Vietnam to end adoption program with U.S. after report

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – Vietnam is ending a child adoption agreement with the United States after being accused of allowing baby-selling and corruption, officials said Monday.

The agreement was being considered for renewal but the two sides remained far apart over revisions, said Vu Duc Long, director of Vietnam’s International Adoption Agency. The agreement is due to expire Sept. 1.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi on Friday, Vietnam said it will stop taking adoption applications from American families after July 1 but will continue to process applications of families who are matched with babies before July 1.

The decision was made following a report from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi that was first obtained by The Associated Press, alleging pervasive corruption and baby-selling in Vietnam’s adoption system.

The report lists cases in which infants were sold or birth mothers were pressured to give up their babies. In some other cases it describes brokers going to villages in search for babies who could be possibly put up for adoption.

It also says some American adoption agencies have been paying orphanage directors for referrals, and others have bribed orphanage officials by taking them on shopping sprees and junkets to the United States in return for a flow of babies.

In an angry response, Vietnamese officials denied charges, calling the allegations “unfair.”

“They can say whatever they want, but we are not going to renew it,” Long said.

The decision also will lead to the closure of 42 U.S. adoption agencies operating in Vietnam, Long said.

The U.S. Embassy says it respects Hanoi’s latest decision but is confident about the accuracy of the report.

“The government of Vietnam has made their own decision, but we believe that our report speaks for itself,” Angela Aggeler, the U.S. Embassy’s spokeswoman, said.

U.S. Embassy officials began raising questions last year after their routine investigations turned up widespread inconsistencies in adoption paperwork.

They also noticed a suspicious surge in the number of babies listed as abandoned on adoption papers. That makes it impossible to confirm the infants were genuine orphans, or that their parents had knowingly put them up for adoption, as required by U.S. law.

In adoptions before 2003, 20 percent were abandoned babies. Since they resumed under tighter rules, that has risen to 85 percent, the embassy report says.

Vietnam suspended all adoptions with foreign countries in 2003 as part of its efforts to improve the legal system by centralizing adoption to prevent rampant corruption. A bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam was resumed in 2005.

Since then adoptions from Vietnam have boomed. Americans, including actress Angelina Jolie, adopted more than 1,200 Vietnamese children over the last 18 months. In 2007, adoptions surged more than 400 percent from a year earlier, with 828 Vietnamese children adopted by American families.

While China remains the most popular overseas country for adoptions, a growing number of Americans have been looking to Vietnam, which has had fewer restrictions. The wait for adoption approval also has gotten longer in China after authorities there tightened rules.