Cambodia Inter-Country Adoption (ICA) Assessment and Action Plan

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Summary: Evaluation of need for systemic strengthening and partnering to ensure protection of children without parental and children involved with ICA

Cambodia counts an estimated 670,000 orphans. Many of these children do not have primary caregivers and are in need of alternative care. They are abandoned, live and/or work in the streets, are affected by HIV/AIDS, are victims of exploitation or trafficking, detained in prison; hence in need of special protection. In Cambodia, children without primary caregivers were traditionally placed in the care of relatives, neighbors or in pagodas and presently, an estimated 11,400 children live in institutional residential care facilities throughout the country.

Inter-country adoption of Cambodian children started in 1987. Over the years, Cambodia has become a popular source country for adopting parents from Western Europe, North America and Australia. To date, however, no law governs inter-country adoption; there are only government regulations. Because of the absence of a law or functioning regulatory system, there have been a number of alleged abuses in inter-country adoption, leading both the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and selected receiving countries (USA, UK, Netherlands, France) to place a moratorium on the adoption of Cambodian children.

In 1996, UNICEF began its assistance to the RGC for developing a law on ICA.  This law is intended to ensure the fact that where such adoption takes place, it is regulated in such a way that the best interests of the child are secured and her fundamental rights protected. The ICA law is now in the final approval stage. In 2005, the RGC began the process of accession to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (the Hague Convention).

Given these developments, the establishment of mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of the draft law and compliance with the requirements and minimum standards of the Hague Convention has become a matter of priority for the RGC.  The Central Authority in charge of ICA as proposed in the draft is the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSVY). Within MOSVY, an Inter-Country Adoption Administration (ICAA) will serve as the technical entity in charge of ICA. The ICAA will be composed of officials who are either social workers, sociologists or psychologists and lawyers.  It will be responsible for: cooperating with the Central Authorities of other countries; determining whether a child is eligible for adoption; researching on the situation of the child - ensuring that the envisaged placement is in the best interests of the child and that all national solutions have been explored and considered; obtaining the necessary consent; carrying out matching between the child and prospective adoptive parents; and doing monitoring to ensure that no abuses or irregular procedures take place. The Courts also have an important role to play and will conduct hearings and issue judgments on petitions for adoption.

Owner: UNICEF Cambodiapdf: http://www.crin.org/docs/Cambodia ICA Assessment.doc

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