The Netherlands has suspended all international adoptions after a government investigation uncovered over three decades of abuses, including coercing or paying foreign mothers to give up their children.
The investigation started after an increasing number of adoptees looked into their family history and later discovered their birth documents were either forged or lost, or their adoption was illegal, according to Aljazeera
Investigators, who looked at adoptions from other countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka from 1967 to 1998, uncovered officials who were aware and involved in the abuses. Tjibbe Joustra, a top civil servant who led the investigative committee, said the problem was present before and after the known period of abuse, BBC
In their report, investigators found the current system is still susceptible to fraud.
The officials in the system failed to intervene in the abuse by “looking away from abuses for years,” Minister for Local Protection Sander Dekker said.
“The government has not done what should be expected of it and should have taken a more active role in preventing abuse, and that is a painful observation. There are apologies for this. And I therefore offer these apologies to the adoptees today, on behalf of the cabinet.”
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Widya Astuti Boerma, a 45-year-old Dutch woman who tried to look for her Indonesian biological parents, said she welcomes the government’s decision to suspend international adoptions.
“Dutch inter-country adoption is still based on a money incentive procedure and this motivates trafficking,” Boerma, who was adopted at five-years-old, said. “Today, inter-country adoption is still focused on adoption parents who are looking for a child, and this should actually be the other way around.”
Dutch nationals adopted more than 3,000 Indonesian children before the Indonesian government put an end to the practice in 1984.
“The positive sentiment around adoption in the previous century – with the leading idea that we were doing good by adoption – may be an explanation, but it is not a justification,” Dekker said. He also apologized to adopted children, adoptive parents, and birth parents affected by the practice.
Mijn Roots Foundation, which helps adopted children find their biological parents, presented data showing the number of children by birth country adopted by Dutch nationals between 1971 and 1980. South Korea topped the list with 2,317 adoptees, followed by Indonesia with 1,788, and India with 865.
Between 1981 and 1992, the numbers had increased with Sri Lanka surpassing South Korea in numbers with 2,971 children followed by Colombia (2,132), India (1,517), South Korea (1,323) and Indonesia (1,252).
Although Indonesian-Dutch adoptees have welcomed the Dutch government’s apology, they said this is just the first step in doing what is right for the victims.
Boerma spent decades searching for her biological parents and noted the painful process she had to go through when she discovered her documents were fake. Her adoptive parents also felt guilty, unaware of what had happened.
“What I blame the Dutch government for is that my adoptive parents were never told what happened. They were never told that there was a possibility that I could have been a victim of child trafficking or that my documents were fake,” Boerma said. “My adoptive parents feel really guilty because they might have taken a child from a mother in Indonesia, which was never their intention.”
Dutch nationals adopted around 40,000 children in the past half-century, but the numbers saw a massive decline in recent years, with only 149 adopted children in 2019.
Feature Images via Getty