Child Care Policy/Country Reports

Adopting the Rights of a Child: A Study on Intercountry Adoption and its Influence on Child Protection in Nepal

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Child rights, not profit, must be at the centre of all adoptions in Nepal says this major study on adoption released in Kathmandu by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Terre des hommes (Tdh).   The main conclusion of the 60-page report, ‘Adopting the rights of the child: a study on intercountry adoption and its influence on child protection in Nepal’, is that intercountry adoption should not be allowed to resume without appropriate safeguards being put in place at all levels. Only four out of every 100 children adopted in Nepal are adopted by a Nepali family and many children put up for adoption are not orphaned in the true sense of the word but are separated from their families.


The study indicates that abuses such as the sale, abduction and trafficking of children is taking place in an under-regulated environment.   “An industry has grown up around adoption in which profit rather than the best interests of the child takes centre stage,” said UNICEF Nepal Representative, Ms. Gillian Mellsop. “Appropriate legal safeguards and a functioning alternative care to parental care can prevent abuse and allow intercountry adoption to continue for those who need it.”

The study indicates that abuses such as the sale, abduction and trafficking of children is taking place in an under-regulated environment.   “An industry has grown up around adoption in which profit rather than the best interests of the child takes centre stage,” said UNICEF Nepal Representative, Ms. Gillian Mellsop. “Appropriate legal safeguards and a functioning alternative care to parental care can prevent abuse and allow intercountry adoption to continue for those who need it.”


According to the study, the standard of care and protection in many orphanages does not respect the rights of the child.  There are approximately 15,000 children in orphanages or children’s homes in Nepal, many of whose parents have died.  However, a significant number of admissions in these homes are a result of fraud, coercion and malpractice.  “The vast majority of children in institutional care don’t need to be there,” said Tdh Country Representative Joseph Aguettant. “They have family, including extended family, that may be able to provide care with proper support and some initial monitoring to ensure the child is safe. The first priority, therefore, should be to reunify 80% of the children in institutions with their families, not to re-open intercountry adoption.” 

Such a de-institutionalization programme should go hand in hand with better monitoring of centres and improvement of living conditions for the children. There is a general lack of alternative care for children in Nepal, such as foster care, that could act as alternatives to intercountry or domestic adoption, given that many children in child centres do have relatives.  People managing or working in child centres are powerful decision-makers in the intercountry adoption process. There are limited checks and balances in place during the matching process. In addition, there is no centralized and systematic mechanism to plan, manage, authorize and monitor intercountry adoption.


UNICEF and Tdh applauded the announcement that the Government of the Republic of Nepal will ratify the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (1993) but emphasised that ratification and enactment of domestic legislation should take place before intercountry adoption procedures are allowed to resume to help ensure the best interests of the child. It was observed that some progress is being made to regulate intercountry adoption such as the new conditions and procedures recently endorsed by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, and the initiation of the registration process for adoption agencies.


The authors of the study intend its launch to act as a catalyst towards greater civil society debate on the subject of adoptions and child rights in Nepal and to encourage further deliberation among children’s homes that want to resume adoption procedures immediately and unconditionally and those who would prefer to wait until further guarantees are in place.

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