US to soon restart limited adoptions in Vietnam, lifting ban imposed amid baby-selling claims



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HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam and the United States will soon resume limited inter-country adoptions, both nations said Friday, six years after a ban was imposed because of allegations of widespread baby-selling and children offered without the consent of their birth parents.

Under the new agreement, Americans will be able to adopt children with special needs and those over 5 years of age.

Adoptions will resume "soon" once the Vietnam government announces which U.S. -based adoption service providers are authorized to represent American parents, the U.S. Embassy said in an advisory to journalists announcing a media event to discuss inter-country adoptions.

Nguyen Van Binh, director of the adoption agency at the Ministry of Justice, said two U.S. agencies would be given licenses next week to operate in Vietnam.

Prior to the ban in 2008, Vietnam was a popular destination for Americans wanting to adopt children.

But the popularity led to concerns within the U.S. Embassy that the demand had led to a poorly regulated industry supplying young, healthy babies to prospective parents prepared to pay significant sums of money, raising ethical questions.

In 2009, a U.N.-commissioned report on adoptions in Vietnam confirmed those allegations. It said cash payments by adoption agencies to orphanages led them to seek out children for adoption, often without proper checks into their background or their family circumstances.

Some American senators and international adoption lobby groups have been urging Vietnam to pass stronger laws and better monitor the process so that adoptions could resume. The U.S. Embassy said the agreement was a "success in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Vietnam."

There is limited demand among prospective adoptive parents for older children and those with special needs, meaning monitoring for any violations should be easier. A delegation of American senators which visited Vietnam last year said allowing for special needs adoptions would be seen as a first step to resuming all adoptions.

Demand for inter-country adoptions has risen in recent years. For singles wanting a child, or couples unable or unwilling to conceive, the idea of adopting a foreign baby from an orphanage in a poor country is attractive. But programs in several developing countries, such as Haiti and Guatemala, have been beset by scandals and allegations of baby-selling.

In September 2012, officials from Ireland and Vietnam signed an agreement to restart adoptions which were halted in 2009.

Partly as a result of fears over baby-selling scandals, the number of international adoptions has fallen to its lowest point in 15 years, according to annual statistics compiled by Peter Selman, an expert on international adoptions at Britain's Newcastle University.

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