Minister Dekker suspends intercountry adoption with immediate effect
The Dutch government failed to observe its duty of care for many years by looking the other way and failing to take action in cases of malpractice and abuse within the system of intercountry adoption. This is the conclusion drawn by Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker based on the report by the Joustra committee concerning the role and responsibilities of the Dutch government in the intercountry adoption system in the period 1967–1998. The committee concluded that the Dutch government was too passive in the past, based on its philosophy that intercountry adoption was 'a force for good'. This passive approach led to insufficient monitoring of adoption procedures and a failure to act on malpractice and abuse that came to light. Although a variety of measures were implemented over time to improve the monitoring and regulation of adoption, the committee concluded that the system contained inherent vulnerabilities. For this reason, Minister Dekker has elected to suspend intercountry adoption procedures with immediate effect.
'It is painful to discover that the government failed to do what it is expected to do. Although many adoptions were a positive experience for all concerned, the government should have taken a more active role and intervened in the cases involving malpractice and abuse. An explanation may be provided by the positive sentiments surrounding adoption in the 20th century, in which the guiding principle was that adoption was a force for good, although these sentiments by no means constitute a justification. The government apologises for this state of affairs.'
At the end of 2018, Minister Dekker announced that an independent committee would be set up to investigate historical adoption cases involving children from abroad. This followed a request under the Government Information (Public Access) Act (Wet openbaarheid van bestuur, Wob) regarding an adoption case from Brazil, as a result of which new information came to light. The information hinted at the potential involvement of the Dutch government in the illegal adoption of babies from Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s. The committee identified a variety of cases of structural malpractice and abuse in the countries it investigated, such as forgery of documents, child trafficking, fraud and corruption. Alongside these illegal activities, the committee also identified other unethical practices, such as coercing parents to give up their children under false pretences or under moral pressure, intentionally creating uncertainty about and obscuring information on people's backgrounds, and taking advantage of people in poverty. In certain cases, the Dutch government was aware of malpractice and abuse, but failed to take effective action. According to the report published today, this failure to take action resulted in the perpetuation of malpractice and abuse.
'When it comes to mistakes made in the past, adoptees should be given recognition and they should be able to rely on our help and assistance in the present. For the future, we must critically examine how we handle the issue of intercountry adoption.'
Adoptees seeking information on their origins will receive support from a national expertise centre. In addition to providing support during all stages of the search, this centre will also provide easily accessible sociopsychological and legal assistance. In addition, Dekker added that the state will no longer dismiss requests on the grounds of expiration of the period of limitation. This will boost the legal standing of adoptees who want to initiate proceedings against the state.
Dekker endorses the committee's viewpoint that it is doubtful that an adoption system could be designed in which malpractice is eliminated entirely, as opportunities to conduct sufficient monitoring of the adoption process are limited. Taking a position on the future of intercountry adoptions will be a matter for the next government. In the meantime, new procedures for adoption from abroad will be suspended immediately in order to protect children and their biological parents from malpractice and abuse. In concrete terms, this means that no new requests to initiate an adoption procedure will be processed. People who have already submitted a request and received permission in principle will be allowed to complete their procedure following additional monitoring.
If you are looking into your roots or have any questions about your biological origins, please contact the Netherlands Federation of Institutions for the Care of the Unmarried Mother and her Child (FIOM) at www.fiom.nl.
If you would like to discuss this issue with a professional counsellor, you can contact a MIND Korrelatie counsellor anonymously at www.mindkorrelatie.nl