By Vu Tien Hong
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
HANOI, April 28 -- 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 followed a report by the embassy 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. It also describes brokers going to villages in search of babies for adoption.
Some American adoption agencies have been paying orphanage directors for referrals, and others have bribed orphanage officials with shopping sprees and junkets to the United States, the report says.
Vietnamese officials angrily denied the allegations, calling them unfair. "They can say whatever they want, but we are not going to renew it," Long said of the agreement.
The decision also will lead to the closure of 42 U.S. adoption agencies operating in Vietnam, he said.
The U.S. Embassy said it respected Hanoi's decision but defended the accuracy of its report.
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 on adoption papers as abandoned -- now accounting for 85 percent of the children. That makes it impossible to confirm that the infants were genuine orphans or that their parents had knowingly put them up for adoption, as required by U.S. law.
In the 18 months ending March 31, Americans adopted more than 1,200 Vietnamese children.