Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Armenian Adoptions- Armenian Embassy Cable discusses Adoption irregularities

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 002113 SIPDIS DEPT FOR IIP/G/EUR-KELLISON, LSCHWARTZ; IIP/T/DHR- JJASIK; EUR/PPD-JBASEDOW; CA/ACS/CI-MDERKS E.O. 12958; N/A TAGS: KOCI [Children's Issues], OIIP [International Information Programs], SCUL [Cultural Affairs], KPAO [Public Affairs Office], AM [Armenia], PHUM [Human Rights] SUBJECT: ARMENIAN DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS: CURRENT PROCESS, OFFICIAL OPINIONS, POSSIBLE CHANGES REF: A. YEREVAN 522, B. YEREVAN 2042 ¶1. "It is better for a child to die in Armenia than to be adopted abroad." While international adoptions are legal in Armenia, this pervasive negative attitude makes legislators and government officials nervous, giving rise to a lack of transparency in the process which in turn creates an environment where fraud flourishes. When Emboffs brought cases of apparent fraud to the Justice Ministry and pointed out shortcomings in Armenia's system, Justice Minister David Harutunian asked for help. In response, through the Public Affairs Section's International Speaker program, post hosted U.S. attorney and adoption expert Irene Steffas for a two week series of working sessions with government officials, lawyers, and non-governmental organizations. Steffas presented a range of choices for the GOAM, all which require changes to legislation and a new level of commitment to create an environment in which adoptions can take place without the involvement of intermediaries and unlicensed agencies, which are the main sources of fraud. End Summary. International Adoptions in Armenia ---------------------------------- ¶2. American Citizens adopt approximately 40 Armenian children per year. This is a small number in terms of U.S. foreign adoptions, but a large percentage of Armenian children adopted by foreigners -- usually 70 per year. Until this year, Post felt fairly confident in the Armenian system. Although parents were charged "extra fees" at every step of the process, it was rational and fairly transparent. The Armenian Government at the highest level signed off on all foreign adoptions. ¶3. In early 2005 however, Post discovered that a local adoption facilitator had been using unethical methods to procure very young children for adoption by American Citizens. The facilitator had placed babies in a private orphanage, the primary purpose of which appeared to be to keep the children out of the state-run orphanage system where they would likely be adopted by Armenian families. (See reftel A.) Presenting the Fraud to the MOJ -------------------------------- ¶4. Post brought concerns about unethical facilitators and private orphanages to the Minister of Labor and Social Security (responsible for regulating orphanages) and to the Minister of Justice, chairman of the Adoption Council which oversees adoption in Armenia. Armenian adoption law barely recognizes the existence of facilitators, but the Minister of Justice understood that foreigners need help negotiating the Armenian bureaucracy. He told us he was just beginning to study the best way to regulate facilitators without providing additional avenues for corruption. The Minister asked Post to provide a U.S. adoption expert to explain the adoption process from the U.S. perspective and to lay out different options for legalizing the work of facilitators.

Copy of the cable from the Armenian Embassy


To be eligible for adoption in Armenia, a child must be legally abandoned by all living parents through a renunciation of parental rights, or found to be an orphan by the state. Death certificates of both parents, court decisions or police statements (in cases of a foundling child) also may serve as evidence of a child's orphaned status. Orphaned children become the custody of orphanages and the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues maintains the centralized registration and has the list of children available for adoption. For the first three months on this list, a child may be adopted only by Armenians; after three months have elapsed, a child may be adopted by Armenians or foreigners. ¶13. (SBU) Corruption on the part of Armenian government officials, adoption agencies and orphanages is a concern, and due to pervasive document fraud, local birth and identity documents are often not reliable. However, during this reporting period, none of the cases we have seen have included fraudulent documents. In addition to field investigations, post combats adoption fraud by running background checks on all local adoption facilitators, whom post YEREVAN 00000834 003 OF 005 still works with on legacy I-601 adoption cases. ¶14. (SBU) Armenia is officially a signatory to the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoptions, and all adoption cases begun after April 2008 are processed in accordance with the Hague. The Ministry of Justice has been designated at the Central Authority under the Hague Convention for Adoptions and Child Abductions and its Department of Civil Acts Registration is responsible for carrying out day-to-day operations. A new regulation on adoptions has been cleared with all governmental agencies involved in the adoption process (the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues, the Ministry of Health, the MFA, Police, etc.) and is due to be enacted. The new regulation will reportedly bring Armenia into compliance with Hague Convention requirements, and include the implementing regulations for the execution of the Hague Convention's Article 16 and 23 letters. It will replace regulations which currently govern the adoption process in Armenia and will include clear guidance on the operational steps and implementation deadlines for each Armenian Government agency. USE OF DNA TESTING ------------------ ¶15. (U) Until September 2009, when the Department released new worldwide guidance on DNA testing, DNA testing in Yerevan was done remotely with Embassy panel physicians drawing samples at their office and then sending the samples to accredited labs in the U.S. for analysis. A Consular Officer would witness the sampling, maintain chain of custody, and forward it to the U.S. lab. Results were sent directly to the Embassy via DHL, generally within three to four weeks. In the reporting period, post conducted one DNA test in accordance with the former procedure. Since September 2009, post has briefed its panel physicians on the new process for DNA testing, to be done at the Consular Section, and is ready to implement the new procedures.

MORE TO COME................................


  1. these old practices are no longer being conducted. we have a national registry and no child will be kept or saved for anyone.
    as always people in the country have first choice then we go down our list based on matching as well as we can.
    currently the number of people wanting children especially healthy ones. far exceeds the amount of children that are available or relinquished.
    why this would upset people that adoptions are now following the hague in armenia is disturbing.
    the average wait time varies depending if you are an Armenian citizen or not.
    if a couple from the USA have been waiting 3+ years for a child and someone in Armenia steps forward to claim their stolen child or they want to adopt. the Armenian citizen will get the first opportunity for this.
    additionally, more and more single mothers are getting aid from diaspora Armenians so they are not forced economically to abandoned their child.
    conversely, the parents of sick children are getting education and are understanding their is no stigma to raising a child with special needs.
    there is still children that are being abandoned at hospitals, however the care is better and about 36 foster families are trained to take children in.
    as well there is a FAR, and other relief centers for Armenian families.

  2. I just published your comment. But I have questions for you.
    Is there unfairness toward non-Armenians?

    What steps is Haroutunyan taking toward implementing an open registry so children are not 'saved', 'hidden' or 'reserved' for an adoptive family?

    Can you allow adoptive parents direct communication with the ministry ombudsman to clarify misconceptions or marketing practices told to them by adoption agencies?

    and lastly;
    There are many good families waiting 2,3 and close to 4 years for completion to their family. Yet many have no understanding of Armenia or any connections, they rely on the communication from their adoption agency.
    Can you set up an informal session with them so the people who are non-Armenian, with no knowledge of the Armenian language don't have to depend on hearsay?

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