Leaving Vietnam before arriving

Ladies and Gentlemen, we would like to present an actual new post on our adoption blog! <audience_gasps> And a two-parter at that! <gasps_then_faints>

I’m going to attempt to encapsulate the madness of what’s happening in our adoption journey, what lead us to where we are now, and the state of the international adoption world. I’m not sure that is entirely possible, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ll try to take you on a semi-linear time line of events. Warning, this is a chunky post!

The state of Vietnam

Let’s start with the quantifiable stuff. These bullet points apply to our adoption agency as of this writing:

  • Roughly[1] 4 babies have returned to the US with their adoptive parents since July 2007
  • Roughly[1] 6 referrals have been given out since October 2007
    • Of those 6 referrals, 4 are in limbo and currently being investigated. It seems probable that those referrals will be denied by the US Government and the adoptive parents will need to appeal and fight for their children
  • Kate and I would have about 60 families in front of us in line for a child. Ahem … 60 families. As you read above, the rate of babies coming home per month has been ZERO since last summer
  • When we started this process less than a year ago, the estimated referral time was 1 to 3 months. It is now estimated at a year and a half — and that assumes 4 referrals per month which isn’t even close to reality. Not even in the ballpark

Those numbers, along with some other factors, caused Kate and I to look outside our current agency to other adoption agencies. Now most Vietnam agencies, given the current status of Vietnam adoption (more on that below), were not accepting new clients. Kate and I did find one agency that sounded promising. First off, they were still accepting new clients. Secondly, they had a pretty good track record with referrals in recent months (as is our understanding). The big thing that sold us was that if we moved to this new agency we would be somewhere around number 30 in line. Even if things remained slow with Vietnam adoption, we would cut the line of clients in front of us by half. With that, Kate and I decided to leave our current agency. There were many reasons factoring in to this decision, which I won’t go into here (perhaps another post in the future), but they all added up to one thing: the wait time to receive our child was too great to stay with our original plan.

So here we are without an agency. An adoption “free agent” as it were. Unfortunately we couldn’t move to our newfound agency just yet. Their fee structure was different and they required most of the money upfront, whereas our now old agency had the fees spread out. As many of you know, we’re not talking about $300 bucks here, we’re talking 5 digit numbers. This brings us to waiting on two things:

  1. Trying to figure out where we’re going to get the money for this new agency
  2. Amazingly, we are still waiting on our I-171H to come back from the US government. We’re at roughly day 90 of what was supposed to be a 30 day process

That brings us up to speed with the state of our adoption agency. Things start to get really interesting when we look at Vietnam adoptions in general.

Interesting thing #1)

The US suspected a few of the Vietnam adoptions as being potentially corrupt. This means perhaps the babies were sold/purchased, or they are not “true orphans”, or some other bad reason. Rather than raise this concern using a little something called “tact”, the US did what it does best in foreign policy: piss everyone off. With guns blazing and a big cowboy hat, the US stormed in wielding accusations all over the place and using it’s standard “my way or the highway” school of diplomacy. How did the ancient communist nation of Vietnam react? Take a wild guess.

So now we have two nations angry at each other, exhibiting standard 3rd-grade playground behavior and all the while the orphan children and adoptive families are caught in the middle. Kate and I feel both nations are displaying bad behavior, but it’s obvious to us that the US “started it”, is the far more aggressive of the two, and should bear the brunt of the blame. Again, this is a terribly condensed version of the story. Check out “Bring Our Children Home” for more information on the subject.

Interesting thing #2)

It’s been said that since the US is being such a pain in the butt, Vietnam is favoring adoptions from other countries. In other words, if a family from France, Spain, and America is on the list to adopt, Vietnam will choose the non-American family first because the process is so much easier. I don’t blame them. Tell me, does the following sound familiar?

  • The US government is making things more difficult than they need to be
  • The US government is acting in their own interest and not that of their citizens
  • The US government is stomping on other countries’ toes
  • Foreign countries prefer working with countries other than the US

Sounds like business as usual.

Interesting thing #3)

Hey, let’s make this even more complicated shall we?! The original adoption agreement signed by the US and Vietnam, simply called the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), is set to expire this September. With the afore mentioned childish behavior, Kate and I feel there is a good chance adoption will close between the two nations. Even if the close isn’t permanent, it’s a close nonetheless. Factor in that Kate and I haven’t gotten our dossier to Vietnam yet (because of waiting on our I-171H as mentioned above) and it looks like we wouldn’t get in the system in time if there is a close come September. Oh, and did I mention that the new adoption agency we were looking to join ceased taking new clients?

Pulling out of Vietnam

Well now! There’s “being hopeful” and then there’s just “ignoring the truth”. Kate and I decided that it was not smart to think that we could proceed with Vietnam given where we are at in the game. Things are so uncertain with the MOU, plus the referrals that have gone through have been fraught with problems, and we haven’t even received our I-171H yet. Perhaps most damning piece of data is that referrals just aren’t happening. Point blank: babies are not coming home to the US[2]. So we made the very, very difficult decision to not proceed with our adoption in Vietnam.

Pulling out of International

So let’s look at other countries for international adoption. They’re all experiencing similar issues. One journalist has said “… international adoption … is in crisis” and I agree with her. China — hands down the number one destination for US international adoptions — is so full that their wait time is at 4 years! Apply today, get your child in 2012! In addition to that, China implemented stricter rules as to who can or can not adopt from them. The rules are things like: age of the adoptive parents, number of previous marriages, etc. This has excluded a large number of adoptive parents that would have gone to China.

So what does this mean? It means that other adoptive families are skipping or leaving China and moving to all of the other countries. These other countries are now being flooded with requests. They just can’t keep up. Their wait times have also increased drastically, or even worse, they’re so swamped that they’ve closed their international adoption program completely. I’m talking closing the door, goodbye, no babies for you, move along.

Guatemala, the number 2 destination for US adoptions, has closed[3]. Number 2 … they closed! Kazakhstan, the number 6 destination closed their program out of nowhere. One day they’re open, the next day they’re not. [Good news everyone! A post to JCICS dated Mar. 25th, 2008 says Kazakhstan is open again. Yikes, what a scare.] And as I mentioned before, Vietnam, a now hugely popular destination, is in peril as well. This is happening all over the place. And of course, it’s not like people in these countries have decided to stop having sex because of the state of international adoption. “Gee baby, I’m totally in the mood and everything … but let’s not get it on because we don’t want to add the the already burdened orphanage system.” Oh no, babies are still being born and filling the orphanages. It’s truly a disaster. It saddens the soul.

Where does this leave us?

It’s been very confusing. We felt we had a strong connection to Vietnam. We thought that’s where our child was. It was a matter of fact for us. I’m sure we sold ourselves on those feelings after we committed to that country, but we felt them all the same. This was an extremely painful decision for us. Kate and I have been together for 14 years now. We’ve talked about children off and on for at least ten of those years. Every time we talked about our child, it was always an Asian girl. This was because during the last decade China was the de-facto location for international adoption, and we all know about China and girls. So imagine thinking about your future child in one particular way for a decade, and then learning that may not happen.

How can one attach to an idea of a child so intensely? I present the following example. Imagine that you are adopting and you receive the very first photograph of the child that is promised to you. This is only a photograph. A small 4×6 inch image of something you’ve never seen before. But can you imagine the feelings of attachment and love that would stem from that photograph? Certainly we all can understand that. Now imagine that instead of a 4×6 piece of paper, the image is in your head. It’s animated and in the full vivid color and texture of the mind’s eye. These movies costar you and your wife at your child’s side. Now imagine seeing that image for over a decade. What do you think the level of attachment to that little Asian girl would be now? To put it lightly, the attachment is intense. Now that the Asian girl will not happen for us, I feel intense loss. I imagine I’m feeling something far less then a death of a child, but possibly stronger than a miscarriage. This has been rough.

Positive note

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Kate and I do have the best possible news we could possibly announce in the realm of adoption: we are now, right now, making actual real progress in the adoption of our child! However, the road we are on is completely different, and not what we planned at all. That will be part two of the two part saga which my lovely wife will post very soon.


  1. ^ Referral and Homecoming numbers: These numbers are “rough” and may or may not be 100% accurate. Cut me some slack though. It doesn’t really matter if I’m off by as much as 100% because the point is still illustrated.
  2. ^ Babies not coming home: There may be some children coming home. I do not have the skill set to verify that fact. But how many? 2? 10? Heck … 20 children? A far cry from the hundreds (thousands?) that should be coming home.
  3. ^ Guatemala closure: According to this article at The News & Observer which states “Guatemala, another top sender, recently closed adoptions after allegations that babies were sold or stolen.”.

3 thoughts on “Leaving Vietnam before arriving

  1. Kate & Joel,

    I am glad that you have written an update and I can’t wait to hear more of your new adventure. We’ve been thinking about you guys and certainly wish you all the best!!

    Take care,

  2. Wow, that was a chunky post but thorough and clever. You guys have thought this thing out. I am waiting anxiously to see what your next move is! Best of luck to you guys and it is good to hear that you feel like you made a good decision. Whew- I know how hard that can be! Anna

  3. Wow, you guys have throughly thought this out. I wish you the best and look forward to your seeing where your journey leads.

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