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Netherlands pauses foreign adoptions after abuse

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum
February 8, 2021

An investigative commission has found that some children from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka were taken from their parents. The commission reports that officials knew of the abuse since the 1960s.

Woman carries baby
The commission studied adoptions from 1967-1998 in five countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.Image: Getty Images/AFP/L. Wanniarachchi

The Netherlands is suspending international adoptions after a government commission found that some children had been stolen  or purchased from their birth parents, Legal Protection Minister Sander Dekker announced on Monday.

Increasing numbers of grown-up adopted children discovered that their birth documents had disappeared or had been forged, or that their adoptions had been illegal.

The commission announced that it would freeze adoptions "immediately" because the national foreign adoption system remains susceptible to fraud and abuse "to this day."

What did the commission find?

The commission examined cases from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka from 1967 to 1998, but concluded that abuse took place long before and after this period.

It said that in some cases, children adopted via intermediaries were found to have been stolen or bought from their birth parents under economic pressure amidst poverty.

The Dutch government was already aware of the abuses in the late 1960s, and in a number of cases government oficials were "involved in adoption abuses," Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported the commission as saying.

Around 40,000 children from 80 countries had been adopted in the previous half century by Dutch parents.

How did the Dutch government react?

In a letter announcing the adoption freeze, Dekker said he "understood that this will be painful for some people, but let us not forget ... we are protecting children and their biological parents."

The minister apologized to the adopted children, adoptive parents and birth parents who were harmed in the practice.

The Dutch government failed "by turning a blind eye on abuse for years," he said.

Dekker said it would be up to the next administration to decide whether to renew overseas adoption practices that would not entail abuses.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government resigned last month over a child welfare fraud scandal but is staying on in a caretaker role to tackle the pandemic until parliamentary elections in March. 

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