Why International Adoption Should Not Yet Be Terminated?
In an ideal world every child has a safe home. Unfortunately, day-to-day reality is different. When a child does not have the option of growing up in the protective environment of the biological family, there sometimes is the option of a children’s shelter, a foster family, or adoption.
It has been scientifically proven that adoption is absolutely to be preferred over growing up in a children’s shelter. And, for a small group of children, intercountry adoption is a real option, also gladly offered by adoptive parents in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, intercountry and interracial adoption entered the scene in the 1970s. This, due to television broadcasts showing the suffering of children in war zones – such as Korea at that time. In 1971, the association Wereldkinderen was established in the Netherlands. From their 45-year-old archives as well as from scientific research, it can be concluded that most children who have been adopted from abroad are doing well in the Netherlands. Many of them live with Dutch adoptive parents, but a number of them also live with expat parents who were able to adopt a child through Wereldkinderen. In the Netherlands, there are five licenced organisations that facilitate adoption now.
These organisations, and many others, were unpleasantly taken by surprise in the first week of November when the advice of the Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles to the Ministry of Security and Justice was released. Its advice was to put an end to international adoption and it even went so far as to say that the cooperation in the area of intercountry adoption between China, the US and European countries should be terminated immediately.
The Council stated that rich countries such as China, the US and those in Europe should be able to offer relief to their own children, within in their own country, and therefore that these countries could be considered negligent of the principle of subsidiarity of the Hague Adoption convention. The possibility to adopt children through intercountry channels would, according to the Council, furthermore only hinder the development of proper youth protection in the (poorer) countries of origin. The Council also mentioned the risk of illegal practices – for instance, adoption for financial gain.
“It has been scientifically proven that adoption is absolutely to be preferred over growing up in a children’s shelter”
The Council, however, does not seem to realise what efforts are already being made in that area. Nor that it is up to the countries of origin themselves, of course, to determine when intercountry adoption is no longer necessary. To consider that the advancement of youth protection in poor countries is a task of the Netherlands’ could furthermore be considered quite arrogant.
The way the advice was presented has hurt many adoptive families and many adopted children. It was widely spread in the news. It was and is, however, all the more annoying as this advice of the Council was unsolicited, though this ‘detail’ did not make it to the headlines, of course.
As a member of the Board of Wereldkinderen, but also as an adoptive mom and a lawyer specialised in family law, I agree that children should preferably be taken care of by a family in their own country. And also, that all possible efforts be made to achieve this. Were it so that intercountry adoption was no longer necessary, I would certainly applaud it. For the time being, however, a lot of children can be given a second chance if they are adopted.
For adoption to be successful, the regulations of (intercountry) adoption should be followed, of course, and the licenced adoption organisations audited. This is common practice in the Netherlands. The aim should always be to optimise the regulations and the way adoption is organised in the Netherlands.
A complete termination of the practice of intercountry adoption, however, should be considered contrary to art. 4 Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets forth the obligation of States to undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures to implement children’s rights – to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international co-operation.
It would appear that the various interests have insufficiently been taken into account. We do not close down all paediatric hospitals because most children are not ill, nor do we do this because a medical mistake has been made in one of them.
“Were it so that intercountry adoption was truly no longer necessary, I would applaud it”
It is expected that the Ministry will respond to this advice in the beginning of 2017. After that, the House of Representatives will organise a public inquiry during which experts will be consulted. Presently, it appears from further consultation with the Ministry, and from the reactions within the Netherlands, that the unsolicited advice will likely not be adopted by the Ministry. We will have to wait until next spring, though, to know this for sure.
As, however, the Council has shown little respect for the poor countries of origin and even snubbed the richer countries of origin, the harm seems to have been done already. Not only emotionally – to the adoptive families in the Netherlands – but especially to the children who were about to be adopted by adoptive parents in the (near) future in the Netherlands. This, as the countries of origin will not appreciate the way they have been bullied by the Council. The expectation is that these countries will reconsider whether they want to allow their children to leave for the Netherlands. An irreversible process appears to have been started. The consequences, however, are as yet undefined. Especially for the licenced organisations that facilitate adoption and after-care, and the families using their services or planning to do so. This, as we are not living on a remote island.
As a family lawyer, I always try to point out to my clients the consequences of my solicited advice and even more so of my unsolicited advice. This, as we do care.