‘I am a bought child’

Adopted Patrick Noordoven was searching for his real parents in Brazil and did an astonishing discovery

‘I am a bought child’

By Esther Wemmers
He could have already finished his studies. Have a job, or maybe even a family of his own. Instead the illegally adopted Patrick Noordoven (34) hooks up in the Brazil Baby Affair since almost fifteen years. He can still hardly believe which staggering facts he discovered about his origin.

Since 2001 the Brazilian Dutchman Patrick Noordoven travels through half of South America searching for his biological parents. To the frustration of his adoptive parents, who rather see him getting a career. But he can only find rest when the last stone is unturned in the big fraudulent adoption affair of the 80s. Newspapers are full of it thirty years ago. Childless Dutch appear on large scale to get around the long waiting lists for adoption by feign pregnancy and get into an airplane to Brazil with a pillow under their dress. In Brazil they get a baby from the intermediaries, which the couples subsequently register as their biological child with the aid of false documents Because there are frequent images on television in those days of children homes with crying infants in rusty little beds, nobody sees any harm in this.

But behind the scenes it turns out to be a business. Traffickers receive between 10’000 and 30’000 dollar for a baby, depending on the color of the skin. Brazil ‘exports’ in the 80s an estimated 400 children per month.

The babies from then are now adults. They want to know just as many legal adoptees where they come from. But that is not easy if official documents do not exist and adoptive parents cannot tell where and when ‘their’ child is born. These Brazilian children do not have to knock at the doors of television programs as ‘Spoorloos’. It’s too complicated.

Patrick starts his own search in 2001. Due to continuous digging many secrets are revealed. He is astonished. “Dutch intermediaries and civil servants at the embassy and the consulate appear to be aware of the manner in which fellow countrymen were helped to a Brazilian child, but nobody was ever punished. Partly because of them I was deprived of my identity. This is called “verduistering van staat” in Dutch. Five years in prison stands on this.”

Patrick grows up in a proper family in Gouda. His parents cannot get children and adopt two boys. “I arrived in the Netherlands on 8 March 1980, my little brother some years later – in a legal way. There was little conversation about our origin. “Cabinets were locked and I was not allowed to look in a safe with my documents.”

When he is 20, he becomes curious about his origins. “I studied in Maastricht and got to know a girl. She played music from South America, which I loved. Everything came together: I wanted to search for my roots.”

But when Patrick raised this with his parents, he comes home from a rude awakening. They have something to tell him. “At the dinner table I got told that my adoption was not done following the rules. How did not become completely clear to me. My Brazilian lawyer told me in 2011 that my adoptive parents bought me for an amount of the value of a piece of land with on it a house in the form of a gift to the children’s house.”

The illegal adoption is a tricky subject. Partly because of ‘grandpa’. Because he as employer of the emigration office of the Ministry of Social Affairs in The Hague turns out to have played a role in getting his ‘grandchild’ to the Netherlands in an illegal way. “He had a friend who was working for the consulate in São Paulo. This Hans, meanwhile passed away, and his wife have addressed their contacts and made sure that I could come to the Netherlands with false documents.”

Because of the secrecy the student feels himself literally all alone. But his decision is made: he is going to find his biological parents. It is the start of a ten year long search in which Patrick’s life in the Netherlands is at a stop. His study loan is mostly used for flying back and forth to South America.

Big quarrels occur between Patrick and his adoptive parents. “They rather did not see that I would start to ferret about the family secrets. I did get after insisting the address of civil servant Hans. The visit was one big deception though. I was just inside his house with swimming pool in São Paulo, when he shouted at me that I do not have the right to know who my real mother was. His wife, who had put her signature under my false birth certificate, stood silently next to him.”

Thanks to his incredible persistence Patrick finds out the truth step by step. He turns out to have come into the world in a big, modern hospital in São Paulo (“While it was always claimed that I was born in a small clinic”). A very young intern of a by Dutch people run children home picked up Patrick shortly after his navel cord was cut through. The girl hands the baby wrapped in a little blanket to the directress of the home, who was waiting outside. She then walks with Patrick to an alley where consulate worker Hans is already waiting with running engines. From the back seat a car door opens and the couple from Gouda takes their new son in their arms.

The couple reports some days later to a little office where they register Patrick is their biological son. Unexpectedly born during the holidays. Nobody asks questions. Hans’ wife acts as witness. Without problems they get a passport for the boy and leave the country. In an Excel-sheet Patrick has – once he knows in which hospital he is born – listed dozens of Brazilian women who gave birth to a boy around February 1980. One at a time he strikes them through. Telephone books are being sifted through, hospital archives combed and there are even calls in the Brazilian media to find that one Maria Bernardes.

As by a miracle Patrick finds after ten years a women who after a DNA test turns out to be his sister. Then the big clap follows. “My mother turned out not to be penniless at all.

My sister told me how my mother returned to the hospital many times to hear what had happened with me. She regretted that she has given me away. She did not get any answers though and crying she came home time and again. She cannot tell me herself anymore, because in the meantime she is passed away.”

He has a new family and after all those years he finally celebrates his birthday in the right day. But for the rest is the price high. Since one and a half year Patrick has no contact with his adoptive parents. And he actually does not rest either. Because how can it be that all those people assisted the illegal adoption practices could get away with it without punishment? That is what he wants to find out through juridical procedures against the State. “I want that justice prevails. I wish nobody what has happened to me. That I did not get the information and that nobody took my identity seriously. It took me more than ten years of my life and 120’000 Euro.”


Adoptive father Patrick
“We adopted Patrick with the best intentions and raised lovingly. Shortly after our marriage my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Because of heavy treatments it was unfortunately impossible to get children. Around 1980 there were long waiting lists for adoption. Through contacts in Brazil we were totally selflessly helped to get Patrick. In our case there is absolutely no question of ‘buying’ and nothing ever pointed to ‘traffickers’. From the proper voluntary gift to the childern’s home we received an official receipt. From the first day we tried to gather information about his roots, to find answers to questions he might later get. Thanks to the little information that we could gather for him, he had clues to find his roots eventually. We dissociate ourselves formally from some of Patrick’s statements.”


Illegal adoption
In 1981 an investigation is started to a couple from Wormer that wants to register a child born in Brazil with the municipality. The civil servant does not trust the birth certificate and informs the police. After the combing the archives of municipalites many dozens of couples are suspected of ‘verduistering van staat’ of newborn babies. There are so many that the deparment of Justice is at a loss. Because what do you do with maybe some hundred fraudulent imported children whose parents are impended to go to prison? Parents confess their illegal adoption in exchange for closure of the case. But intermediaries are also left alone. A Dutch lawyer admits that she has drafted dozens of false documents to get babies to Europe. They came to her office on the advice of the embassy and the consulate, she admits. Strangely enough no diplomate is arrested on the suspicion of complicity in ‘verduistering van staat’. There are strong rumors that this is because Dries van Agt, prime minister at the start of the investigation, would have an illegally adopted child in his own family circle. This is firmly denied by Van Agt: “I have to tell you that I cannot remember this whole affair”, he let us know. Police commissioner in Noord-Holland Jan Oost, former leader of the investigation, does not want to respond to questions why only one intermediary was prosecuted.


Patrick Noordoven recently founded an organization to help other victims of the baby affair in the search of their biological parents. More information can be found on www.brazilbabyaffair.org