In recent years Cambodia has become a major source of inter-country adoption. Unfortunately, weak rule of law and institutional oversight has resulted in cases of child trafficking and other abuses. As a result, several western countries, such as France, the US, and Australia, have refused to recognize adoptions from Cambodia. The Royal Government of Cambodia then began working on reforms to comply with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.
On December 3, 2009, Cambodia passed the Law on Inter-Country Adoption, which makes clear that the government is cracking down on child trafficking. The law bans profit making in adoption, provides harsher penalties for lawbreakers, and also requires adoptions to only be handled by authorized and trained officials.
A few weeks before the law was passed, all pending adoption applications were put on hold. Prospective parents were told that once the new law was passed, their applications would be reviewed under the new law. Some applicants would be able to finish where they left off, some would have to start over, some would no longer be allowed to adopt. This caused great concern, as the adopters had often invested quite a bit of money and great time in the process. Many argued it was unfair to have to reapply under the new law when they had already initiated their applications under the old law. In response, the government permitted 108 pending applications to proceed under the old law, called Sub-Decree 29.
To comply with the Hague convention, the new adoption law made significant changes to Sub-Decree 29. First, adopters must be a married couple, which is defined as a man and woman. Second, they must be at least 30 years of age and between 22 to 45 years older than the child. Third, they must not have more than one child already under their burden, and cannot adopt more than one child from Cambodia, unless there are siblings. Last, they will have to go through an authorized inter-country adoption agency, which will cost significantly more than before.
Currently, a committee on inter-country adoption is formulating new procedures and training the relevant authorities that will be involved. The Ministry of Social Affairs Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation will soon be authorizing inter-country adoption agencies abroad to partner with the local authority to conduct adoptions. The government expects to start accepting adoption applications in 2011.