Intercountry adoption is ‘in the best interest of the child’, how can Dutch democratic party (D66) be so certain?
Editorial by Wim Houtman
“Intercountry adoption has been seen for too long as a laudable way to save children in need.” That sentence is almost the closing sentence of the Joustra committee report [Committee Investigating Illegal Intercountry Adoption in the past] (February 2021). There are children in need and good solutions are non-existent in their own country; they are better off in the global north. Here there are – childless – couples who want to receive them lovingly. Adoption is a form of doing good. “In this way of thinking there was no room for contradictory or unwelcome judgments that could disturb this image.”
In fact, it still works that way, according to the reconstruction of the decision-making of the [Dutch] government in April last year, as shown by the FOI-based reconstruction in this newspaper. Perhaps there is room for ‘unpleasant’ judgments; the risk of abuses is under discussion. But the obvious conclusions are not being drawn. Minister Franc Weerwind wanted to stop adoption from distant countries, with a phase-out period of five years. However, when it came to light that his own political party D66 wanted to continue, he did a 360 degree turn within a day.
Many adopted children are doing fine and wouldn’t wish their lives had turned out differently, and many adoptive parents are of good will and provide a loving home; there isn’t any doubt about that. However, is continuing with intercountry adoption therefore ‘in the best interest of the child’, as D66 states?
During this decade, 48 million children under the age of five will die from “avoidable causes”. 200 million children suffer from malnutrition, almost 160 million are endangered by famine, and 160 million children are victims of forced child labour. More than three-quarters of all children under the age of fourteen grow up in a context of abuse or psychological violence. And the UN children’s fund UNICEF has even more extensive data. In the Netherlands, several dozen children are adopted from abroad each year. If that is a form of child protection, as proponents say, it is disproportionate to what is needed. On the other hand, intercountry adoption holds a risk of abuse – ‘up until today’, according to the Joustra report; and it’s impossible to prevent it, even if a central government established organization is set up in the Netherlands.
The entire Joustra committee and truth finding report wasn’t needed; in the end, D66 and the government gave in to interest groups yet again. The children in question do not yet have a voice. Furthermore, there is another group that is not being heard: their biological parents – the children are primarily entrusted in their care, if necessary with the help of people and institutions around them and with support from the wealthy global north.