Phung Thi Thanh (left) and her daughter Tran Thi Bay have been demanding that her granddaughter be returned by an orphanage that let the girl be adopted by Americans without their consent in 2007. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre
A family in the central province of Quang Nam has been demanding that their child be returned after officials persuaded them to put her in an orphanage that then allowed her to be adopted by a family in the US in 2007.
Phung Thi Thanh has sold all her valuables -- a total of three cows -- to travel many times to central and local government offices with her complaint, but the law has not been on her side, according to a Tuoi Tre newspaper report Sunday.
Thanh said her daughter Tran Thi Bay, who was mentally instable since birth, delivered a baby girl that they named Le Thi Quyen in 2001 and they had been living with Thanh ever since.
Phung Thanh Dung, a commune child care official, came one day with a district official named Gia and they advised her to send Quyen to the Quang Nam Orphanage so she could be fed better and be educated. They said they would be supported because Thanh's husband was a war martyr.
"I objected. No matter what we ate, we would have each other, I wouldn't bear missing her," Thanh said.
Then Dung and Gia approached Bay and she gave the girl over in June 2007. The family was already sending the girl to a local kindergarten at that point.
Thanh said she scolded Bay later, but Bay said Dung and Gia had guaranteed that they would make legal registrations for her to stay at the orphanage.
But they never did.
Quyen was too old to receive legal papers at the center, which only legally received children up to 2 years old.
Bay said when she learned that the papers could not be done, she asked for her daughter back, "but they then told me she'd been brought to the US."
Thanh said she was never consulted on the adoption and never received a fair explanation, even after visiting the center with questions several times.
She said she came to see Quyen every month, traveling 60 kilometers each time, until October 2007 when a neighbor who also put her grandchild in the center said Quyen "was being sold away."
She and Bay rushed to the center, but they were too late.
"I asked to see the center's leaders but they avoided me. I asked around the center about who sent her away, and why they did not ask for my permission. But everyone just shunned me," the grandmother said.
Thanh said the family has continued to visit the center and it's staff has tried to bribe them by asking if they needed anything.
"I told them I need nothing, I just need my granddaughter."
Both women said they missed the girl's voice and giggles around the house, how she kissed them and planned to go to work to save them from grazing cows.
Thanh keeps a photo of Quyen taken by the center and looks at it once in a while.
People from the center once brought some papers for them to sign but they did not as Thanh's eyes are weak and Bay is illiterate.
Thanh said the commune authorities rejected her complaint as they said Quyen was not staying at the orphanage legally, while the district and provincial authorities have kept mum about it.
Luu Thi Hong Anh, in charge of household matters at the Quang Nam Justice Department, said Vietnamese children can be adopted if they are orphans, disabled, have blood relationship with the adopters, or are abandoned by their own family.
Anh said her department will work with the center to clarify if Quyen falls into any of those conditions.
Vo Thi Hong Hanh, director of the center, said she was informed by her staff that the girl was abandoned at the center's gate.
Hanh said the center took out classified ads to look for the girl's family in local media but no one showed up after a month, which gave the center the right over the girl's future, according to the law.
She said she knew nothing of the family's visits.
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