Dutch halt foreign adoptions over abuses

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The Netherlands has suspended adoptions from foreign countries after an inquiry found years of abuses, including impoverished mothers being coerced into putting their children up for adoption.

An investigative committee studied adoptions from 1967-1998 in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

They say the abuses include falsifying documents and paying or coercing mothers into giving up their children, as well as cases of child trafficking and "baby farming".

Dutch media began reporting on them in the late 1960s but previous governments failed to take decisive action to tackle the problems, the committee added.

"Not only have there been many abuses in the past, the system of inter-country adoption is still open to fraud and abuses continue to this day," the government-installed committee warned on Monday.

It said that the government needs to "restore its damaged relationship with adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents and families."

Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker conceded that Dutch governments had fallen short.

Governments "should have taken a more active role in preventing abuses and that is a painful conclusion," Dekker said.

"For this, apologies are in order and I therefore offer those apologies today to the adoptees on behalf of the Cabinet."

Adoptions that are already underway will be allowed to continue, Dekker said.

He also announced that a national expertise centre will be established to support adopted people in seeking their birth families.

The committee found cases of corruption and falsification of documents to make it impossible or very difficult to establish the birth families of adoptees.

It also cited a case uncovered in late 1980 of an Indonesian midwife who was arrested after 18 babies were discovered in her attic that were intended for adoption to Western and predominantly Dutch families.

Dekker said that although many adoptions were positive for families, "the government should have taken a more active role by intervening in cases where there was abuse".