‘936 Children Taken to Belgium and Nobody Knows if this Occurred Correctly’

29 April 2019 (Google Translation)

Although the Government had Enough Signals Regarding Fraud with Adoption from Ethiopia, ‘936 Children Taken to Here and Nobody Knows if this Occurred Correctly’

Last weekend, a 17-year-old girl testified in this newspaper about fraud regarding her adoption from Ethiopia. As it turns out, her file was made up from the beginning up until the end. Inquiry shows that the Flemish government has no clue if the other 935 adoptions went correctly. ‘’ We cannot be a hundred percent sure. ‘’ According to our information, serious signals had been ignored in 2011. ‘’ The government has no excuse for the fraud that is just now popping up. ‘’

Her mother had disappeared, and her father died. That is what Thereza’s adoption file said in black and white. That file was the reason why the Ethiopian girl was eligible for intercountry adoption in 2009 in Flanders. Back then, Thereza was seven years old, and she found a new home in Denderleeuw. However, her adoptive parents soon realized that they had been lied to. ‘’ My biological mother had not disappeared at all, and my father was still alive, ‘’ testified Thereza last weekend in this very newspaper. ‘’ My date of birth also turned out to be made up. ‘’ She is 17 years old today and questions how her adoption went. ‘’ I am happy in Flanders, but I am also angry when I see how careless they have dealt with my file and my biological parents. We are no products with which you can do whatever you want. ‘’

It does not make sense

The story about Thereza is probably not the only one. The past 20 years, Ethiopia has been the most popular country to adopt from. Two Flemish adoption agencies brought a total of 936 children to Flanders. All with the permission of the Flemish government. Today, the very same government is not able to guarantee that all adoptions are based on the correct information. ‘’ To give one hundred percent certainty is very difficult, ‘’ says adoption officer Ariane Van Den Berghe. ‘’ In Ethiopia, no competent authority checked everything. The Flemish adoption agencies cooperated with local contacts and homes. Local authorities succeeded them. ‘’ According to our information, the system to bring the 936 children here rattles on all sides. Moreover, adoption agencies and the government have known for years. In January 2011, a documentary on Dutch television blew up everything. An Ethiopian girl testified about the fraud that was committed in her file. The Dutch investigative journalists also spoke with an NGO called Against Child Trafficking. It was revealed that they had sampled adoptions from a Dutch adoption agency. How did this turn out? 75% of the Ethiopian files consisted of fraud or serious errors. The report also impacted Flanders. So much that the Flemish government even decided to contact the NGO.

On Monday, January 10, 2011, Flemish adoption officer Dorine Chamon sends an e-mail to Roelie Post, the person in charge at Against Child Trafficking. She wrote: ‘’ Hi Roelie, saw the documentary about Ethiopia. Am severely interested in the results of your research. Can you send it to us? Or explain it to us?’’ A quick answer followed, and both of them met in Brussels. ‘’ I told the adoption officer that I could not give her our research because it belonged to our original client,’’ explained Roelie. ‘’ But I did have a long conversation about Ethiopia with her. I explicitly told her what was going on there, and how big the risk was when it came to fraud. ‘’

Devil Extrusions

For as far as we could check, nothing happened with that information in 2011. Dorine Chamon only confirms us that a meeting with Roelie Post occurred. ‘’ I cannot comment any further. That is up to the new adoption officer.’’ Chamon was succeeded in 2012 by Ariana Van Den Berghe. She could also not confirm if there was anything done about this in 2011. Everything indicates that the testimony by Roelie Post was ignored. Our newspaper bumped into more information that should have rung the alarm bells of the authorities. In the same period of the Dutch documentary about the Ethiopian adoption frauds, alarming reports about neglect and child trafficking through a network of Ethiopian orphanages surfaced in the United States and Australia. It concerned, among other things, the homes of the Gelgela group. A group with which the Flemish adoption agency Ray of Hope cooperated intensively. Thereza was in a Gelgela-group home between the years 2007 and 2009 before she came to Denderleeuw. ‘’ There, there were priests for devil exorcisms,’’ she says. ‘’ There was also a drunk guard who sometimes beat children, and white Americans came there to choose children. ‘’

According to documents that the American embassy made public in 2012, it turned out that there were already big question marks when it came to the Gelgela-orphanages in March 2010. In a research report, it became clear that the general circumstances in which the children stayed were impoverished. More importantly: the American researchers reported that there were serious shortcomings regarding the files of these children. ‘’ The information in these files is often deceptive.’’ It states. The American government needed only one visit in Ethiopia to conclude that there was something wrong with the Gelgela-orphanages. In our Flanders, nobody suspected anything. For years. Finally, the Ethiopian government itself – under pressure from the US – closed down the Gelgela orphanages in 2012. During that time, adoption agency Ray or Hope already had brought 72 children through those orphanages to Flanders.

The question arises to what extent the files of those 72 children are correct. However, this also concerns the records of the other children who came through Ray of Hope. These can be questioned as well. In total, 626 Ethiopian children are involved. They all went through the same contact person: Bruk Beyene Ayano. The Ethiopian arranged all adoptions from 1997 to 2017. At least in one file, that of Thereza, now appears that he made serious mistakes. However, files also popped up in 2015 where adoptive parents had questions. The Flemish government then had those fully screened and bumped in two cases of shortcomings. At Ray of Hope, they are firm of the opinion that their contact person was trustworthy. ‘’ We never got any signals that he ( Bruk ) was not working correctly. Ray of Hope tries to work together closely with the Belgian embassies in all countries. We always had excellent contact with the embassy in Ethiopia, and they were not negative about him,’’ states coordinator Erika van, Beek. She emphasizes that employees traveled to Ethiopia regularly to ascertain the situation. ‘’ We have, for example, in Ethiopia always aimed for a correct statement of the estimated age of the children. After all, there is no official birth registration. Our prospective adoptive parents always knew that in advance. I will not deny that there were signals, but we did never find solid evidence that the situation in Ethiopia was completely wrong. ‘’

Silly arguments

Also, the Flemish adoption officer, Ariane Van Den Berghe, says that there was never enough, formal proof to quit with the Ethiopian adoptions during that period of time. ‘’ Just because there are stories in the media, does not mean that you have enough proof. One must be able to verify those claims in order to stand strong on the judicial level to close down the adoption source. For Roelie Post from Against Child Trafficking, these are silly arguments. ‘’ The government has no excuse for the fraud that surfaces now. One already knew what the risks were and there was enough proof abroad that the system in Ethiopia was not functioning accordingly. One should have quit adoption procedures with that country then, but one did not want to take the risk. Quitting with adoption from a certain country causes much fuss because you have hundreds of prospective adoptive parents on the waiting lists who get angry. For politicians, these people are more important than the children in Ethiopia, so they would rather let it go.’’ That theory is confirmed to us by an employee at the Flemish government who saw how the adoption procedures occurred for years. ‘’ There is so much political pressure to keep a country open for adoption. ‘’ mentions our whistleblower, who would rather stay anonymous because of the political retaliation.

‘’The reasoning is: ‘You only quit when you are 200% sure that there is a fraud. Otherwise, not. ‘The officials do not have a choice, politics decide. Also, one looks into the waiting lists most of the time. It is more important that those are not too long. How the adoptions develop in the country of origin, is not as important.’’

Political pressure

According to our source, the pressure is originating from all parties. ‘’ They all have adoption experts who work in favor of prospective adoptive parents or adoption agencies.’’ Adoption official Ariane Van Den Berghe emphasizes that a lot has changed the past few years. ‘’Many measures have been taken that can guarantee a higher chance of a correct course. At the moment, for example, we cooperate only together with countries which have a central authority who checks everything. It is small comfort for the 936 Ethiopian children who were moved to Flanders between the years 1997 and 2017. A part of them will possibly never be sure if fraud was committed regarding their files. ‘’ Who has any questions, can always contact us,’’ decides Van Den Berghe.