide that the province was shut down to international adoption. These weren’t isolated observations in one or two orphanages by one or two people. This is over a decade’s worth of consistent observations throughout Vietnam by many many individuals in many orphanages.

    I would agree with you that sweeping statements to prove a point that are not based on fact are damaging. That’s why resources like VVAI exist! It was exactly the types of sweeping statements about “need” that were permeating the internet and Vietnamese adoption support groups that were contributing to the corruption and the downfall of adoptions. As long as we continue to make excuses for corruption and make generalizations not based in fact about the population that exists in orphanages we are contributing to a false reality that will ultimately do more harm to every single orphan (both legitimate and manufactured) and family hoping to expand through adoption. Bringing these issues to light and speaking honestly and frankly, as Una did, is exactly what will ultimately save the programs you seem so passionate about.

  12. My daughter was adopted from Phu Tho in 2007. At that time there was a main orphanage full of infants (mostly girls). When that orphanage filled up, they opened an additional facility, also full on young infants (ALL girls as I remember). We traveled with three other families and we all adopted baby girls between about four and six months of age. At the time, it did not seem suspicious to me, but looking back, all the “red flags” were there.

    In 2010 we tried to do a birthparent search. The searchers found that the small orphanage where our daughter was, once filled with babies, had been closed. The larger orphanage, also filled with babies in 2007, housed only ten or so babies and some school-aged children by 2010. (Interesting, isn’t it, that babies aren’t abandoned in droves now that the adoption money isn’t flowing?)

    The searchers also told us they were suspicious of the woman who was the orphanage director at both orphanages. Since adoptions stopped, she has retired “at an early age.” They said she lives in an unusually large house for someone who retired young from a job as an administrator.

    I noticed something similar about the age of the children in the Bac Lieu orphanage featured in “Stuck.” Families who had referrals when US adoptions shut down were still trying to complete those adoptions in Bac Lieu years later. Someone in the film made reference to the room full of four-year-olds. Guess how long it had been since adoptions shut down? FOUR YEARS. This means that all of these children entered the orphanage as infants, at the same time, when adoption fees were flowing. If abandoning babies was really so common, shouldn’t that orphanage be overflowing with babies now that Westerners aren’t adopting, and not full of four-year-olds? The fact is that once there were no adoptions there were no babies. Once there were no adoptions, there was no reason to “recruit” babies for the orphanages.

    Yes, there may be school age children or special needs children who need families now, but there are not orphanages full of the “healthy female, as young as possible” babies that prospective adoptive parents want. PAPs will flock to Vietnam in search of those babies a few months from now. And suddenly the orphanages *will* be full of babies again…

  13. Hi Suzanne
    I only visited one orphanage but I have friends who have visited others and they all have the same story and as you can see from others here we are not alone. I travel once a year to Vietnam as part of my job and have Vietnamese friends, it was through them that I got the statistics for adoptions from 2005 to 2010 from all the provinceses that Irish families adopted from so I am not making sweeping statements. I also know many families who have exactly the same background story for their children, in one case two sisters (Not biological) adopted two years apart and yet their stories are exactly the same word for word. It was only when the parents came home and had the papers translated that they discovered this.

  14. I agree that mass improvements need to be made in the adoption system in Vietnam. There is one thing that I never hear discussed. I would be very interested in knowing what differences there are in abortions when there is no adoption demand. After a failed Vietnam adoption, we adopted our daughter from another country. This country has several Christian organizations that counsel at risk birth mothers. They offer programs to help the mothers find work or housing if they choose to keep the baby. They also have an option to place the child for domestic or international adoption. The country has a huge abortion rate. I know those statistics would be difficult if not impossible to come up with… I’m just interested if the number of live births is at all related to adoption. I’m not speculating either way… just wonder if mothers are more likely to choose life for their child if there is a possibility of adoption… for reasons of money or any other reason.
    Also Tracy, the orphanage in Bac Lieu was divided into 3 main rooms. There was one room of 4 year olds, a room of infants, and a room of children in between. Not all the children in the orphanage were of the same age. Infants were still being brought to the center long after adoptions shut down.

  15. I think there are a couple of things in my original post that those waiting to adopt from Vietnam need to remember and that is the fact that nearly all EU countries who adopt from vietnam with the exception of Italy are only allowed adopt children with special needs. Before adopting a child with special needs was the exception. More worrying is the fact that despite having a special needs programme only for the past few years Spain have stopped adoptions due to irregularities with medical reports. That seriously concerns me !

  16. Andrea- I don’t remember seeing anything about that in the movie, and the Bac Lieu website says they were all four-year-olds as well:

    “Bac Lieu Social Sponsor Center, Back Lieu, Viet Nam is a small orphanage (2 rooms in a former prison) currently housing 16 children supervised by two caretakers. The children are all nearing four years old… The children, who have been identified as orphans, were referred to families prior to the Vietnam/US adoption shutdown, but are now stuck in limbo.”

  17. Tracey, that post was a quote from the website for MothersInAction4VN. As early as 2009, I have photos of new infants in the nursery. The room assignments changed from time to time at the orphanage. At one point there were 2 rooms of children and another room for play. As ages changed there was a older children, in between ages, and a baby room. A visiting parent mentioned a Vietnamese woman who visited the orphanage with her daughter she said she adopted from the BL orphanage. Another family talked about a Vietnamese couple visiting who were interested in adopting a child. I pray, that the other children all got homes.

  18. Maybe this blog should change its name to Voices for Vietnam Adoption Cynicism.
    Its funny how all these “concerned” opinions about the ability of Vietnam to maintain an ethical adoption program are coming from parents who have already gone through the process and only NOW see that there might be a problem. Im sure had you had these “red flag” feelings back during your quest to adopt from Viet Nam you would have stopped it in its tracks, right? Right.
    So now that there are not “rooms full” of newborns then we shouldn’t bother because it will only encourage corruption. I mean, people have been back to “many”orphanages and not seen but a handful of newborns, and I’m sure that these “many” orphanages serve the entire county of some 87 million people of Viet Nam.
    So all you hoping to adopt a newborn from Viet Nam, just forget it, only those who already have their child can be happy because it wasn’t their desire to do so that led to corruption, its only yours.

  19. Dear Won’t Read…
    For your information, I was sounding the alarm about what I saw happening in Vietnam very early on in the last round of adoptions… well before I completed the adoption of my 3 1/2 year old son.
    Yes, the first time I adopted (from Cambodia) I was naive to the issues and problems that existed and the red flags that I should have seen but didn’t know to look for… which is WHY we started this blog in the first place. Every prospective adoptive family has the right and the responsibility to be educated and aware of all the issues… how else can we expect the system to improve? Agencies have shown a strong resistance to self-regulation – they respond to what PAP’s ask for. If you ask for “young baby now, don’t care how”… you feed the demand and corruption goes up. If you say “I care about the process. I want to know you are following ethical standards.” you will get a better process that protects EVERYONE including the adoptive parents!
    I’m sorry that you’ve resolved not to read and be educated. Ignorance really isn’t bliss, regardless of what you may think.

  20. Hi Won’t Read-
    My name is Jena, and I am one of the editors on this blog. We adopted our son from Saigon in 2007. I was actually VERY concerned with ethics and the Vietnam adoption process prior to and during our process.
    Those concerns and the things I saw first hand were what led me to becoming involved with VVAI.

    Now we are actually PAP’s for round 2 in Vietnam. We have been waiting 5 long years for Vietnam to reopen. So, actually I am very invested in what is currently going on in Vietnam. Having said all that, we are taking major safeguards and WILL NOT go through with an adoption if there is any sign that all of our criteria are not met.
    Here is a list of some of the criteria/questions that have to be answered for us to feel comfortable using an agency, from a post I wrote on this site in 2007:
    We also have several additional criteria.

    I really encourage you to read through the back posts on this site, as there is a LOT of valuable information on this site, lots of first hand accounts of what happened last time, and many different opinions expressed in the comments.

    Here is another one that I wrote that talks about how to complete an ethical adoption in Vietnam, and our process and the pitfalls, heartache and joy:

    I really hope you do continue to read, as one PAP to another, we need to be educated, have our eyes wide open… for the sake of the children who may someday be ours. It is on us if we cannot tell them that we did EVERYTHING in our power to adopt a child that truly needed a family.

  21. Andrea- Maybe I’m mistaken, but I really thought you were the administrator of that blog under the direction of the “Bac Lieu 16”? I thought that’s what I read on the Facebook page?

    Also, there was this post on the FB page: This family was not as family associated with the Bac Lieu 16. It seemed that they were missionaries or something who had visited the Bac Lieu orphanage. They posted 172 pictures, and I don’t see any infants. If they were going on behalf of the Bac Lieu 16 I would expect only to see the 16 kids waiting to be adopted, but it seemed like they were just random visitors who had taken pictures of all of the children in the orphanage.

    Please do not take this to mean that I do not think those kids should not have come home to their families in the US, because I do. I don’t think they should have remained in that orphanage for the rest of their lives. I think their agency took shortcuts and screwed the kids and their adoptive parents from the start. I just have to wonder if they would have ever ended up in the orphanage if the lure of international adoption (and the money involved) had not existed in the first place. I don’t doubt that infants are taken to the orphanage *occasionally* now, but I don’t think they are taken 20 at a time (there were originally 21 infants available for adoption from the province in a very short period of time, correct?).

  22. Hi I Won’t Read-

    I would love to adopt from Vietnam again. After we had a bad experience with my daughter’s adoption, we did apply with a more reputable agency to adopt a second child from Vietnam. When it became clear that we would not receive a referral from that agency before the Sept 1st deadline in 2008, we knew we could go to a less reputable agency and still get in under the wire. We decided not to do that though. We just could not do so in good conscience. We decided instead to adopt in the US, and ended up adding a beautiful baby boy to our family.

    Still, I would love for my daughter to have a brother or sister from Vietnam. I would love for her to have a sibling with that shared heritage. I love Vietnam – the country, the culture, and the people – and I would love to go back to adopt another child. I *really* would. I can’t emphasize that enough. I don’t think I can possibly explain how *deeply* my heart is being pulled back to Vietnam. I look at my daughter everyday and wish we could go back.

    However, at this point, I really do not think my husband and I could do anything other than a special needs adoption without significant doubts that our adoption would be above board. We already have a child with significant special needs though, and we just don’t have the ability, the time, the money, the resources, etc to do another special needs adoption. If I thought we could complete the ethical adoption of a healthy young boy or girl in Vietnam, I would be ready to sign up tomorrow.

    I am not contributing to this website because I don’t care about the children of Vietnam, or the adoption of children from Vietnam. If my angle really was, “I have my child so now your adoption doesn’t matter,” I would not be here. I wouldn’t waste my time. Unfortunately, I do care. I wish we could adopt again. Maybe the ache in my heart is not the same as someone who has no children, but there is an ache there nonetheless. I feel like another Vietnam adoption would make my family complete, but I just *cannot* do it. I wish I could, but I can’t.

  23. We all want the adoption program in Vietnam to improve. There were clearly issues that needed to be addressed. The problem with your approach (VVAI) is that you are too extreme. You see the challenges in black and white yet the issues are much more complex. You act as if you are experts on the statistics and facts, but you are not. Your intentions are noble; your approach hurts your cause.

    There is no use for your site as there is no thoughtful conversation had here. You condemn anyone who presents a different perspective, harass prospective adoptive parents, and you do not honor your child’s birth country. You would better serve the orphans in Vietnam discussing solutions with an open mind.

  24. Suzanne-
    Its interesting to me that as a prospective adoptive parent, I do not feel one bit harrased by the differing opinions presented on this site, as a matter of fact I feel empowered by them! Empowered to make sound decisions to help be part of the solution for children who need families. Adoption can be a last best option for children who are indeed without any other options for families, and I have utilized this website as a valuable resource to make those decisions.

    While I am a co-editor with Tracy, my husband and I have ended up at a slightly different place than she and her husband ended up, and I welcome those different positions! Those perspectives and opinions are actually more important to me than those people who agree with me 100%, as it actually helps me to keep an open mind and consider other view points!
    I hope that you will consider engaging in dialogue, continue to research the facts, and be willing to learn from those who have gone before you in this journey and allow those whose opinions differ from you to help be a part of your process.

  25. Jena – Our son was adopted from Vietnam. We continue to be in contact with the orphanage where he lived thru an NGO that works there that we support. From all reports we receive, the need for adoption is still very real there. There are children of all ages, many very young children and many older children both with specials needs and without.

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