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At the start of 2009 Vietnam is temporarily closed to U.S. adopters but open to Canadians.

After being closed for Canadians since April 2002, Vietnamese adoptions became possible when the two countries signed an agreement in June 2005. As individual agencies got their needed accreditation from Vietnam, they resumed their adoption programs. Demand for Vietnam was high and agencies limited the number of applications they would accept. In the U.S. the numbers of adoptions declined, from 828 in 2007, down to 751 in 2008.

Canada fought the trend, registering a sharp increase by the end of 2007, from 34 up to 86, an increase of 153%. Subsequent events cast a shadow over the chances of adopting from Vietnam.

An April 2008 investigation by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi uncovered irregularities such as forged documents, cash to birth mothers and children offered without parents' consent. The 2005 agreement was not renewed and it expired Sept. 1, 2008, temporarily closing Vietnam to U.S. adopters.

Vietnam is still open to Canadians, but the fear is that Canada may follow the U.S. lead -- it may again suspend Vietnamese adoptions as it did from 2002 to 2005, over the same concerns about illegal practices. Vietnam is thus currently not a good bet for Canadian adopters.

Concerns started in 2001 -- According to a Aug. 26, 2001 article in the Toronto Star, "Adoption agency acts on baby-buying claims", reports in a Vietnamese newspaper in April 2001 alleged that babies were being bought by local adoption facilitators, then placed for adoption with foreigners. One of the facilitators named was Mary Payne-Nguyen of Amerasian Network, an American who arranged adoptions of at least 45 Vietnamese children for Canadians. The Star quoted External Affairs in Ottawa as saying its concerns include "the possible buying and selling of children and inadequacies in the documentation that has been provided with respect to specific adoptions. ... Canadian authorities in Vietnam and in Canada have now concluded that these problems require careful investigation in order to ensure that adoptions involving Canadian families are fully compliant with Canadian requirements, the laws of Vietnam and international standards."

In August 2001 the governments of Vietnam and Canada advised there were serious concerns about alleged illegal practices in adoption in Vietnam. On Aug. 27, 2001 the Ontario Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services ceased taking applications for Vietnam, temporarily closing Vietnam to Ontario residents. On Dec. 20, 2001 the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development announced that adoptions from Vietnam would no longer be facilitated in British Columbia.

Janice Williamson ( wrote from Alberta on Sept. 13, 2001 that the provincial government has halted adoptions from Vietnam for Albertans, acting on advice of External Affairs, as a result of the baby-selling accusations. She said, "There is apparently an investigation and report on Vietnam adoption to be completed by December. Then adoptions from Vietnam might resume."

Martha Maslen, executive director of the agency Children's Bridge, wrote on Sept. 27, 2001 to Robin Hilborn: "Allegations of corruption first surfaced last spring, seemed to be resolved, and then renewed. To date no specific information has been provided to us ... only continued reference to "irregularities". MCSS indicates it has substantive evidence of unethical practices, but that much of this evidence is "confidential" and cannot be shared. Suffice it to say there is sufficient cause for concern to convince the various provincial adoption units to temporarily suspend Vietnamese adoptions. Once the investigation in Vietnam is completed and adoption permitted again, we hope to reactivate our Vietnam program."

In April 2002 Vietnam suspended international adoption, following reports of alleged illegal practices, in order to put a new adoption process in place.

Vietnam signs individual agreements -- On July 22, 2002 Associated Press reported that Vietnam had introduced a decree to tighten controls on foreign adoption, to try to halt fraud and child trafficking. Under the new decree which took effect Jan. 2, 2003, children may be adopted only by foreigners from countries which have bilateral adoption agreements with Vietnam. All adoptions must be approved by a special foreign adoption agency in the Ministry of Justice. The new agency will decide on foreigners' applications within four months. If approved, the adoptive parents can then travel to Vietnam to receive their child, thereby reducing the need for long visits while waiting for applications to be processed.

The new decree allows foreign private agencies and domestic agencies run by either the Communist Party-controlled Women's Union or Red Cross to facilitate adoptions. Previously, many prospective adoptive parents went directly to private adoption brokers but reports of abuses prompted the government last year to issue a temporary ban on the involvement of private agencies in adoptions. More than 10,000 Vietnamese children have been adopted by foreigners since the mid-1980s, with a third going to France.

The Vietnamese government decree on foreign adoptions took effect Jan. 2, 2003. It called for:
-- Individual agreements between Vietnam and other countries, in accordance with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Children may be adopted by foreigners from countries which have signed a bilateral adoption agreement with Vietnam.
-- A central adoption office in the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice to approve all applications to adopt. This would replace the provincial offices.
-- Foreign adoption agencies to renew their Vietnamese licenses annually.

In its March 18, 2003 notice the U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens adopting from Vietnam to expect delays in pending adoptions (those accepted before Dec. 31, 2002). No new cases will be processed until there is an agreement on adoptions between the two countries

Vietnam is slowly opening to intercountry adoption by signing agreements with receiving countries. As of mid-2003 Vietnam has agreements with France and Denmark, and expects to sign also with Italy and Iceland. Further negotiations should produce agreements with Canada and Sweden. Belgium, Luxembourg and the U.S. have sent draft papers preparatory to an agreement.

Canada signs adoption agreement with Vietnam -- A two-and-a-half-year moratorium ended on June 27, 2005 when Vietnam and Canada signed a bilateral agreement allowing Canadians to adopt Vietnamese children for the first time since January 2003. The agreement establishes safeguards so that intercountry adoptions are carried out in the best interests of children. Revelations of adoption-related corruption and child trafficking prompted the Government of Canada to recommend, in August 2001, that provinces and territories suspend adoptions from Vietnam until safeguards could be implemented.

Following the Canadian suspension, Vietnam implemented its own moratorium in January 2003. Adoptions were stopped pending new agreements with partner countries. Canada negotiated this agreement in consultation with all provinces and territories, which have jurisdiction for adoption. Although the signing of the agreement is an important first step, adoptions can only resume after both countries have ratified it and after provinces and territories have signed and implemented Understandings with Vietnam, a process which could take some months. Canada is the seventh country, along with France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Sweden and Ireland, to reach an adoption agreement with Vietnam. [--Foreign Affairs Canada, June 27, 2005]

Delays in U.S. -- Even though Vietnam and the United States signed a bilateral agreement on June 21, 2005 governing intercountry adoption between the two countries, adoptions are not currently being processed. It is estimated that the agreement will go into effect two months after the signing and then Vietnam will begin licensing agencies, a process estimated to take an additional two to four months. [--Joint Council on International Children's Services]

Agencies to be accredited -- Now that Ottawa has negotiated a treaty, individual provinces will be responsible for setting guidelines and certifying adoption agencies, officials said. [--National Post, June 28, 2005]

Alberta prepares -- Alberta will work with the Department of Foreign Affairs to expedite the negotiation of terms for the adoption process. We expect that the program could be available to Alberta families within the next few months. [--Alberta Children's Services, June 2005]

B.C. to define procedures -- Once procedures are in place to support the Understanding between Vietnam and British Columbia, the Director of Adoption will allow licensed B.C. agencies to start participating in adoptions from Vietnam. [--B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development]

Quebec refuses to sign -- Officials of Vietnam and Canada signed an adoption treaty in Ottawa June 27, but the next day Quebec refused to sign the agreement under the treaty that would allow Quebecers to adopt children from Vietnam. Quebec Premier Jean Charest said that changes demanded by the federal government stripped the agreement of its legal weight. According to Ottawa, federal officials balked at wording in the document that implied Quebec was acting as a sovereign state. The province maintains it is fully sovereign in areas of provincial jurisdiction, i.e. adoption. [--The Gazette, Montreal,, July 2, 2005]

In its June 30, 2005 notice, the U.S. State Dept. provided the text of the adoption agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam, signed June 21, 2005. It will allow Americans to adopt Vietnamese children for the first time since 2002. According to the State Department notice, the agreement will make the adoption process more transparent, facilitate adoptions for humanitarian purposes, and provide protection to birth families, prospective adoptive parents and orphaned children. Adoptions will not be processed until U.S. adoption agencies are licensed in Vietnam, which will take an estimated two to four months after the agreement goes into effect. It will go into effect once Vietnam has completed its legal procedures for entry into force. U.S. adoption agencies interested in gaining a license to operate in Vietnam should apply to Vietnam's Ministry of Justice once the agreement goes into effect. reported that Viet Nam and Quebec signed an international adoption agreement on Sept. 15. Adoptions had been suspended since 2001.

A message at Sunrise Adoption in British Columbia announced Sunrise's new Vietnam adoption program for B.C. residents. The Canadian and Vietnamese governments recently signed an adoption agreement which went into effect on Dec. 15, 2005. B.C. residents will be permitted to start Vietnam adoptions sometime in 2006.

Quebec agency TDH Pour Les Enfants reported that it got its accreditation to do adoptions in Vietnam on March 31, 2006. "It has been three years to the very day that our last adoption was finalized. We hope that families will be able to travel in the next few months", said director Dorinda Cavanaugh.

An update on Apr. 21, 2006 from Children's Bridge in Ontario said that the agency has its Vietnam licence from the Ontario ministry, but awaits its accreditation from Vietnam "within the next few months". Once it is granted, Children's Bridge can forward dossiers to Vietnam for referral of a child. Meanwhile, Ontario families have the choice of sending their home studies now for Ontario ministry review, or waiting until accreditation is in place. The wait for ministry review is now 10-12 weeks.

On June 19, 2006 the adoption authority in Quebec (Secrétariat à l'adoption internationale, SAI), in its article "Reprise des adoptions internationales au Viet Nam", summarized the status of adoption from Vietnam. The adoption agreement between Quebec and Vietnam went into effect on Jan. 1, 2006. It spells out the obligations and procedures for all parties in the adoption process. Before a Quebec adoption agency can start its Vietnam program, it must get accreditation from Vietnamese authorities. The agency TDH Pour Les Enfants was accredited on March 31 and opened its Vietnam program. So many would-be parents sent in applications that TDH had to limit the numbers, or else the waiting time would become too long. TDH accepts a new file only when a registered client gets a child proposal.

In its Dec. 6, 2006 email news, SAI in Quebec announced that the agency Société formons une famille got its accreditation from Vietnamese authorities on Nov. 1, 2006. SAI notes that interest in Vietnam is high, but not many Vietnamese children are available for adoption. Consequently Formons une Famille is not yet taking applications, but will announce when it will start up again at its web site, That web site said, "We already have a very long waiting list, therefore we are not accepting any new registrations for the moment. Once registrations re-open, we will update this section of our website." [viewed June 14, 2007]

In its January 29, 2007 update, Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) said Vietnam is currently open to adoptions by foreigners. Parents should work with licensed agencies; JCICS gives a list of currently accredited U.S. agencies. "The State Department wishes it could say the bilateral agreement was a silver bullet that solved all the problems they saw in Vietnam before the Vietnamese Government's 2002 suspension, but this is not the case. The process in Vietnam remains largely decentralized, despite the creation of a Department of Inter-Country Adoptions (DIA) within the Ministry of Justice. Vietnam has yet to publish a schedule of fees, as required by the bilateral agreement."

Thanh Nien Daily on April 13, 2007 reported that about 2,000 Vietnamese orphans are likely to be adopted by foreigners this year, around a third more than last year. The Department for Adopted Children's Affairs said 400 children had been adopted in the first quarter. The increase was due to administrative reforms -- the average time to complete formalities had been reduced from six months to four. France and the U.S. were the largest receiving countries last year, with 700 and 500 adoptions respectively.

On March 8, 2007 the Secrétariat à l´adoption internationale in Montreal announced a change to the adoption criteria for Vietnam: adoptive families must submit at least 18 follow-up reports on their child (i.e. until the age of 18). The cost of an adoption in Vietnam is $15,000 to $25,000.

On April 26, 2007 Ethica Inc. warned adopters to use one of 39 licensed U.S. agencies. Those working with unlicensed agencies are vulnerable to being caught in delays should the Vietnamese government rule that only licensed agencies may place children.

Sunrise Adoption in B.C. has opened its Vietnam program. Orphanage children are 2 to 12 months old, although older children and sibling groups may be available. Eligibility rules: couples must be legally married (no common-law or same-sex); singles allowed; those over 50 will not be eligible to adopt an infant. After your dossier is sent to Vietnam, you'll wait about one year to get a proposal. You travel to Vietnam for two weeks.


For resources on Vietnam adoption, see Adoption Resource Central, Country-specific Resources - Vietnam.

For more on adopting in Vietnam, see Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption.

Find an agency for Vietnam: Agency chooser,

Descriptions of agency

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Country News is written by Robin Hilborn,
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