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Root causes of child abandonment and child relinquishment in Viet Nam

UNICEF-Vietnam, International Social Services, Geneva, the Graduate Institute, Geneva (2011-2012)

Research team


  • Hervé Boéchat, International Social Services (Geneva)
  • Pien Bos, University of Humanistics, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Fenneke Reysoo, Graduate Institute, Geneva
  • Olha Mykytyn-Gazziero, Graduate Institute, Geneva


The goal of the study is to analyse the scope, nature and root causes of child abandonment and child relinquishment in Viet Nam in order to provide a basis for the Vietnamese Government to develop policies and programmes to prevent and protect children from being separated from their parents. This research aims at gaining insight in the circumstances and motives that lead birth-mothers to relinquish a child. The context to the study is that the number of adoptive parents in receiving countries is superior to the potentiality of supply of adoptable children in sending countries, and that this imbalance between demand and supply induces a strong pressure on the "system". Especially when the social protection system (of children and mothers) is not solid and when families are not able to escape (institutional) bio-power.

International adoption is a very sensitive field in Vietnam and has been under severe international scrutiny in 2008-2009, which has led to a moratorium on new inter-country adoptions in September 2010. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese government has adopted a New Law on Adoption and ratified the Hague Convention in November 2011, which came into force in February 2012. In 2009, there was empirically grounded evidence that the international adoptions coming from Vietnam were essentially induced by the demand on the international adoption market. However, no research had been conducted on the circumstances, motives and causes of the separation between birthmother and child from the birth-mothers’ perspective. The present study is meant to gain insights in child-abandonment and child-relinquishment from the birth-mothers’ perspective, which is a completely undocumented perspective.

The Gender Centre, together with International Social Services (Geneva) and the University of Humanistics (the Netherlands) conducts this research (period 2011-2012; Fieldwork realized between December 24th, 2011 and January 21st, 2012).



UNICEF-Vietnam, in co-operation with ISS-IRC Geneva

Related publications


  • Dambach, Mia with input from Nigel Cantwell, Fenneke Reysoo and UNICEF Viet Nam. 2013. Preventing abandonment and relinquishment of children. Keeping families together in Viet Nam. Advocacy Paper.
  • Reysoo, F. and P. Bos. 2013. Qualitative research into the root causes of child abandonment and child relinquishment. Research report. Geneva: International Social Services, with support from UNICEF Viet Nam and MOLISA.