The Cambodia Adoption Scandal

Before the Cambodian government suspended overseas adoption in 2009, scandals associating deceit and children-stealing in adoptions occurred in Cambodia. Over 3,696 Cambodian children have been adopted domestically or internationally since 1987. Many of the Cambodian adoptees were placed in orphanages at around three to nine years old by their families due to poverty, medical conditions, or other reasons. However, orphanage directors forged documents stating that the children were abandoned or orphans and set them up for adoption without the consent of their families. Families were tricked as orphanages assured them that their children would eventually come back to be their kids. Those families were neither able to find information about their children nor ask for help due to illiteracy and not being able to understand their rights. In one case, two sisters, 31-year-old Neang Phal and 37-year-old Neang Yorn, had seven of their children sent to Italy without their informed consent. The scandal separated children from their birth parents. It stripped the identity of many children, making them victims of human trafficking.

After the suspension in 2009, the Cambodian government put little to no effort into the investigation of this catastrophe. The government has also noted possible intentions to lift the ban on international adoption.

Other Adoption Scandals Across Asia

Adoption scandals not only happened in Cambodia but in other Asian countries too. From 1990 to 2010, 64,043 Chinese children were adopted to the US. In some of the adoptions, child abduction and trafficking were suspected to have happened. In 2005, Chinese and foreign media reported that officials in orphanages in Hunan sold over 100 children to another facility that provided those children to foreign adoptive parents. In India, Sivagama and her husband Nageshwar Rao told officials that their child Subash had been stolen. To find Subash, they sold two small huts and pulled their daughter out of school to fund the search. Today, they are still looking for Subash, who is now known to have been adopted overseas two years after his disappearance. Nearly all cases of international adoption are closed, and most birth parents no longer have the right to contact or receive information about their children. The confidentiality of the adoptions has made gaining information on children harder.

The Stolen Children Film

The Stolen Children film is an upcoming documentary that explores the story of Elizabeth Jacobs, who was adopted at the age of two under the Lauren Galindo scandal. In the Lauren Galindo scandal, the adoption facilitator Lauren Galindo searched for vulnerable children in Cambodia to tackle and sold them to international families. It has been reported that Galindo received $9000 to $10000 per child, and she is currently facing 18 months in prison. In the winter of 2021, eight student filmmakers will be taken to Cambodia for three weeks to shed light on Cambodia and film parts of the documentary. The mission of the film is for the director Elizabeth Jacobs to return to Cambodia in hopes of reconnecting with her Cambodian identity, discover her original culture, and understand what her life could have been before she was Americanized. After revisiting documents and photos back from her early life in regards to her adoption, Elizabeth Jacobs decides to go to Cambodia to find answers to questions about her past.

More Information:

  • For learning/knowing more about the documentary, visit and the social media platforms:
    • Instagram: @thestolenchildrenfilm
    • TikTok: @thestolenchildrenfilm
    • Facebook: @thestolenchildren
  • To help with the shooting of the documentary, donate to Funds raised will be used to rent out production tools such as cameras and lighting for the film.

Being Educated

A resource that seeks to educate audiences on the topic of Asian narratives is the novel Asian American Education: Identities, Racial Issues, and Languages edited by Russell Endo and Xue Lan Rong. It is a volume of research that explores Asian American experiences in education surrounded by racial issues and identity struggle within the Asian community. Still, something everyone can do to limit the effects of the lack of representation is to start with respect—to Asians and all races.