No more Vietnamese adoptions

HOUSTON Eighteen-month-old Tiffany is adjusting to life in Houston. The little Vietnamese girl was adopted by Melanie Powell about a year ago.

"I never did get to see her," said Melanie. "They just showed me a little tiny picture and gave me her medical report."

Powell, who is already a mother to a teenage daughter, always wanted a bigger family. But as a single mother, her options were limited. That's one reason she looked to Vietnam, where the process was easier.

But for the second time in six years, the adoption agreement between Vietnam and the U.S. is ending. The U.S. embassy in Hanoi believes there is too much corruption and baby-selling going on in the Vietnam adoption system.

"It's going to be disastrous for the children of Vietnam," said Jackie Harrah, who opened an adoption agency in Houston 13 years ago.

Jackie opened her adoption agency after adopting her three daughters from China and seeing thousands of children stuck in Asian orphanages.

"There are children who are languishing in orphanages, special needs children who need surgeries, who need to have somebody care enough to provide them with the medical care they need," she said.

Vickie Lai agrees. She's a Vietnamese-American living in Houston. Vickie went back to Vietnam armed with a video camera in January. She visited and filmed footage at two orphanages. What she saw was heartbreaking.

"The children, to the point that they have to wear several clothing. And some children caught my attention. They don't even have socks to wear," she said.

Vickie says it's rare for orphaned children to be adopted by other Vietnamese. So now with the suspension of U.S. adoptions, she believes most of these children will remain in orphanages forever.

Currently, there are six applications for Vietnamese adoptions in the system at Jackie's agency. She's working quickly to get them processed before the July 1 suspension begins. And maybe a few more Vietnamese orphans will get a chance for a better life, like baby Tiffany and her new mom.

Vietnamese babies who are matched with American families before July 1 will be allowed to continue with the adoption process.

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