Cambodia adoption was made famous by the movie star Angelina Jolie, who everyone knows that adopted a Cambodian child, Maddox, in 2002.
Thanks in part to her and some other high-profile celebrities, the idea of adopting a child from another country is well-known.
But there are plenty of orphans in every country, so why go to the trouble and additional expense of an international adoption when there are children in need much closer to home? And if someone does decide to do a Cambodia adoption, how does the process work?
Why do a Cambodia adoption?
Adopting a child from another country such as Cambodia is always going to be more difficult than adopting a child from your own country. Nevertheless, plenty of people in the developed world do it; for example around 20,000 children are adopted internationally by United States citizens every year.
The main reason that people do a Cambodia adoption, rather than adopting a child in their own country, is simply that the need for adoptive parents is greater in Cambodia. One big reason for this is the tragedy the country suffered during the 1970s, when the country was torn apart by civil war and then went through four years of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime. During this decade more than 600,000 Cambodians died in war, and more than 1 million Cambodians were either executed by the Khmer Rouge or lost their lives due to starvation and disease.
Today, Cambodia is rebuilding, but it’s still a poor country, even compared with its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Due the effects of the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime, more than 50% of the population is currently under 21, and this puts a massive burden on the state in terms of providing things such as care, healthcare, employment and education. Doing a Cambodia adoption saves a child from what would otherwise be a life of great hardship.
The process for doing a Cambodia adoption
The process of adopting a Cambodian child changes depending on where the adoptive parents live. Different countries have different rules. Most countries require that the adoptive parents get approval to adopt first, before they contact an adoption agency in the child’s country. In some countries a private adoption agency can make the decision to approve someone, while in other countries this is a decision that only a state agency can make.
The approval to adopt depends on the adoptive parents passing some kind of vetting process. In the United States and some other countries this is called a ‘home study’. A home study is a written report about the adoptive parents that assess their suitability to adopt a child. It’s done by a social worker, who visits, interviews, and collects documents from the adoptive parents.
Once the adoptive parents have been approved by their home country, then they can be matched with a child in Cambodia who’s in need of adoption, and the process can go ahead, starting with the adoptive parents making a trip to Cambodia to meet the child.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible at the moment for United States citizens to do a Cambodia adoption. That’s because in 2001 the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (now called ‘US Citizenship and Immigration Services’) suspended the processing of adoption petitions for Cambodia, and the suspension hasn’t yet been lifted.
The INS suspended the processing of adoptions because there were fears that fraud was being committed in Cambodia (for example, adoption agents buying children from very poor families and claiming they were orphans), and concerns that there wasn’t a sufficient legal framework in place in Cambodia to control Cambodian children adoptions. These issues haven’t been addressed yet, so the suspension continues.
So in short…
It’s unfortunate that the ban on people in the United States adopting Cambodian children continues. Although the US government suspended Cambodian adoptions for good reasons, there are many children in need of adoption there who are suffering because of it. While domestic adoption is already a way of giving a child in need a better future, when the child is from a poor country that has suffered the effects of violence and war, then the opportunity to do good is even greater.