An end to "abandoned" babies
Today, the United States does not allow adoptions from Vietnam, though some other countries do. The Vietnamese National Assembly has recently debated a new, Hague-compliant adoption law, but there is no sign of imminent passage. In the nearly two years since the closure, Vietnam has begun prosecuting and jailing some baby sellers. For instance, in Nam Dinh, one of the suspect provinces, "sixteen Vietnamese doctors, nurses and officials sold 266 babies for overseas adoptions, a court heard on Tuesday," Britain's Telegraph reported in 2009.
Recently I spoke with Tracy Desserich of Indianapolis, who adopted an infant from Phu Tho in 2007 through ADOPPT of Wyoming, a now-defunct adoption agency that withdrew its application for Hague accreditation midway through a review of its practices. Desserich said that when she was first adopting from Phu Tho, she visited two orphanages that were "overflowing" with 60 to 80 healthy infants. But in 2010, she and another adoptive family hired a Vietnamese searcher to learn more about their babies' abandonments. The searcher reported that one of the two orphanages (which a number of agencies used to identify children for adoption, according to Desserich) had closed completely; the other had only a "handful" of babies and now housed mostly older and special-needs children. As Ambassador Michalak and his investigators had suspected, when the money stopped coming in, so did the supply of "abandoned" babies.
Like Vietnam, neither Ethiopia nor Nepal -- the two countries currently plagued by reports of corrupt adoptions -- have enacted the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. If there is indeed corruption in these countries' adoptions, the U.S. embassies in those countries still have very little power to respond -- except to increase investigations or close adoptions entirely, as happened in Vietnam. Choosing the latter may save hundreds of families from wrongfully losing their children, but it does so at the cost of preventing children who genuinely need new homes from finding them in the United States. Until U.S. laws, policies, and regulations change, the United States can turn the spigot on and off, but it cannot control the flow.