Illegal adoptions remain possible by authorities looking away

June 27, 2019
Text Hélène van Beek

Cum laude. That’s how lawyer Elvira Loibl obtained her PhD at Maastricht University on 15 May with the thesis ‘The transnational illegal adoption market: A criminological study of the German and Dutch intercountry adoption systems’. Journalist Hélène van Beek looked at the 518-page dissertation and read ‘amazing and, to say the least, remarkable’ conclusions.

Loibl compared the international adoption practices of the Netherlands and Germany. And came to the conclusion that there is too little supervision of adoptions in both countries. And that the interests of the often unintended childless prospective parents count more than those of the child to be adopted and its biological parents.

This conclusion should be shocking, but it is not. Because it is generally known that foreign adoption procedures are very often corrupt. Adoption has now been called child trafficking for a long time. Children are taken from their biological parents under false pretences and sold by children’s homes or hospitals. By falsifying documents, these adoptions are subsequently laundered, says Loibl. And options fell by 80 percent worldwide. But because authorities look away in countries of origin as well as in adopting countries, this adoption market will continue to exist.

Whistle-blower Roelie Post

If abuses become known, it is mainly because journalists expose them. Loibl mentions TV programs Zembla and Brandpunt that denounced adoption scandals in Bulgaria, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. Argos (VPRO radio) also reported several times about corruption in Ethiopia. And newspaper Trouw wrote a lot about rogue adoption practices. Often after they received information from the Dutch Roelie Post, author of the book ‘Romania for Export Only’ (2007), about corrupt adoption practices at the time of Romania’s accession to the European Union. As an official of the European Commission, Post was charged with human and children’s rights in Romania. She was not recognised as a whistle-blower and had to fight a bitter battle for many years after being side-lined.

Roelie Post and Arun Dohle – an Indian adoptee adopted in Germany with a ‘corrupt adoption file’ – have been investigating and fighting worldwide adoption corruption for more than ten years with the organization Against Child Trafficking (ACT), which they founded. They convinced Ina Hut, at the time director of adoption agency World Children [Wereldkinderen], of abuses in China, India, Haiti and Ethiopia. According to Loibl, Hut saw the light on her own. Hut did indeed report corruption to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as Loibl describes. But the ministry did not intervene because trade interests were more important. It was also Hut who asked Post and Dohle to investigate adoptions from Ethiopia. In the ‘Fruits of Ethiopia’ report they concluded that irregularities were found in 19 of the 25 adoptions (2004-2009 period). It concerned, according to ACT, not coincidentally a few ‘bad apples’ but a corrupt system. Regarding Arun Dohle, who helped her intensively to provide evidence for adoption scandals, Loibl is nevertheless not so positive: “Whose enthusiasm and yes, sometimes even annoying, tenacity greatly helped me discover the dark bottom of the adoption industry.” Amazing. A scientist investigating corrupt adoptions then calls the person who informs her in detail “annoying.”

UN Children’s Rights Convention

Loibl calls a pillar of adoption procedures, the Hague Adoption Convention from 1993, the ‘Trojan Horse’. According to her, the intention is good: to prevent illegal adoptions. In practice, however, little comes of the ethical standards from the treaty, she says. The adopting countries, in this case the Netherlands and Germany, do not ‘monitor’ enough or there is insufficient control, which means that the corrupt adoption industry can continue to exist.

According to critics, led by Post, Loibl makes a fundamental mistake. It is not the Hague Adoption Convention that should be at the forefront of adoptions, which is now the case, but the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the Hague Adoption Convention adoption is seen as a ‘child protection measure’ and as a result adoption becomes easy and illegal adoptions can be legalized. According to Post, the Hague Adoption Convention undermines the UN Children’s Rights Convention, which states that a child can best grow up in its own environment. If biological parents are unable to do so, the options with family or others should be investigated. Adoption becomes an extreme exception in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Hague Adoption Convention is leading for Loibl. And although she exhaustively describes how and where corruption takes place, she does not conclude that international adoption must be stopped. Because there are always prospective parents who want to adopt a child and they will otherwise go underground, her reasoning is.

Pro-adoption lobby

The Council for the Application of Criminal Justice and Youth Protection (RSJ), also recalled by Loibl, advised in November 2016 to stop intercountry adoptions. But this advice died a silent death. An important reason for this is undoubtedly the unprecedented power of the pro-adoption lobby, also in the Netherlands. And so intercountry adoption continues and moves from one country to another after scandals and prohibition of adoptions.

It is therefore remarkable that Loibl mentions the word ‘lobby’ only twice in her extensive dissertation. On page 88: “Critics of intercountry adoption stand for a powerful pro-adoption lobby, including politicians, adopters, conservative think tanks and legal scientists who deny the seriousness and scope of illegal and negative adoption practices.” But the power of this all-determining lobby comes not covered in the dissertation.

It is also remarkable that the American lawyer Prof. David Smolin (Samford University, USA) is on her assessment committee. He adopted two girls from India but already knew that when they got off the plane in America it was wrong and “these children did not want to be in the United States”. In the German documentary ‘Babies for Sale Welweit’ (WDR, 9 October 2008), Smolin says that it concerns illegal adoptions from a children’s home, arranged without the mother’s permission. But he and his wife subsequently legalised these adoptions. Smolin is now a renowned adoption critic.

The press paid little attention to Loibl’s dissertation. But adoption is currently full and negative in the news. TV show Nieuwsuur recently had a broadcast about large-scale fraud involving the adoption from Haiti, of children who are not orphans. And a committee led by Mr. Tjibbe Joustra is currently investigating “the role and responsibility of the Dutch government in international adoption”. Does this committee come with conclusions that Loibl does not draw? The system fails and in this system there is no more room for adoptions.

Illegale adopties blijven mogelijk door wegkijkende instanties