NEW YORK – The U.S. government on Friday suspended the adoption of abandoned children from Nepal because of concerns about unreliable and fabricated documents.
The State Department said the suspension would take effect immediately, although it will continue to consider adoption applications already in the pipeline on a case-by-case basis. About 80 such cases are pending.
More than 60 Nepalese children were adopted by Americans in 2006. The number dropped to six last year as U.S. officials intensified warnings about possible problems.
The State Department acted after finding numerous cases where Nepalese children's birth certificates were falsified and orphanage officials refused to assist efforts to confirm information.
Because of the unreliable documents and "the general situation of noncooperation with and even active hindrance of investigations," U.S. authorities can no longer accurately determine whether a child qualifies as an orphan, the State Department said.
It cited one case where the birth parents were actively searching for a child who had been matched with an American family for adoption.
Regarding the pending cases, the State Department said they would be approved only if supported by reliable evidence.
"Every effort will be made to process their cases as expeditiously as possible with the best interests of children in mind," it said.
U.S. officials said the duration of the suspension would depend on the pace with which Nepal's government implements more rigorous oversight of adoptions. One step in this direction would be to ratify the Hague Convention, with sets standards for international adoptions.
Chuck Johnson, head of the private National Council for Adoption, expressed dismay at the suspension, saying it would consign many Nepalese orphans to longer stays in institutions.
"It's a sad day for us children's advocates," he said. "When you suspend adoptions due to concerns of abuse, you're also preventing the adoption of legal and legitimate orphans. ... There will be suffering, profound psychological and physical effects."