Adoption procedures have been suspended following report of investigation
May 10th 2021
On February 8th 2021 a commission named Research Intercountry Adoption handed their report to the minister for legal protection, Sander Dekker.
The minister appointed the commission, headed by Tjibbe Joustra LL. M in 2019. Its task was to investigate the role of the Dutch government in intercountry adoption, focusing primarily on the years from 1967 through 1998. Adoptions from Brasil, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Bangladesh were specifically looked at.
Outcome of the investigation
The commission concludes that in the entire period (specified above) of intercountry adoption, and in all of the above countries, there have been malpractices. The government and the mediators knew from the 60’s onward that this was the case. The government neglected to intervene. Some of the malpractices were: falsified documents, child trafficking, fraud and corruption. But also unethical actions like pushing for relinquishment, creating uncertainty or vagueness about the origins of children, and taking advantage of impoverished people.
The system continued to exist because there was a demand for children, and a financially driven adoption market. It exists in part due to socio-economic inequality that turns children into a commodity.
These malpractices are not a thing of the past, they still take place according to the commission. The financial incentives are still there, and so is the demand for children.
This investigation shows that most adoptees are doing well. At the same time adoption equals loss: of growing up with the birth family, of country and culture, and often of sufficient information about the family of origin. Several of the adoptees the commission talked to described their lives as ‘split’. Connecting the reality of their country of birth with the reality of living in the Netherlands is a task that sometimes feels like an impossible one, especially when there is no information about their origin. The fact that most adoptees are doing well in spite of those circumstances is something the commission sees as a sign of their resilience. Unfortunately not all adoptees are doing well. For everyone involved the recognition of an inadequate response by the government and the mediators is desirable and necessary.
Aside from recognition adoptees have a need for specialised psychological support as well as support in finding out more about their origins by making archives accessible, DNA-searches available and having searches for biological family facilitated. The commission pleads for making all of this structurally and financially accessible
The adoption system
The commission concluded that the present adoption system cannot be upheld as is. It seriously doubts whether a system can be designed in which abuses will no longer occur. The commission recommends suspending intercountry adoptions until further notice. It also pleads for taking to heart the lessons this investigation teach us, not just for adoption, but for other forms of creatng a family as well, for example surrogacy practices.
Minister Dekker’s Reaction
Minister Dekker thanks the commission for holding up the mirror in which government officials have avoided to look for so long.
“It is painful to have to conclude that the government has not acted the way it was expected to act. For, as many adoptions have been a positive experience, the government should have had a more active role of intervening in those cases that represented the negative side of adoptive practices. The positive sentiments in society regarding adoption in the last century – with the leading idea that adoption meant doing good – offers an explanation, but no justification. “For this attitude by the government apologies are in order”, Dekker said.
The minister offers apologies to the adoptees in name of the cabinet. The cabinet accepts the recommendations listed in the report: adoptees should be able to have the confidence from now on that the government will provide more professional support for their searches. Furthermore, says Dekker, the government will no longer claim a prescribed period of limitation in case of adoption. This strengthens the legal position of adoptees.
Adoption procedures suspended
The minister thinks it is time to reconsider international adoptions. He has suspended intercountry adoption effective immediately to protect children and their parents against possible malpractice. A new cabinet will eventually need to take definitive action on this matter.
This means new applications to enter the adoption procedure will not be processed until further notice. Those who have a permit already can continue their adoption process, provided that they complete an additional test. For the time being no new permits will be issued. Information sessions for aspiring adoptive parents have been cancelled.
What is Fiom?
Fiom supports adoptees in their search for their origins and provides post adoption services for adult adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents. We also provide the information sessions for aspiring adoptive parents.
The results of the investigation will affect all of those personally involved in adoption: the adoptees, the (aspiring) adoptive parents and the birth parents. We think now it is important that the focus is on them and that they get the opportunity to react and to share their stories.
Recognizing their feelings on this matter is important and we hope to contribute to what they indicate their needs are.
We support the recommendations of the Joustra commission.
We agree that recognition of what went wrong in the past is important; especially for adoptees. That recognition explicitely pertains to the cabinet’s role in the regrettable abuses in the past is important as well. Tenacious lobbying by the adoptees themselves is what led to this recognition.
Now it is important for the minister to make sure that adoptees will be supported in the search for their origins and that their legal position improves.
The minister has talked about setting up a center of expertise that can provide post adoption support, facilitate access to files, and offer legal support. We hope that this offers new opportunities and answers to questions adoptees have in their searches.
We are ready
We understand that the news raises questions for everyone involved. Are you an adoptee, an adoptive parent, an aspiring adoptive parent, or otherwise involved, and would you like to discuss or ask something?
You can reach us at: 030 – 233 03 40 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also contact Fiom (Adoptievoorzieningen is part of Fiom) at
If you speak Dutch you can also check the following FAQ’s
Adoption Services is the national organization in The Netherlands that offers information, preparation, and aftercare in the area of adoption. Under the authority of the Department of Justice and Security, Adoption Services provides the information sessions that are part of the adoption procedure. General information about adoption and the adoption procedure is available via the telephone information line and the English brochure ‘Adopting A Child’.
Also Adoption Services provides information, and support to adoptive parents and adoptees. Professionals can contact us for consultation and continuing education.
Once a child has come to the Netherlands a very intense phase starts for the family concerned. Adoption Services supports adoptive families and adoptees in a variety of ways. Watch the video for more information.
For more information about adoption, preparation and aftercare, including the request of a registration form or brochure ‘Adopting A Child’ you can call on weekdays from 9:00 until 14:00 hrs: 030 – 233 03 40 (choose 1).