NepalNovember 5, 2010
Alert: Response to Petition Congress on Behalf of the American Families Pursuing Adoptions from Nepal
The Department of State appreciates the interest of the American public and Members of Congress in the status of intercountry adoptions in Nepal and the concerns of U.S. citizens who are pursuing the adoption of a Nepali child.
The decision to suspend adoptions in Nepal of children "found abandoned" was taken jointly with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after extensive investigations in which U.S. Embassy staff observed pervasive problems with the reliability of documentation in Nepal's adoption system. The level of these problems has made it difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether the children being placed for adoption have, in fact, been abandoned and could be considered orphans under U.S. law. The United States was the last country to suspend adoptions in Nepal.
Starting in February 2010, the Office of Children's Issues began to warn prospective adoptive parents about potential problems they might encounter when attempting to complete an intercountry adoption in Nepal.
The publication of an independent technical analysis of Nepal's adoption procedures by the Hague Conference on Private International Law's Intercountry Technical Assistance Program (ICATAP) in February 2010 solidified our concerns. This report detailed a number of weaknesses in Nepal's adoption system, including ongoing concern about the falsification of documents, improper financial gain, and lack of a child protection system .
In early August 2010, a joint assessment team from the Department of State and USCIS travelled to Nepal and performed a detailed analysis of the evidence being presented to document the abandonment of children in Nepal. The team found that information presented in support of orphan petitions included vague and self-contradictory testimony and documents. Local officials were often uncooperative or appeared to be attempting to purposefully mislead or deter investigations.
Embassy Kathmandu is working as quickly as possible to investigate the pending adoption cases. Embassy Kathmandu and USCIS are mindful of the effects that any delay might have on children. However, the unreliable documentation, vague information provided in the documents, and lack of cooperation by some parts of the Government of Nepal is slowing down investigations. Most of the pending cases for which the Embassy has completed investigations have been referred to USCIS New Delhi as "not clearly approvable." USCIS conducts a review of the cases referred to it in order to make a final determination as to whether a petition is approvable or not. In many cases, USCIS asks for additional information from the petitioner before making a determination.
The U.S. government, in cooperation with other countries that are active in intercountry adoptions, has consistently over the past several years encouraged the Government of Nepal to ratify and implement the Hague Adoption Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Convention), to which Nepal is a signatory. We have also urged the Government of Nepal to implement the recommendations made by ICATAP. The Convention incorporates the best practices in intercountry adoption, which are intended to protect the rights of children and families.
U.S. Embassy officials first met with Nepali officials in early August to request an extension of the 60-day completion requirement when we announced the suspension of new adoption cases for children found abandoned. At that time, the Ministry gave the Embassy a verbal commitment to extend the deadline. After many meetings and official requests going up to the highest levels of the Government of Nepal, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare agreed in writing to extend the 60-day timeline by an additional 60 days, for a total of 120 days. The Ministry also indicated that it would favorably consider additional requests for extensions.
The Department has been engaged with Congress. On October 5, 2010, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Scott DeLisi personally briefed staffers from both Houses. Ambassador Susan Jacobs provided a similar update a week earlier to interested Senate staff. We will continue to work closely with Congress and with interested offices whose constituents are affected by the decision to suspend adoptions in Nepal.
Our Office of Children's Issues is engaged in daily outreach to prospective adopting parents, adoption service providers, Congressional staffers, and adoption advocacy and stakeholder groups. The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu is in frequent and direct contact with many of the prospective adopting parents and has made itself readily available to all of the prospective adoptive parents. This outreach includes conference calls, briefings, group emails, and updates on individual cases. Our officers respond promptly to letters, calls, and emails from staffers, Members of Congress, prospective adoptive parents and their advocates. We also post regular updates on adoptions in Nepal through our website, http://adoption.state.gov.