Home Institution

Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development


For over a decade, Vietnam ranked in the top ten countries providing the most children for intercountry adoption (ICA), sending almost 11,000 children abroad since 2003 (U.S. State Department, 2015). It is likely that many of these children, however, were not orphans; evidence reveals that a lucrative baby-buying industry falsified information and trafficked children for years in order to meet the high international demand for healthy infants.

In this paper, I relate this history of ICA fraud to contemporary child sponsorship in Vietnam. I find that ICA and child sponsorship are intertwined in two contradictory ways. First, child sponsorship programs justly work to reduce the systematic need for ICA; through a combination of community development programs and individualized support, these programs combat the root causes that lead to child abandonment. At the same time, however, child sponsorship also mirrors ICA’s most fundamental problems, such as the prioritization of foreign needs over effective outcomes. Child sponsorship is thus simultaneously working to reduce the past problems of ICA while also inadvertently carrying on its most problematic legacies.

I investigated models and applications of child sponsorship in Vietnam through a practicum at the Center for Community Health and Development (COHED) in Hanoi, Vietnam. I worked with COHED for a total of 90 hours in three weeks. My practicum focus project was to create a child sponsorship program implementation strategy; upon completion, I presented my research and preliminary recommendations to COHED’s directors. For my research, I also interviewed the country director of Holt International.


Family, Life Course, and Society | International Relations | Social Welfare | Social Work