‘My parents deprived me of a human right’

STÄFA – As a young adult Patrick Noordoven from Stäfa, found out that he had always celebrated his birthday on a day that he did not come to the world. The reason for this is a crime.

Shortly after the wedding, the woman received the diagnosis that she had cancer. She overcame the disease. But she was no longer able to have children of her own. This Dutch couple’s desire to have children was strong. It was 1980, and it took Mrs. and Mr. Noordoven just two weeks to become the parents of a Brazilian baby.
In restaurant Frohberg in Stäfa sits a slim man with a dark complexion and short black hair. The adopted son Patrick Noordoven is now 35 years old. He moved with his wife to Stäfa and has recently finished his studies at the University of Zurich. In the Netherlands, Noordoven did not feel at home. And so it should not be anymore. Too many negative memories are connected to his homeland. Speaking in German colored with Dutch, the young man tells his history. Now and then a desperate “It is unbelievable!” bursts out of him.

Secretive parents
In the city of Gouda in the Netherlands people would often ask the Mediterranean looking boy “Where are you from?”. More and more this question started to affect him. “I did not have an easy youth”, says Noordoven. Little did the youngster know that should he want to learn more about his origins, he was destined to hit a brick wall. Nor would he be able to look into his own documents, which were kept in locked drawers.
When he was 20 years old, the adopted son decided to search for his roots in Brazil. His adoptive parents did not like it. But there was something they had to share before he departed. “My life turned around 180 degrees”, says Noordoven. They revealed that he did not come to the world on his supposed birthday, 18 February 1980. And that his adoption was not compliant with the rules.

Secret baby handover
On 18 February 1980, twelve days after his birth, Mrs. and Mr. Noordoven wait nearby a children’s home in a suburb of São Paulo in the backseat of a car with its motor running. Behind the wheels sits a Dutch staff member of the Dutch consulate in São Paulo. The female leader of the Dutch-Brazilian children’s home walks to the car holding a baby covered in a blanket. The couple takes little Patrick in their arms. Three days later Mrs. Noordoven – who, according to the official reading, unexpectedly gave birth to a child during the holidays – and her husband register Patrick’s birth with the authorities, citing that they are his biological parents for the birth certificate. They have adopted Patrick illegally.
The Noordoven family went around the stringent adoption rules that were prevalent until the mid-1980s, and that made it impossible for most foreign couples to adopt a Brazilian baby. Thanks to their diplomatic contacts, the Noordoven family was able to quickly and without complication fulfill their desire to have children.

Arduous search
But they took the right to identity away from their child. As soon as a couple registers as the biological parents of an adopted child, they deprive him of his original identity. In the case of an official adoption however, an appropriate dossier of the child is deposited with the adoption authorities.
Illegal adoption is penalized with five years detention. However, once 20 years have passed after alleged illegal adoption, the act is expired. “Nevertheless, everything is being swept under the carpet in the Netherlands”, says Noordoven reproachful.
Since 2001, when he decided to trace his birth mother in Brazil, he has faced many obstacles. His adoptive parents remain silent and have only provided him with one contact. Also all those involved in organizing the illegal adoptions stay silent. On his meticulous search in Brazil, informants often deliberately steered him on the wrong path. In the archive of the São Paulo hospital in which he was born, Noordoven came across 100 potential mothers. He returned to Brazil every year and searched further. In 2011 he located his older half-sister. The riddle around his origin started to be solved.
Noordoven has two older half-sisters. The mother worked as maid and could not take care of all three children. The younger daughter lived with her, the older with the aunt. From this aunt, the adopted son learned that the mother returned to the hospital several times, asked for him and often cried.

Victim of child trafficking
Until 1985 Brazil stood under a military dictatorship. Partly involuntary, women who were not supported by the child’s father had to give up their child after birth. Noordoven believes he was a victim of child trafficking. His adoptive parents donated a generous financial sum to the children’s home from which he came. They also sent money for Patrick’s birth mother’s hospital stay and the medical treatment.
The parents received a receipt for their donation. The Brazilian director of the home confirmed to Noordoven, however, that their donation never reached the children’s home. In addition, through his investigation, it has been revealed that the mother’s medical costs were covered by the Brazilian health insurance. Noordoven can no longer ask questions to his birth mother. She passed away in 1985. He is no longer in contact with his adoptive parents. After he had made them responsible for his onerous situation in a letter, they broke contact. “They have deprived me of a human right.”
That so much injustice is done to many illegal adoptees, by parents such as his responding to questions about origin by remaining resolutely silent, is unacceptable for him. With his association Brazil Baby Affair (see box) Noordoven is supporting fellow illegal adoptees. He is still searching for his father.
Bettina Zanni

Box: Support for illegal adoptees

From the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s, many couples from Europe and the USA adopted Brazilian babies illegally. Under the name Brazil Baby Affair, the Dutch police, in cooperation with the German police, officially uncovered the illegal adoptions. In 2014 Patrick Noordoven founded the association Brazil Baby Affair which, based in Zurich, supports illegally adopted Brazilians around the world in regaining their right to identity as well as supporting original families. The focus is on adopted persons who prior to 1999, were registered in both Brazil and in the homelands of the illegal adoptive parents as their biological child. Noordoven works on a voluntary basis. He is currently searching for funding for the NGO Brazil Baby Affair to finance the organization’s work in tracing illegal adoptees’ birth families and restoring their right to identity.