Adoption of foreign children started in the seventies and was organized for a long time by private foundations with good contacts in countries such as Colombia, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Although there were already many stories about abuses concerning child molestation in the early 1980s, it took until 1989 in the Netherlands for the state to supervise foreign adoption.
Because of the risk of abuses, the Council for Criminal Justice Application and Youth Protection recommended that foreign adoption should be completely stopped by the end of 2016, but the Dutch Parliament rejected this advice at the beginning of this year.
It costs the 40,000 adoptees in the Netherlands a lot of money and effort to retrieve information about their biological family because files are missing or contain false information.
International DNA databases such as Family Tree offer a new search option. In these databases, millions of people worldwide are already registered with their DNA profile. Who sends in his saliva sample – this costs about 75 euros – can compare his own genes with everyone in that database in one go. Because the lab compares the DNA profiles to 700 thousand markers, not only immediate family members, but also distant relatives can be found. This information can also help a search.
De Volkskrant traveled last week with the Dutch foundation Plan Angel, which in Colombia distributes these DNA kits free to parents who are looking for their missing child. Conversations with fourteen Colombian mothers show that in most cases adoption was done without their consent. Mothers say, for example, that their baby was taken from the hospital after birth or that a (clean) family member signed in their place for the adoption.
This group of parents often does not have the knowledge or the money to send DNA samples to a database themselves. Stichting Plan Angel helps them with this, because according to founder Marcia Engel DNA-comparison only works if also in countries of origin people register in many large numbers.
Emeritus-professor of adoption Hoksbergen thinks it ‘actually absurd’ that a small foundation should collect private donations to make such important research possible. ‘The adoptees have the Dutch nationality and have been brought here with permission from the Dutch state. Then as a government, you have a responsibility. You could set up information points in origin countries and provide DNA tests or at least support the work of such a foundation. ‘
Jurist Dewi Deijle, who was adopted from Indonesia, started a petition earlier to argue for financial compensation for the search of adoptees to their families. She also refers to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by the Netherlands, which states that if a child is ‘illegally deprived of his identity’, the state must provide assistance and protection to restore that identity.
Minister Sander Dekker (Legal Protection) said last week that he thinks that ‘the primary responsibility’ for a careful distance procedure and file formation lies with the ‘sending countries’. For Dekker, the role of the Dutch government is currently limited to arranging free access to their files for adoptees.
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