She says she is battle-weary and very disillusioned by all the wrongs she has come across over the past years. This week Ina Hut, director of Wereldkinderen (World Children) the largest adoption agency in the Netherlands, is calling it a day. She is handing in her notice in protest against the way things are run in the world of international child adoption.
By Maurice Laparlière*
In the Netherlands there are more than 30,000 children adopted from abroad. In the early years, international adoption was legalised in the mid 1970s, the children mainly came from South Korea, Indonesia and India. In a relatively high number of cases the adoption parents’ motives were idealistic. ‘Even if you can just save one of them,’ was a statement you heard a lot in those days, referring to children who led a miserable life, for example, in prostitution or in impoverished children’s homes.
Children from China
Today most children come from China. The attitude of many Dutch would-be parents has drastically changed over the past 30 years, says director Ina Hut from World Children:
“Would-be parents have strong desires, and I understand that. Everybody has the right to want children, but you don’t have the right to children. Children have the right to parents. The right to children doesn’t exist on this planet.
For me the last straw was an important political meeting in June. Once again it became clear that in the debate around international adoption it is not in the interests of children that come first, but in the interests of the would-be parents, or gay couples who want to adopt, and also in the commercial interests of the Netherlands and that of politicians who are afraid of losing votes. All other interests than that of the child.”
About seven years ago, Ina Hut left her job as university director and entered the adoption world, where she was amazed by the large role money played. According to her, especially Americans are prepared to pay a lot of money to cover the expenses of adopting a child. Therefore a relatively high number of children are allocated to the US.
Large sums of money are said to encourage the trade in children, China is notorious for this. A Chinese mother whose son was stolen explains what it is like to have to work everyday in the shop where her child disappeared:
“We have no choice. We cannot leave here, because just imagine that he tries to return and we have already gone. No way…"
Lack of communication
But there is more, says Ina Hut. A children’s home offering children up for adoption can often give more information about the identity of a child than they are doing now. This applies to China, but also to many other countries. And the Dutch government has acted spinelessly against this lack of communication. The Ministry of Justice recognises that China in particular has a fragile adoption system, but overall they consider it satisfactory, with good intentions.
According to the ministry an in-depth investigation could actually damage commercial and diplomatic interests. This infuriates Ina Hut. It is criminal to change or hold back the identity of a child, she says. Even though an adopted child has probably been stolen from the parents, it has the right to know that. She suggests the following solution for a system that is more fair:
“If you take a look at the amount of money involved in international adoption … invest that in the countries themselves and see whether the children can be taken care of there, in a good home or with family or friends. The big money should be taken out of the system. If, after a long search, there is no other solution for a child who has no parents to raise them, then adoption is an excellent answer. But only as a very last resort”
Ina Hut has had many reactions to the news she is leaving from Dutch foster parents. A large group thinks it is good that she is calling for more transparency, because no parent would want a stolen child. Another group says they cannot identify themselves with the image of ‘nagging’ and ‘being so obsessed by the desire to have a child that they don’t mind if a few rules are violated’. The procedure for adoption often takes years and involves a great many rules. Enough to make the procedure fair, they say. And like 30 years ago, you often hear the refrain: ‘Even if you help just one…’
Listen to an interview with Ina Hut:
Photo: EPA/David G. McIntyre
*RNW translation (hs)