Edited: See bottom of post...
Most of you in Vietnam Blog World have already been bombarded and overwhelmed by everything that's going on in Vietnam recently, which is why I haven't said much on the subject. There are other bloggers who have summed up their thoughts and feelings more intelligently, eloquently, and boldly than I could have done (http://cheersyall.wordpress.com/, Stepping on Legos , and many others). I directed you to Desserich Family the other day, and Our Vietnamese Ladybug or VVAI are always good for keeping up with what's going on. So- with so many bloggers and groups sharing enough information and opinions to make our heads spin... Who cares what I have to say (at least that's what the mean little voice in my head is always telling me)? I figured my 2 cents really isn't necessary, especially since, as I mentioned the other day, I haven't completed my VN adoption, and I'm in a pioneer program with an agency who does not have an established record in Vietnam (WACAP).
BUT, you know what I was forgetting? I completely forgot that my family members and friends are not plugged into the latest happenings in Vietnam and are completely in the dark about what's going on. Some of my posts, like the recent one about the Desserich blog, make absolutely no sense if you're not on top of all this stuff. When they read my blog or ask me how the adoption is going, they have absolutely no idea about the current grim state of affairs. Yes, I'm admitting I forgot my family and friends. Gee, I'm nice. My apologies to all of you for not doing a better job of keeping you informed.
Here is a very basic recap (for more detailed facts, explanations, and opinions, see the links above and also the US Embassy): Everyone who knows about all this already will want to stop here... I am going to try to stick to what I actually know personally (which is pretty limited, frankly), because the negativity and bashing people are taking, for giving their opinions on their own personal blogs no less, is getting crazy out of hand- just look at all the fur flying over at Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds ...Yikes.
The back story: A few years ago (2003), Vietnam adoptions were closed down due to corruption, and just recently reopened (I believe in 2005 or 06?). After VN reopened, suspicions and rumors quickly started to swirl again about various agencies and questionable practices in certain provinces.
The current situation: Many in the adoption community (including, apparently, the US govt) question some agencies' abilities to "acquire" very young babies, very quickly, when other agencies are giving referral times of 9 months, a year, and more. At this point, let me reiterate that I have no first-hand knowledge of any of these agencies, and since I'm not interested in furthering the spread of Internet rumors that I cannot personally back up, which would not help anyone but offend plenty, I'm keeping my mouth shut about specific agency names. The point here is- we're talking about rumors of baby selling/buying, bribes, birth parents being misled or outright lied to in order to get them to give up their children, etc... Horrible stuff of all kinds. (Rumors, judgements, and accusations are FLYING online, regarding which agencies are involved, who's doing what, and who's most at fault. It's been a regular Peyton Place lately and people are getting Nasty).
My 2 cents: You can certainly understand how agencies promising very quick referral and travel times, and very young babies are obviously going to be a powerful temptation to adopting parents, even when your common sense may be trying to tell you something fishy is going on. To be quite honest, when we first started researching agencies, we were heavily leaning towards several agencies in the hot seat right now, who refer young babies quickly. Why not? Until you start doing some digging, it all sounds great. In the long run, we made what we believed was an ethical and well-researched choice, and the best one for our family, even though it meant (most likely) sacrificing speed, and accepting the uncertainties of a pioneer program. I'm not saying that quick referrals automatically equate to illegal adoptions with unethical agencies. I said before on this blog that I do not believe that. What I am saying is that the speed of a referral should be one of the last things people use as criteria in selecting an agency. The agency's ethical reputation needs to be #1. Unethical agencies will continue to exist as long as people keep using them. The only way corruption will stop is when PAPs stop bankrolling the agencies behind it.
The first steps toward a solution: The US Embassy recently made some changes to the filing procedures to obtain a child's visa and then issued a statement regarding "the number of irregularities appearing in orphan petitions and visa applications in Vietnam." These irregularities are leading to the issuance of NOIDs (Notice of Intent to Deny a visa application for entry into the US) for families currently in VN, with the likelihood of more NOIDs on the way. NOIDs are bad... Very, very bad. Basically, once you get to Vietnam, you have a G&R ceremony (Giving and Receiving). This is when you have officially adopted the child in the eyes of the VN govt. Then, the US govt gets involved- to start the process of obtaining your baby's visa and going home. If they see something in the child's paperwork that raises a red flag, they will issue a NOID. The kid is legally yours now, but you can't bring him into the US. You're stuck in limbo. Sometimes the issue in question is resolved and a visa is given, sometimes not. My heart goes out to anyone stuck in that horribly scary, miserable situation. The statement continues: "The ongoing number of irregularities that we are currently seeing strongly indicates that the adoption process in Vietnam still lacks sufficient oversight and regulation. Specifically there is insufficient control of the so-called child finders and an inadequate regulation of the fees paid to individuals and institutions. Despite its stated intention to do so, Vietnam has yet to publish a schedule of fees. We are extremely concerned by reports of significant increases in the number of abandoned children since 2005, especially in the provinces of Phu Tho and Thai Nguyen. We recognize that a decision to deny a petition is an extremely undesirable outcome for adopting parents and for children, who themselves may be the victims of unscrupulous agents. For this reason, we urge adoptive parents to be extremely diligent in reviewing qualifications and standards before selecting an adoption service provider. Unfortunately, as news stories and blogs often reveal, the glowing report of an adoptive parent who successfully “brought home” a child cannot be taken as evidence that the adoption was ethical or fully legal." The statement can be read in its entirety on the Embassy's website.
The consequences: So what does all of this mean, both for us personally, and for Vietnam adoptions? The short answer is... I don't know. I don't even have a guess as to how our adoption will be affected by all of this. I'm hoping it's a good thing; that the changes and the increased attention currently being paid to ethics and transparency in adoption will have a positive impact on our adoption and those of other parents in the future. I'm hoping the USCIS will be able to crack down on the bad guys, making the adoption process better and easier for ethical agencies to do their jobs, and for adopting parents to feel more confident that the process is an ethical one. I'm hoping all this light being shed on the subject will cause adopting parents to be more diligent in researching the agency they're about to choose, thereby driving the crooks out of business. I'm hoping. There are also faint, fearful rumblings that things could go the other way and Vietnam could close down again. I'm trying not to think about that right now.
So, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Frankly, I'm sick of hearing and thinking about the whole thing, and I'm feeling... overwhelmed and tired, I guess. My feelings fluctuate depending on whose blog I'm reading at the moment. To some, this situation spells hope and progress, while others see it through clouds of doom. For the most part it's been a pretty negative, depressing couple of days around Blog World, and I just want to escape to my happy place for a little while.
So, you ask me... How is our adoption going? It's not! Right now, it's not going at all. Our paperwork is still here in the US and today I feel no closer to bringing our child home than I did 6 months ago. Your guess is honestly just as good as mine as to when our adoption will happen. I've been feeling very restless lately, as I wait to hear if our dossier has been received by WACAP, and also wait for the next step. I emailed our coordinator on the 7th, but haven't heard back from her yet (hoping today's the day!), so I'm just feeling kind of... Well, *Cruddy* is the most appropriate word that comes to mind (it is not however, the first word that comes to mind :D!). Today, I'm very down, drained, discouraged and questioning everything. But thank you so much for asking- lol!
Before I shut up, I should mention- our agency does not work in the provinces called into question by the Embassy. They have not received a single referral yet (I mean in VN. They are well-established in other countries), so they can hardly be accused of anything questionable with their referrals in Vietnam, and they have stated several times that they absolutely will not engage in any bribing or illegal practices to get referrals, and say so on their website as well. We obviously trust this to be the truth or we never would have signed with them in the first place. We truly believe we are with an agency who places the welfare of the child first, which was what was most important to us.
I don't want to leave you all with the impression that every VN adoption is sleazy and corrupt. They're not. We would not continue to pursue this adoption if we believed that. I hope you know us well enough to know we would never knowingly participate in removing a child from his family and birth country, just to satisfy our own desires for a child, or use an agency whom we suspect of doing anything illegal. We are only interesting in adopting a child who needs a home, and following the law to do it. There are babies and children legitimately in need of families in Vietnam. There are ethical agencies working in VN to match those children with families. I hope and pray that the recent uproar is only going to improve things for the children, and the adopting parents. Please keep us in your prayers, as well as the poor families caught in the middle of all this turmoil.
I know I left out a lot of details- I was trying to give the Evelyn Woods version of a long, drawn-out story. If you have a question or feel I glossed over something, feel free to leave me a question in the comments.
Quick advice to new adopting parents: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Ask questions of each and every agency you consider. When you're finished; ask some MORE. Choosing an agency is a confusing and stressful process, but the information is available out there if you keep digging.
Update- A few more blogs to throw at you with more information on this topic than I can give (both posts and their additional comments), and then I'M DONE. I need a little break from all this. Be forewarned: Some of these posts mention agencies by name. If you're with one of the agencies getting negative attention right now, and you're sick of hearing about it, don't read these. If you want to hear more, see: