Shortly after he took over in early April, Minister of Women, Children, and Social Welfare Khadga Bahadur Biswokarma suspended inter-country adoption. As a result, over 400 families with completed paperwork cannot take their children back with them.
The decision to suspend international adoptions followed the exposure of a market in 'orphans' and the taking of children away without their birth parents' consent in a poorly regulated adoption process ('On sale', #339).
Officials at the ministry confirm that no files have been processed since the suspension, and that those pending a final signature were sent back to the District Administration Office. Most adoptive countries are also no longer issuing visas to even those adopted children whose files are complete. A positive consequence of the indefinite suspension has been that many commercial 'orphanages' are returning children to their parents, now that there is no 'market' for them
The ministry and the embassies seem to be saying nothing will move until the inter-country adoption process is altered to make it similar to adoption procedures in the other countries (see also interview with departing French Ambassador Michel Jolivet, p12). The biggest changes will be the setting up of a centralised agency that will verify orphanages and vet prospective parents and deal only with other national agencies, and the acceptance that adoption is the last resort for a child. This could put a stop to the easier 'freelance' adoptions Nepal is known for.
Few dispute that adoption from Nepal needs to be better regulated. But many of the 400-plus files in limbo belong to parents and children who have spent the last few months bonding with each other. This indefinite suspension is painful for all of them and is made worse by the difficulty in getting accurate information. The ministry has not been answering adoptive parents' questions directly, and the boards of internet groups like Nchild and Adoption Nepal are filled with pleas for information, open letters to the ministries, and some wrenching tales of children left behind. Some adoptive parents are camping out indefinitely in Kathmandu.
Ministry joint secretary Vinod Adhikary will say only that the new 'terms and conditions' formed by a ministry review committee involve the best interests of the child and are in accordance with the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption. Asked if the new procedure would have provisions for families left in limbo, Adhikary says "it might". The document is now at the Ministry of Law awaiting review before it is sent to parliament for approval.
Every day the government delays, means another day the children are held hostage, say the adoptive parents. "If they are so concerned about the best interests of the children, they should act fast," argues one.
Some parents who have been waiting for the last three months say whatever the changes, the old rules should continue to apply to existing situations where the adoption was more or less completed.