Sad advice from unicef to Vietnam on orphaned and abandoned children

There are many aspects of child rights I like to think about and write on. I am not mono-focused on adoption. However, lack of permanency seems to me–in light of issues like child labor, sexual exploitation, street life, drug abuse and so forth–to be often at the root of other life-threatening problems for children. I first launched into the adoption debate with what I still think is an important article–Making Legal Regimes for Intercountry Adoption Reflect Human Rights Principles: Transforming the UNCRC with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, 21:2 Boston University International Law Journal (2003). I argue many points in the article, but I make one overarching argument to the effect that as we work to reduce opportunities for corruption in ICA via Hague, there is no child rights- based reason for the international child welfare bodies to oppose it.

In a later article, I argue that the UNCRC’s Articles 20 and 21 are seriously flawed and grossly inadequate, and offer my own draft protocol to the UNCRC on social orphans. See The Missing Link: A Social Orphan Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1 Human Rights and Globalization Law Review 39 (Fall 2007/Spring 2008). That protocol I wrote would make clear to states that foster care should not be given priority over ICA. I am shocked to see the manner in which unicef continues to present its view, as if it is self-evident, that domestic foster care (not limited to kinship care!) is better for children than international adoption. I mean, please!!!

See the following paragraph from the MOLISA (Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs)–UNICEF report of 2009 Creating a Protective environment for Children in Vietnam: An Assessment of Child Protection Laws and Policies, Especially Children in Special Circumstances in Vietnam (http://www.unicef.org/vietnam/legal_review_on_cp.pdf)

On page 40, the report states that “With respect to inter-country adoption, both the CRC and the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption state that inter-country adoption should be considered as an alternative only if the child cannot be placed in a foster or an adoptive family or cannot in any suitable manner be cared for in the child’s country of origin.”  The report uses the highly misleading phrase “foster or adoptive family” when referring to in-country alternatives, as if these were even remotely equivalent.

Sigh.

Does the global public understand the implications of what unicef is doing here? Could any sensible person argue that a child is better off in ordinary foster care simply because it is the home country, as opposed to international adoption? Foster care is only preferable to institutional care–not to ICA!! Measure it in any way you like–how can there be any other conclusion, unless based on ideology alone? If that is the unicef argument, let’s really have the argument. Let’s not hide behind the very ambiguous and very flawed provisions of the UNCRC relating to adoption. Also, Hague says that foster care is better than ICA, too????

Ironically, Hague has proven to be a means of restricting international adoption, not what it might have been–and as I argued way back in 2003–a means of greatly increasing it, where family reunification or domestic adoption are not available. The hierarchy should be family reunification where possible (and strong efforts should be made)–domestic adoption where possible–then ICA, based on Hague principles–not Hague obstructions!

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