Your help needed: Advising U.S. Gov't to not stop Nepal adoptions

Dear Nepal Adoption Supporters:

I am writing to ask for your action to help prevent the U.S. government from stopping the processing of visas for adopted children in Nepal.

To participate in this effort, you would need to immediately e-mail your Senator and Representative to ask them to sign onto a Congressional Petition by MONDAY. I have written a letter you can use below, and there are also links below to easily find your senators and representatives.

Senator John Kerry is sponsoring a Congressional Petition to Secretary of State Clinton regarding the current Nepal adoption situation. The purpose of this letter is to urge the U.S. Government not to close Nepal adoptions, allowing current in-process families to go through. The letter asks the U.S. State Department to work proactively with the Government of Nepal to strengthen their newly reformed system under the new Terms and Conditions.

Please contact your Senators and Representatives immediately to ask for their support for the continuation of the US-Nepal adoption program by signing onto this letter. For their signatures to be included please have Staffers contact Megan Thompson at by noon on Monday, March 1. Ms. Thompson can provide a copy of the letter. This is a non-partisan, bicameral initiative.

To make this as easy as possible:
1) You can look up your Senator's e-mail address on this website: cfm.cfm?OrderBy= state&Sort= ASC
2) You can look up your Representative's e-mail address on this website:
3) You can use the following text in your e-mails:

Dear [Senator/Representative]:
I am writing to ask you to sign on to a Congressional Petition being sponsored by Senator John Kerry to urge the U.S. State Department not to close adoptions from Nepal. I am [a family member or friend of a Nepal adoptive family] and know first-hand how important it is for orphaned children to have a family to love and care for them. Nepal is in the process of working toward reform in its adoption laws, which is a difficult process and takes time. This process should be supported by the U.S. Government so that vulnerable children in urgent need of families should not be kept in institutionalized care, which is detrimental to their health and development. Please contact Megan Thompson at by noon on Monday, March 1, to sign on to Senator Kerry's letter.
Thank you in advance for your immediate action on this issue.
[name, address, phone/email contact]

4) If possible, please forward this call to action to your friends.

Thank you very much! This is really important.

Don't Suspend Inter-country Adoption

To my beloved family, friends and readers:
This is an amazing article. It's refreshing, insightful and is written from someone with experience on the ground in Nepal. It is the best article (and I have read MANY in the last 11 months) on this subject. Please consider reading this important article.
This is written by Philip Holmes who is the founder of an amazing organization in Nepal called "Esther Benjamins Trust - Nepal". Esther Benjamins, Philip's wife, was a judge that had a deep resolve to protect vulnerable children. Sadly, she chose to take her life in January 1999, citing barrenness as the reason in a one-line suicide note to her Philip. Philip decided that something positive should come from such tragedy and chose to form a children’s charity named after Esther to further her values and offer hope to the children that are most vulnerable. To read more about their organization, go to:
With love,

Don't suspend inter-country adoption
—Philip Holmes

Inter-country adoption is once again receiving a bad press. First we had the arrest of a group of Americans in Haiti who were allegedly trying to remove children from the country without the permission of the authorities. Then in this past week UNICEF in Nepal has endorsed the findings of the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference that inter-country adoptions from Nepal should once again be suspended. This they state is in response to the Government of Nepal’s failure to fulfill commitments that it gave to reform adoption practice and improve child protection after it signed the Hague Convention in April 2009.

Of course, aspects of the inter-country adoption process as it stands at the moment are totally unacceptable and if the interests of the child are not central and being ignored then UNICEF and others are duty bound to adopt a robust stance. My concern is that a blanket suspension is an overreaction that will be to the detriment of very many children who will be denied a future and loving homes abroad. Instead they will be condemned to remain in grim “orphanages” or they could face an even worse fate. I also believe, after 10 years of working in grass roots childcare in Nepal, that it is overly simplistic to champion the use of family-based care alternatives in Nepal.

In the joint UNICEF/Terre des Hommes report of August 2008 “Adopting the Rights of the Child” it was stated that over 60 percent of children in orphanages were not true orphans. The contention restated in a BBC interview this week by Joseph Aguettant, Country Representative of Terre des Hommes, is that these children could be better supported within their natural families. The status of “orphan” or otherwise is not the key issue; children do not need to be presented as orphans for inter-country adoption. Being a step child is enough. In this regard, I offer an alternative statistic that is much more relevant than the 60 percent figure.

At our refuge in Godawari, we are caring for 100 children. Of these, an amazing 90 percent are step children. Step children are often unwanted and unloved within new family units and if they remain with step parents they may well be neglected and abused. This has been the common etiological factor for nearly all of the at risk children that we have taken into refuge care over the years. We care for children of prisoners. Commonly, shortly after a father was imprisoned, his wife would remarry and the new husband would reject her child or children from before. When we first began working in Nepal, we were to find such children languishing in jail with their biological fathers. We’ve picked up street children who were running away from domestic abuse inflicted upon them by step parents. Most recently, we removed an innocent nine-year-old Nepali boy from inside a young offenders centre in Calcutta; he’d spent four years inside after being found on the street in his bid to escape a violent step parent. And nearly all of the girls that we have rescued from inside Indian circuses were trafficked there by step parents who sold them into a life of abuse and sexual exploitation for just a few dollars and to get them off their hands.

Criminal activities need to be addressed specifically rather than the Nepali government bowing to calls for a blanket ban that stand only to throw the baby out with the bath water.
From our first-hand experience, I am also deeply skeptical about the rationale and practicalities for providing family support to keep children with families. We tried and it didn’t work, even with our adopting the most focused of approaches as we tried to reunite a few individual children with families. We found that, unsurprisingly, financial support just won’t buy the love of step parents and, if material support is accepted, can force children to remain in a potentially dangerous domestic environment. They can be trafficked out of there at the drop of a hat to vanish into the abyss of India or the growing domestic sex trade. Moreover, I am very unclear as to who would fund such widespread support and how on earth it could be implemented, monitored and evaluated in some of the source areas for children who end up in orphanages. By contrast, international adoptive parents can offer infinitely better material support and, above all, love. Their commitment is beyond doubt by virtue of the very fact that they embark upon the long and difficult adoption process.

The latest report from the Hague Conference raised the very serious concern over “paper orphans”, children who were designated as being orphans when they are not through the falsification of paperwork that can ultimately be the basis of inter-country adoption. This is indeed a terrible state of affairs but surely the answer is to track down and bring to book the criminal elements and orphanages that have been involved in this trafficking of children? If such evidence exists (and presumably it does), then it should be passed on to the authorities. Arguably, UNICEF would be better employed taking a robust stance on this rather than adopting a blunderbuss approach through supporting a blanket ban on all inter-country adoption.

Finally a word on domestic adoption. Superficially, it might seem to be a preferable option to keep children in their own country through making more use of domestic adoption as a family-based care option. However, one has to ask if this is really in the best interests of the child and his or her development. Nepal currently is number 144 on the UNDP’s Human Development Index, comparing very unfavorably with inter-country adoption destination countries the USA (number 13) Spain (number 15) and Italy (number 18). But what about the all important issue of love? Many Nepalis will tell you that a child that is adopted into a family has a very high chance of being treated as a domestic servant who is expected to work in return for food and board (and be glad of it) rather than being treated as a true son or daughter. This is in marked contrast with what is available overseas.

I can see a huge need for a reform to the inter-country adoption process. It is way too expensive and the amount of money that is available to adoption agencies, orphanages and central government coffers stands to compromise decision making and the welfare of the children. It is also too slow. Every day that a child spends inside a grim orphanage is a disaster. I also believe that adoptive parents should be required to spend some months in Nepal before receiving their child so that they have a chance to bond and obtain a feel for the country. They should also undertake to bring the child back to Nepal on a regular basis; this is a much better alternative than the visits by ministry representatives to children in their destination countries which are highly intrusive and potentially frightening for the children, not to mention costly for Nepal. Above all, the criminal activities need to be addressed specifically rather than the Nepali government bowing to calls for a blanket ban that stand only to throw the baby out with the bath water.

(Writer, Country Director of Esther Benjamins Trust – Nepal (EBT-N), is the father of two adopted Nepali children and lives in Kathmandu. EBT-N is at the forefront of grassroots work in childcare, child protection and the fight against child trafficking.)

Published on 2010-02-24 01:48:28

"While I'm Waiting"

I saw this video on a fellow Nepal adoptive parent's blog today, and it couldn't better describe the way Andrew and I feel.

Born of My Heart

Not bone of my bone, nor flesh of my flesh,
but still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute:
you didn't grow under my heart,
but in it.

—Fleur Conkling Heyliger


We found out our number in line! We are #500 on the list.

180 have already matched, so that means they are around #320 right now on the list. So, if my math is right, there are 180 families in front of us, which isn't too bad!

Bring on the babies!

11 months or 2 months?

Eleven and a half months ago, we decided to adopt from Nepal. Today, it has been two months since our dossier was registered in Nepal. So, whether we're two months "paper pregnant" or eleven months, the pregnancy continues.

Praying Godspeed over the paperwork for all of us waiting to be united with our destined children.

Trust, Time and Today

Life seems to be about learning to trust God, and adoption certainly is full of that!

In the last two weeks, there have been reports that Nepal's inter-country adoption process is unethical. UNICEF and Terres de hommes (both anti-international adoption organizations), citing a report from Hague amongst other things, say that Nepal should suspend their program to ensure ethical practices, practices free from child trafficking possibilities.

The sad part is that the information they used is old and outdated, and full of inaccuracies. And, the reports do not mention the excellent "Terms and Conditions" Nepal instituted as of Jan. 1, 2009, to further ensure an ethical process free of inconsistencies or mistakes. The reports make no mention of what the Nepal government has done to make their program what it should be.

But the saddest part of all is that, because of these reports, Germany and Sweden have suspended Nepal adoptions for their countries. And, Canada will not issue entry Visas for adopted Nepalese children. Therefore, Canadian citizens cannot accept Nepalese referrals because Canada will not let the child into their country after they're adopted.

These suspensions took place based on reports that had false and inaccurate information.

My heart aches for the people I've met through my Yahoo Nepal group that are German, Swedish and Canadian. These prospective adoptive parents have become my friends. They've shared their hopes, they've dreamed of their Nepalese beauties, they've been vulnerable, and now their hopes and dreams are on hold. One of my Swedish friends, who has a Nepalese son and was waiting to be matched with her Nepalese daughter, posted on her blog, "The ending of a dream and a really HARD day." I'm asking the Lord to intervene for these friends, these waiting parents. I can't help but pray those prayers. He can do the impossible, so I'm asking for what's currently impossible.

In the midst of all this, fear has attempted to claim parts of me. But I am finding that Jesus won't allow it. He says to me, "Choose trust instead." I increasingly grow in my love for how can I not trust Him? How can I choose fear instead? "There is not fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involved torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."*

He is love. And if I'm in Him, I'm in His love. Fear can have no hold. And when it tries, I just go deeper into Him.

In my next post, I'll talk about some rebuttals to the UNICEF and Terres de hommes reports. The rebuttals are amazing and full of actual facts.

But for this post, I don't want to focus on that. I want to focus on the fact that today, with the time I'm given every day, I'm choosing to trust. I have no reason not to.

*1 John 4:18-19

I Long For You

My dear child,

For many months I have dreamed of you. This morning, when I woke up, I was thinking of you. I couldn't go back to sleep because I was thinking of you. I laid in bed smiling over the many thoughts that came to mind.

I dream of holding you, smelling you, kissing you, calling you mine. I dream of being a family, laughing together, eating together, hearing your voice in the house. I dream of watching Daddy play with you, tickle you, cuddle you. I asked him the other day, "What are you most looking forward to as a Daddy?" He said, "Cuddling." He can't wait to cuddle you and look into your eyes and tell you that you are his.

We are preparing a home for you. Soon, we will start on your nursery. I love getting everything ready for you. There is nothing else I think of more than you, and getting everything ready for you.

The Lord is knitting our hearts together, and my heart is with yours. I will see you soon, and we will be a family.

All my love,

Minister Bats for Tighter Adoption Policy

Last Updated : 2010-02-06 10:51 PM
Himalayan News Service

KATHMANDU: State Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare Ram Bachan Aiyar today said that the government was committed to ensure that adopted Nepali children were not abused at home and abroad. The minister’s statement follows a public outcry over the adoption of children to foreign countries without following procedural rules.

Speaking at an interaction programme organised in the capital today, Aiyar warned that no one was allowed to abuse the adopted child or indulge in any foul play over the children’s right to care and choice.

“Orphan and abandoned children will but wait for those who are caring enough to get them into their next sweet homes,” he said cautioning that the government would go offensive against the orphanages if they took law in their own hands. “Make room for an orphan or abandoned child at home first before letting the foreign couples to adopt them as per the government policy. Only when there are no other options left at your disposal when you have to make the hard choice of letting the foreigners to adopt,” he told orphanages.

The children who are available for adoption often live in orphanages. Nepal law states that adoptive parent or family may only have one child of each sex in their household. If one already has a son, he or she must adopt a daughter and vice-versa. The law further states that a person or couple cannot adopt from Nepal if they already have biological children.

It has widely been argued that Nepal is a safe haven for adoption. For many people living in abject poverty, placing their children for adoption is getting lot easier than nurturing them at home.

State [department in Nepal] Sees No Loopholes in Adoption

KANTIPUR REPORT Related News Lawyers: Stop adoption KATHMANDU, FEB 07 - 2010

The government and representatives of organisations working for children have said that the survey report, which claims to have found loopholes in the adoption process, is far from truth.

They have urged the Hague Conference on Private International Law, which prepared the report, to substantiate its claims.

Among others, the report states that falsified reports are presented for facilitating the adoption of children from Nepal.

"The report was prepared with a view to tarnishing the country's image. It is far from truth," said Prachanda Raj Pradhan of the Child NGO Federation, Nepal.

The report follows a Terre des homes' study report, which claims that more than 60 percent of children in orphanages had parents, who could take care of them.

"With new rules and regulations in place, there's no room for malpractice in the adoption process," said Dharma Raj Shrestha, member-secretary of the Central Child Welfare Board.

Nepal reopened the overseas adoption process in May 2008 after introducing new regulations. As per the new rules, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare takes a final call on adoptions.

Foreigners can adopt only those orphans or children, who are relinquished by parents through due procedures. Prospective parents have to pay US$ 3,000 to the government and $5,000 to foster homes before adopting a child.

Twenty out of 534 applicants got a nod for adoption in 2009, said an official at the ministry. The prospective parents are from Italy, the US, France, Canada and the UK. Paperwork for 39 applications is complete.

Amid claims of flaws in inter-country adoptions, Minister of State for Women, Children and Social Welfare Ram Bachan Yadav pledged to take action against anyone found involved in malpractices.

He asked the organisations to work in the best interest of the children. No communication could be established with Terre de homes office in Kathmandu for comment.

The Good News Continues

We received notice today, 4/5/10, that The Ministry has approved 42 cases for travel*, which will soon go out, and is about to send out 62 more matches! One of those is a match from someone who is with my agency. This gets Andrew and I closer and closer to being matched!

In the same notice, we also received confirmation that The Ministry is working quickly to match all cases by the end of March. I'm working at keeping my hopes in the hands of God for His perfect timing, but wow -- this is exciting!

*Travel approval is the second step in receiving your child. The first step is the referral/match from The Ministry; the second step is The Ministry giving you approval to travel to pick up your child; the following steps all take place while in Nepal - physicals, court, US Embassy investigation that the child is an orphan, Visa from US Embassy to bring the child home, US citizenship of child.

Post from The Ministry in Nepal; E-mail from US Embassy in Nepal

This is taken directly from the website for the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare in Nepal. This is the government department that processes the adoption dossiers. The posted this notice on 2/4/10.

The notice tells us a couple things.
1) The Ministry is focused on matching the 2009 dossiers. They have told our agency, and other agencies, that their goal is to make all matches by the end of March. (This probably won't happen since there are at least 400 dossiers, but it still is great that they've set this as a goal because it does mean it will happen sooner than later.)
2) If we had not gotten on the 2009 list (we were originally approved for the 2010 list, but our agency suddenly had an opening for the 2010 list on 11/30/09, and contacted us), our dossier would just be sitting on the desk of our case manager at our agency, and would have not have been sent to Nepal until 4/15/2010. WOW.

Investigation, Recommendation and Monitoring Committee

This is to inform all the concerned Embassies/ Diplomatic Missions/Adoption Agencies and Adoptive Parents to take the following notes:

For the year 2010, application should be submitted from 15 April, 2010 to 15 July, 2010.
Application should be submitted enclosing therewith a checklist of 5 major documents such as Guarantee Letter, Consent Letter, Home Study Report, Medical Report and Character Certificate.
Application without valid and complete documents shall not be entertained.
Application exceeding the quota shall not be entertained.
If it is found that the Agency has, upon receiving allocated quota, submitted an application for further quota, the Ministry shall take necessary action against such Agency.

The following is an e-mail a fellow Nepal prospective adoptive parent received on 2/4/10 from the US Embassy in Nepal. This e-mail tells us a couple things:
1) By virtue of the US Embassy meeting with The Ministry, the US Embassy cares very-much that US dossiers on the wait list are processed.
1) The US Embassy heard straight from The Ministry that The Ministry would like to complete all dossiers by the end of March. This is SUCH good news because for so long, it seemed like agencies and embassies were not hearing the same thing from The Ministry.
2) The USA continues to be completely committed to confirming the orphan status of all matches made to US citizens.

We have met with the Ministry and they did inform us that they plan to complete processing of all dossiers by the end of March. However, we do not know if this is a realistic goal, given the large number of cases waiting for processing.

We would like to remind American prospective adoptive parents that the US Embassy is by law to conduct an orphan investigation (I-604) to verify the child's orphan status prior to the issuance of an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa. Depending on the circumstances of a case, this investigation may take up to several months to complete. Adoptive parents should therefore carefully consider whether to file their Form I-600 Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative with the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the U.S. or at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, as the Embassy’s I-604 investigation cannot begin until the I-600 has been filed and the documents have been reviewed by a consular officer.

Nepal Adoptions Continue Moving Forward

We read some disturbing articles on the internet this week, and you might read them as well. The BBC, PEAR organization, AFN, and a southeast Asian online newsletter posted information saying Nepal should suspend adoptions due to fraudulent paperwork on classifying children as orphans.

All of the articles posted information from old sources, and quoted The Hague* as reporting that Nepal should suspend adoptions. The information from Hague that they sited was old information.

It's very frustrating they mention Hague in this article because they have taken Hague's comments out of context. The Hague met with Nepal a few years ago, and Nepal did close their program in 2007 and 2008 to improve their process, then re-opened in January 2009. In April 2009, the government of Nepal signed "The Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention"**, which is a treaty that ensures a country follows strict, ethical practices in registering a child as an orphan, and registering them adoptable. Once all of a countries' practices are compliant with The Hague's guidlines, the country can then become "Hague-accredited". The first step in becoming Hague-accredited, is to sign the treaty. That is what Nepal did in April 2009.

Having signed the treaty, Hague met with Nepal again in November 2009. A report has not officially been written by Hague, but we do know that they gave Nepal action steps on becoming Hague-accredited. Thus, the articles posted this week did not speak to that meeting, but to meetings from a few years ago. And yet, the articles talk as if Hague came back from the November 2009 meetings and told Nepal to suspend their adoptions!

The articles written do site UNICEF and Terre de Hommes, which are both anti-international-adoption. Hmmm...

There is risk in international adoption no matter what country you choose. The USA, the US Embassy in Nepal, our adoption agency, and Andrew and I are committed to ensuring that the child we adopt has valid paperwork as a true orphan. The Ministry in Nepal (that is the department responsible for processing the adoption dossiers) also seems committed to this in that the government of Nepal signed "The Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention"**. Andrew and I are very excited to start a family. But more than that, we are passionate about rescuing orphans, particularly from a life that may take them to being trafficked as a child - either into sex slavery, or as a child soldier. It is critical to us that we do everything in our power to confirm the child we receive is a true orphan.

We continue to receive information from our agency, and our Nepal Yahoo group that The Ministry in Nepal is committed to matching all dossiers by the end of March. So, amidst this disturbing news, the mission is the same in Nepal for us prospective adoptive parents that are on the 2009 list. I will post separately a report that came straight from The Ministry in Nepal this week.

Taken from The Hague's website:
*With nearly 70 Members (68 States and the European Community) representing all continents, the Hague Conference on Private International Law is a global inter-governmental organisation. A melting pot of different legal traditions, it develops and services multilateral legal instruments, which respond to global needs.

**The Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad. This Convention, which also operates through a system of national Central Authorities, reinforces the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Art. 21) and seeks to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children.

Happy Birthday, Andrew!

Andrew had a great birthday on 2/2/10, celebrating with friends and family. We had lots of people over, enjoying appetizers, drinks, cards, gifts and the first show of LOST!

This will probably Andrew's last birthday without a little brown baby sitting on his lap. Let's hope so!

Pictures include:
• One with his parents (is Andrew ever not cheeky?)
• One with one of his best buddies, Joshua
• A group shot of a few peeps
• Some LOST fans downstairs gettin' ready for the season kickoff!