Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"Adoption from China is a 'politically sensitive issue'"

On October 1, 2009, Ina Hut, former director of Wereldkinderen in the Netherlands, presented a summary of actions, taken by herself and the Dutch Ministry of Justice, to the Dutch Parliament. Her report details how she became aware of issues of corruption in China's international adoption program, attempts made by herself to gather more information on these issues, and the response she received from both the CCAA and the Dutch Ministry of Justice.

Presented below is an English version of her presentation. On our subscription blog one will find two interviews I conducted with Ms. Hut, one prior to the report's release, one following. In these interviews she expands on the evidence she found for corruption on her visit to China in April 2008, and the difficulties she experienced in bringing such problems to the forefront.

With the Canadian government now walking the same path as the Dutch, one can see that "official" investigations instigated by receiving countries are impotent at best, and deceptive at worst. The structure of such investigations is always the same, and the outcomes are just as predictable: 1) Media raise and publicize evidence of wrong-doing; 2) Receiving government feels pressure to perform some action of inquiry; 3) Receiving government makes a "formal" inquiry of the CCAA asking for reassurance that all is well; 4) CCAA admits some isolated events, but assures receiving country that problems have been resolved; 5) Receiving government, thus reassured, announces that questions concerning corruption have been answered satisfactorily.

Readers will recognize that Ina Hut's report is damning since it clearly demonstrates that receiving governments have no real interest in "rocking the boat" with China, and actively work with the CCAA to downplay any negative outcome. It is all a formalized dance of inquiry and obfuscation. There is little desire, by any party, to get to the truth.


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Report of Ina Hut, Former Director/Director of World Children (from February 2003 to September 1, 2009 statutory director/director).
I. Introduction
This document provides a chronological account of events surrounding adoptions from China, how this issue was handled by the Ministry of Justice (MVJ), and how the “Wereldkinderen” responded.
This report is also a response to statements issued by the MVJ on the “Netwerk” broadcast of August 18, 2009 and replies to the official questions as a result of the broadcast  which were made by the opposition Socialist Party and Christian Democratic majority party.

Reporting starts from the moment that “Wereldkinnderen” confronted evidence of abuse surrounding adoptions from China (early 2006) until the moment I resigned my position (September 1, 2009).

The reason I resigned my position can be summarized in outline:
- The high risk to children inherent in the current system;
- The fact that the Central Authorities in inter-country adoption place other interests above those of the children;
- The lack of support, even from the MVJ to examine the accuracy of the backgrounds of children from China and the correct procedures. Although the MVJ  stated in their reaction on the Netwerk documentary, that  Wereldkinderen would do an undercover investigation, there was no form of  research acceptable to the MVJ.

This report is designed in particular to substantiate the above outline, based on a chronological listing of events with respect to adoptions from China (Part II). Some of the criticism can also directed at a number of other sending countries. I will then go to the personal conclusion (Part III) and finally give some recommendations on international adoption (IV).

II. Background on adoptions from China
For several years, there have been indications that China’s orphanage directors were paying money to bring children into welfare institutions. There is already several years’ worth of evidence that the background and identity of children proposed for adoption are routinely changed. There are also many indications of direct children. This survey does not aim to provide a complete picture of all indications and evidence, but does give a picture of what was known to “World Children” and the MVJ.

In late 2005/early 2006 the Chinese media reported a large child trafficking scandal in Hunan, which took place in the period from 2003 to 2005. From the moment that “Wereldkinderen” received these  signals , in the Spring 2006, “Wereldkinderen”  pressed the MVJ to do further research on adoptions from China . These  signals were publicized in February 2007 by the Dutch media, including in newspaper “Trouw” (Exhibit 1).

In March 2006, a delegation from “Wereldkinderen” (including myself) traveled to China to get answers to the questions of whether this particular scandal in Hunan may involve children who were adopted to the Netherlands. The Chinese Central Authority (CCAA) declined formally  disclosing the identities of the children involved to “Wereldkinderen”, because “World Children” was not a formal governmental body or interlocutor. Formally, the Dutch Central Authority (MJV) had a communication link with the CCAA, and the CCAA wished communications go through the Dutch CA, the MVJ. Informally, we were told by  employeesereldkinderen” urged the MVJ to obtain more information through their contact with the CCAA (eg, letter dated April 21, 2006, Exhibit 2). of the CCAA that children from the child trafficking scandal had gone abroad. In response, “W

The Ministry of Justice in May 2006 visited the CCAA in Beijing. The travel report  of  the Ministry indicates that "given the sensitivity of the subject the irregularities were discussed only in the  later course of conversation.” The travel report indicated that it was "found that none of the children went to the Netherlands' and that in all cases where children  have gone for adoption abroad, the embassies of the countries concerned  were informed.”  Based on this information ,  which the Ministry  gave to Wereldkinderen  informed  the Dutch adoptive parents. At that time it appeared that the CCAA had the scandal well under control and that all the accused had been punished (see travel  report MVJ May 2006, requested from MVJ).
In early 2007, however, there were signs that the CCAA had given the same answer to all receiving countries. While the CCAA had informally confirmed that children from this scandal had gone for adoption abroad, every country was told that no children have gone to that country. Additionally, researchers who had studied the matter thoroughly indicated that there may have been many more children involved in the scandal, and that not all perpetrators had been punished. “W ereldkinderen” thus continued to have questions  Questions “World Children” could not make directly to the CCAA, for the CCAA had clearly stated that “World Children” did not  was their formal contact. “World Children” also received during the first half year 2007 new indications and messages via the media and adoptive parents that there was more to it than that  was said by the CCAA. “W ereldkinderen” informed the MVJ of this, with the request that they do further research (including telephone and email exchange, January 2007).  At July 23, 2007, the Ministry of Justice sent then - at the insistence of “World Children” - a letter to the CCAA (exhibit 3), which asked whether, after the visit with the CCAA, any new facts had been made available and whether anything was revealed about possible irregularities concerning adoptions to the Netherlands. Also, the letter asked  - again at the insistance of Wereldkinderen, what efforts on the part of the CCAA be been done to prevent or deter trafficking of children for (intercountry) adoption, and what preventive measures  were taken to ensure that children are not unlawfully obtained (i.e. contrary to the principles of international conventions),  to make them available for intercountry adoption.

In October 2007, British Channel 4 news reported another case of child trafficking in China (Exhibit 4). In China, 70,000 children are marketed and sold annually, stated Kevin Bales, adviser to the UN program against human trafficking.

 Wereldkinderen  requested  the  MVJ , in a letter on October 18, 2007   to investigate a possible connection between the abuses mentioned in the documentary and international adoption (Annex 5).
The MVJ then sent on November 15, 2007 (Exhibit 6) a letter to the CCAA in which the Minister of Justice expressed concern over the recurring reports of child-trafficking in China. He asked for a response from the CCAA. This letter also referred to the letter of July 23, 2007 of the MVJ to the CCAA, which at that time  has not been answered by the CCAA.

Moreover, we received the two letters sent to the CCAA  by the MVJ only until January 28, 2008, at our request (by mail). After “W ereldkinderen” on January 22, 2008 inquired by mail whether a response was received from the CCAA, the MVJ on February 1, 2008 sent a reminder letter to the CCAA.

On February 20, 2008 (Exhibit 7), the CCAA sent a response to the letters from the MVJ. The letter of February 20, 2008 by the CCAA stated that the child trafficking scandal in Hunan was a singular incident. In the same letter the CCAA indicated that all the children were abandoned children, and were proposed for adoption in accordance with the rules, and that the interests of the child were paramount. The whole procedure had transpired in accordance with the rules of the Hague Adoption Treaty. It was noted: “It's better not to pursue, expand or elaborate on this issue further and to keep secret for related families in order not to interrupt the bond established between the adoptive parents and the children.” In the same letter the CCAA stated that the BBC documentary had not been viewed by her, and that she therefore could not comment on the issue (this documentary was available on the Internet; see previous comments in this report). “W ereldkinderen” received moreover, after repeated requests, the letter of the CCAA to MVJ until July 17, 2008.

On February 22, 2008 (Exhibit 8) “W ereldkinderen” sent a letter to the MVJ which mentioned the persistent rumors that the Hunan scandal involved a much larger group, approximately one thousand children, many more than the 65 children spoke about by the CCAA.

“Wereldkinderen” also stated in that letter to the MVJ  that  the CCAA all receiving countries have reported that  none of the children  involved went the  particular   country. The CCAA stated to “Wereldkinderen” (during our trip in March 2006)  and also staed to MVJ that there were children  who were involved in the Hunan  scandale who were sen abroad for adoption. Where had those children then gone?

But there was more to it. “World Children” mentioned in this letter that a prominent high official in China had stated "off the record” that “an examination by the CCAA in China showed that there were enough domestic parents available to adopt the healthy children, and that they are queuing up.” “Wereldkinderen” again asked the MVJ in the same letter to do further research.

There was however no conclusive answer. All World Children received the aforementioned letter of the CCAA to MVJ dated February 20, 2008, we also only  received this letter after repeated requests on July 17, 2008 from the MVJ.

“Wereldkinderen” felt that research should be done, so on February 25, 2008 we asked the Hague Permanent Bureau if they saw opportunities to investigate this matter further. The letter from “Wereldkinderen” to the MVJ (dated February 22, 2008) was included. On March 4, 2008, “Wereldkinderen” was informed that  the HAgue Permanent Bureau from none of the central authorities had received a request for further research. It was further stated that she could not respond to a request by a private entity. Moreover, it was told that the Hague Permanent Bureau didn’t have the resources nor the powers to investigate. The MVJ  has been informed about  this  answer of the Hague Permanent Bureau by Wereldkinderen on April 25, 2008  and received  by   mail and by  regular mail copies of  the  two letters. Quote from the letter of the Hague Permanent Bureau (signed by William Duncan): “I have to stress that we have not been asked by either of the Contracting States (i.e. China and the Netherlands) to provide any assistance in relation to the matters mentioned in your letter (dated 22 February 2008)  adressed to Mr. Levenkamp. Indeed, it would be highly unusual for us to be asked to investigate particular alleged abuses in a Contracting State – we are simply not equipped, nor do we have powers to undertake investigations of this sort.” (letter  dated  4 March 2008).  “Contracting States” means the States participating in the Hague Adoption Convention (Exhibit 9).
A delegation of the  Second Chamber visited the Hague Permanent Bureau in late March 2008. One of the delegates responded (by email) to “Wereldkinderen” that the Hague Permanent Bureau also told them that their resources and capacities are limited. It was also stated by the Hague Permanent Bureau that licensees and private organizations under the Convention have big responsibilities, but limited opportunities to make that true.

“Network” (EO) did further research into adoptions from China in Spring 2008. On March 11, 2008 (Exhibit 10), “Network” showed  videoa which showed that directors of orphanages in China had paid for children and that children may have been proposed for international adoption  who were not relinguished for adoption by their parents . Then I, as director of “Wereldkinderen”, publicly called for an independent and international investigation. To date, this  investigation has not been produced.

On March 13, 2008 “World Children” received an alarming report by two American students (Patricia Meier and Xiaole Ling). “World Children” sent the report to the MVJ with this request in preparation of the planned MVJ trip to China (see attached report, Exhibit 11).

“World Children” at that time stressed the importance of dialogue with China. We asked the MVJ  also  for a fundamentally substantive discussion  in the Netherlands  about adoptions from China. We asked the MJV to ensure that choices  in intercountry adoptions are  not  made based on political interests, but the interests of children must prevail. We ask the MJV to initiate a “round table” discussion on adoptions from China, with key players in the field. The essential debate on adoptions from China remains out.

On March 14, 2008 the Minister informed the House, in response to questions by Ed Anker (CU) that he would approach the Chinese authorities and ask for clarification. The minister indicated that he would inform the Court by May 1 (2008) (Exhibit 12).

On March 24, 2008  the  MVJ received a letter from the Chinese Embassy that the reports by the Dutch media were not correct. First, according to the Embassy, it was not true that local officials would take away children from parents in Hunan. Second, all 17 children adopted by Dutch parents from the Shaoyang Welfare Institute had been abandoned children. Third, the Chinese Embassy stated that getting a twin or multiple births are not an infringement of the Family Planning policy, as it was and is seen, but that these families would receive financial compensation from the Chinese government. It was specified that the reporting was based on unfounded allegations, which would damage the image of China. The Chinese Embassy  said  to believe that the MVJ  could control  the Dutch media in an objective way (letter  can be requested from MVJ).

On April 1, 2008 the Minister informed the Court, in response to questions from Ed Anker. The minister saw no reason for drastic measures in relation to adoptions from China. He also indicated that there was frequent contact with the licensees  (adoption agencies) and that  they  would be involved in the preparation of the proposed visit to China (Exhibit 13).

On April 21, 2008, Brian Stuy, an American researcher (married to a Chinese woman and three children adopted from China) sent a report by email to “Wereldkinderen”. A copy of this report was sent by him to the MVJ. Mr. Stuy had on March 25, 2008 also sent a mail to the MVJ, but had received no response. He also sent “W ereldkinderen” diverse research materials and evidence. “W ereldkinderen” gave the U.S. research material to the MVJ. This material sent by Mr. Stuy consisted of audio tapes of interviews with directors of Chinese children's homes, which confirmed that on a larger scale directors have paid and are paying reasonably large sums of money (more than a half year’s pay) for children to enter the orphanages. Also this director said that these practices still continue at that time (see audio recording of Fuzhou, the largest orphanage in Jiangxi, Exhibit 14).

Also, the study material demonstrated an extreme increase in the number of intercountry adoptions from certain orphanages in China. Brian Stuy, in his email, stated that he believes that at least 10-20% of the homes in China are involved in baby-buying programs, if not more. He has evidence  that several homes  were involved.

Brian Stuy indicated that he believes that a program is fairly widespread across China, and “I have specific evidence from orphanages in Chongqing, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces.” The MVJ was informed of this evidence from Brian Stuy (Exhibit 15).

It was my urgent request to the MVJ that they make contact with him. In April and May 2008 they held two telephone conversations with Mr. Stuy. Brian Stuy has indicated that these interviews were brief.
Brian Stuy indicates, in a recent email, that he has become aware of more orphanages that pay money for children, stating "There are many more orphanages  of we are very sure are doing baby-buying, but for which we have not had a chance to talk to anyone to confirm.”

On April 24, 2008 the Minister informed the  Second Chamber that a high official delegation would visit China in the second week of May, 2008, that the  Second Chamber would be briefed of this visit by June 1. This delegation consisted of two employees of the Bureau Central Authority (Exhibit 16).

 Prior to the trip  of the MVJ Wereldkinderen sent the MVJ many questions about adoptions from China, and urgently requested that they come back with answers (interview April 6, 2008 and letter dated April 25, 2008, Exhibit 17 and 18).

On May 1, 2008 “World Children”  stopped taking applications from adoptive parents wanting to adopt healthy children from China. Reasons for stopping included the long waiting times and the belief that China had enough parents willing to adopt a healthy child. We also wanted to obtain the results of the survey  of the MVJ before making a final decision on whether or not to proceed with the adoption of healthy children from China.  Wereldkinderen does not communicate actively this last reason  to the  Dutch prospective and adoptive parents, because this in advance could cause unrest among adoptive parents and adoptees.

From 6 to May 9, 2008 the MVJ visited China (trip report is requested from the MVJ. Wereldkinderen request  the travel report of the MVJ  and  received  it containing the request  of the MVJ to handle it confidentially ).

On May 12 there was a documentary shown by ABC News (Exhibit 19): Here it was shown that large-scale baby buying programs in China were still in place, not only in Hunan, but in several other parts of China. These children were being submitted for international adoption.

I made the MVJ on May 13, 2008 aware of this documentary. They indicate d  that this is an example from practice in the province and  said that they were, during the trip ,  already confronted with it. The MVJ gave  as a reaction that they will still check with the CCAA.

After returning , the first results of the trip were presented to the in China working licensees on May 26, 2008,   at the request of the Wereldkinderen . W ereldkinderen had  serious doubts  about the during this trip performed "  so called research". This we also reported  to the  MVJ. The  MVJ just had some conversations and talks in China,  we couldn't see it as research. A few things  I will mention below.

-- In a preliminary briefing before meeting with the CCAA, the Dutch Embassy requested the MVJ  to  be prudent when discussing sensitive topics.
-- Furthermore, the MVJ stressed that it is the responsibility of competent authorities in the country of origin to determine if adoptions comply with the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention. These authorities would be responsible for checking the requirements as stated in the Hague Adoption Convention. This means that the cooperating countries are heavily dependent on mutual trust (see also letter from the Minister of Justice to the  Second Chamber dated September 10, 2008). In other words, thorough investigation is not really possible and  has not been not  executed.
-- The Ministry of Justice did not visit any provinces, and did not engage in any discussions with local authorities.
-- A meeting with an employee of UNICEF  which was presented by the MVJ as an official statement  of Unicef , while UNICEF itself and others have indicated to us that  they have done no research into adoptions in China and there  was not qualified to say  anything  about it (see also September 10, 2008).
-- Moreover, there were still many unanswered questions from “W ereldkinderen”, including  questions “Wereldkinderen” had passed to the MVJ before they traveled to China.  As yet, these questions  had not been answered conclusively by the Ministry of Justice.

The MVJ had  also  some unanswered questions.  They gave us  an overview of the open questions  they still had (Exhibit 20).

Because there were still many open questions, “W ereldkinderen” decided to  do research  by their own  In the “Quality Framework”  ( a kind of contract between the licensees and the MVJ)  adoption agencies are required to obtain as much information as possible about the accuracy of the procedures, and must  try to  get as many information as possible about the backgrounds of the children. With adoptions from C ontracting States the formal responsibility lies with the Central Authorities. However, it is - despite the “Quality Framework Licensees” - still not clear where the responsibility of the licensee  stops and  what the relationship is  with the responsibility of the MVJ. Anyway, I felt then as director of “W ereldkinderen” morally responsible for the accuracy of the procedures and  according to my opinion was this an obligation towards adoptees, the adoptive parents and the biological parents. For that reason, a colleague and I traveled to China in July 2008. During one part of our journey one or more of our Chinese staff in China accompanied us.
During this trip (3-12 July 2008) we interviewed in Beijing, but we  also  visited a few provinces. We talked with the Central Authorities (CCAA), with local authorities, with directors and staff of orphanages, with executives from fellow adoption agencies from abroad, a  Chinese investigative journalist, with a staff member of UNICEF, the ILO, with a Chinese Dutch scientist, with the Dutch Embassy, and with our own four local staff. The talks were conducted in both English and in Chinese.

During the trip we got more and more indications that Chinese orphanages were  and still are  paying on a larger scale for children who are placed in orphanages, and that the CCAA  know  this practice. Also, insiders told us about large-scale baby buying programs in China. The people who told us this received their information directly from directors and staff of orphanages. One person told me that  a lot of orphanages are involved in aying for children, more than 20 have a plan on purpose, staff is involved and also local affairs. The directors have contact with local midwives and they (the directors) heard from them when pregnant women were found. They  pay 200 - 300 USD to the mothers if they decided not to keep the baby, but would give the baby to the orphanage after they gave birth. For example, when the mother got to know that the baby would be a girl (before they gave birth or at the moment she gave birth). There are now also known amounts of up to 600 USD. Thus, orphanages would ‘book' children, by offering pregnant women money in exchange for their child when born. Also, there were many examples of children who come from a particular province and were transferred to homes in other provinces, although not formally.  After finding children orpanages have to advertise in media in the province to find the parents. By transferring them to another province the chance that the biological parents will find their children becomes very small.  Papers were then falsified, finding locations made up, etc. This is what we were told by our informants.

We visited several provinces during the trip, and held official talks with local authorities, also visiting several orphanages. In the provinces, we learned that there is more information about the children that the local authorities know, but is not provided by the CCAA to the adoption agencies.

During the trip “World Children” held two talks with representatives of the Dutch Embassy in Beijing, on July 7 and July 11, 2008. During these conversations, employees of the Embassy stated that the issue of possible abuses surrounding adoptions from China is a “politically sensitive issue” and that the Embassy can only get information through official channels. The Embassy is not looking at the adoption documents on local or provincial levels. They further agreed that the path before a child comes to a Social Welfare Institute remains vulnerable.

Also  we were  informed  by  an employee of the Embassy  that the date of the notarial deed, the date the document  was prepared  was  often the same date as th e date  at which the child would  have been placed abandoned. That  can't  be correct, said an employee of the embassy. She indicated that for the Embassy to issue a passport, they must take a substantive look at the deed. However, in issuing a MVV (Temporary Residence Permission),  it is not necessary. Adopted children travel to the Netherlands on an MVV, so there is no requirement to look substantively at the documentation.

Our staff in the Embassy also stated that the CCAA has more information about children than the deeds mentioned.

During the second interview with the staff of the Embassy, is was also discussed how there can be more clarity on certain issues. The Embassy stated that a National Human Rights Organization is an option that may provide more information,  otherwise  collectives  of lawyers.

There is much more to tell about our own experiences and the conversations we have had, but this report is already so large. The report of this trip is  on  request, partly anonymous due to possible risks to interviewees.
On July 15, 2008 “Wereldkinderen”, after returning, gave the results of the trip to China in  verbal feedback to the Ministry of Justice. In outline:

There remained the question whether Chinese orphanages on a larger scale paid for children, or that this  was  incidentally During the trip Wereldkinderen  got the strong impression that  the  paying for children who were placed in homes,  was not incidentally, but that these payments  were on a larger scale;
-- “ The  Subsidiary Principle” (requirement from the Hague Adoption Convention) was  and is  not followed in China, China did not first consider whether local children could be placed in a domestic family;
-- The local authorities and orphanages often have more information that is known about the children than was given agencies by the CCAA;
-- “Wereldkinderen”  had and has the impression that there are enough parents in China wanting to adopt a healthy child. In other words, inter-country adoptions of healthy children from China are not necessary and are against the Hague Adoption Convention.

Wereldkinderen informed the MVJ and the feedback of the MVJ was that Wereldkinderen the situation  in China viewed through colored glasses. Criticism of  Wereldkinderen concerning the restrictions  of the so called 'research' of the MVJ were discarded. Further investigation was not necessary according the MVJ.
“W ereldkinderen”  had the opinion that more research was needed before a final decision on whether to proceed with adoptions from China could be undertaken.

Because the MVJ, in the view of “W ereldkinderen” took insufficient action, “W ereldkinderen” urged that further research be performed by the MVJ  was needed . The MVJ, however, remained committed to its position, that all 'research' had been done. W ereldkinderen has stated  that they would do proper research or investigation on his own initiative.  Wereldkinderen spoke already in July 2008 with the Ministry of Justice about several types of research.

On August 12, 2008, the Dutch Embassy in Beijing, in response to outstanding issues, held a meeting with the CCAA. The report of this conversation  did not reassure us. The CCAA said  a.o.  ''that no children involved in the Hunan abuses were adopted by Dutch families. The CCAA does not  want to  say whether those children were adopted into other countries, but that it would  only  contact the effected countries concerned to discuss".

The ABC documentary was also raised. This the CCAA dismissed  this  as an old case, and that action had been taken. (The report of this meeting  has been received by Wereldkinderen, but Wereldkinderen was told  to handle the report  confidentially).

On August 29, 2008 “World Children” received a draft of the letter that would be sent to the  Second Chamber. “W ereldkinderen” did not entirely agree with the contents of the letter and believed that further examination should be done before conclusions could be drawn. This is also indicated by “W ereldkinderen” to the MVJ.

On September 4, 2008 a meeting was organized - at the urging of “W ereldkinderen” - to  discuss the  draft letter on adoptions from China, to be sent  by  the Ministry of Justice and the  Second Chamber O fficials  off the MVJ  were present and representatives from two of the three adoption agencies operating in China. The third agency was not physically present, but participated by telephone. In this conversation “W ereldkinderen” indicated that they wanted to do further research. In this regard, “W ereldkinderen” again expressed its concern regarding adoptions from China and has been discussed to initiate research  in favour in co-operation with MVJ , which should be carried out , eventuallyundercover.

The withdrawal of the authorization of “World Children”
After this conversation Mr. Levenkamp (official of MVJ) asked me to stay because he wanted to discuss something with me. I asked a colleague of Wereldkinderen to stay also, she didDuring this conversation was besides Mr. Levenkamp , also present  an other (interim) MVJ official, Mrs. Van 't Wout. During this "personal" conversation Wereldkinderen mentioned various possibilities to do further research. 
“Wereldkinderen” suggested that research could be done by a Dutch University and several Chinese Universities. Also suggested by “Wereldkinderen” was the idea to conduct research through local Chinese  human rights organizations or by an American researcher. This interview also discussed the possibility of an undercover investigation, among other possibilities. It did not specifically discuss just an undercover investigation.

During this interview Wereldkinderen has been urged by Mr. Levenkamp and Mrs. Van 't Wout not to conduct any research, no matter what kind of investigation. Not any type of research was negotiable. When we kept insisting, we were then told that if “Wereldkinderen” would execute their own research, their adoption license would be revoked. "Lack of cooperation" would be the reason that the MVJ would give to justify the revocation. The reason for this measure, it was said, was that other interests were at play and that due to the research damage to the China-Netherlands relationship could arise. To meet to some extent the insistent requests of Wereldkinderen for further investigation,  the two officials of the Ministry of Justice said that they would consider whether the ISS and the Hague Permanent Bureau could do further research. They were willing to put this also, with some cautionin the letter to the Second Chamber. Based on that promise I agreed as director of Wereldkinderen not yet to run further investigation, done by Wereldkinderen or on behalf of Wereldkinderen.

I confirmed the meeting by email on September 5, 2008. In that mail, I thanked the officials for the frank discussion. The conversation was indeed frank, because it was admitted that other interests than interest of the children played a role with China’s relationship with the Netherlands, and that possible damage could rise if “Wereldkinderen” would do further research.

In the week of September 8, 2008 I was called by one of the two officials, Mrs. Van't Wout, saying that the ISS would not allow for any further investigations. In the letter to the Second Chamber it was then recorded by the MVJ that "organizations like the Hague Permanent Bureau have an important role to play, in awareness of adoptions from China.” However, the Hague Permanent Bureau has no investigative powers and the MVJ is aware of that fact. I feel this was therefore a false solution and weakening of what was promised by the MVJ. On September 10, 2008 the letter with the answer to parliamentary questions was sent to the Second Chamber (Exhibit 21).

The questions “Wereldkinderen” had concerning the letter of MVJ to the Second Chamber
“Wereldkinderen” had many questionmarks concerning the answering of the MVJ of the official questions around adoptions from China. Based on its own visit to China, based on the trip of the MVJ to China and based on additional evidence, Wereldkinderen had a different impression of adoptions from China than what the MVJ has written in her letter to the Second Chamber.

In answering the questions the central theme is that States who signed the Hague Convent should work based on mutual trust. However, according to “Wereldkinderen” there was sufficient evidence that further investigation by an independent party was justified.

The Minister says, in his written reply, that the Hague Adoption Convention, is based on thfollowing key principles:
1. the mother who would give up a child for adoption, has to do this voluntarily and after the birth of the child (to an established procedure);
2. for those involved in the adoption there may not be any finacial profit, paying for costs is allowed;
3. first priority has to be given  to place a child in a family in the child's country of origin before intercountry adoption can be in brought into the picture (“Subsidiary Principle”).

“Wereldkinderen” seriously doubted whether these three principles were/are being followed with adoptions from China.

As regards the first point: there is growing evidence that many mothers do not voluntarily surrender their child, in connection with the birth control policy children are taken away by local authorities. These children could (have been) proposed for international adoption. We are also received many signals that children being “made” before birth, the so-called "baby buying programs”. According to some researchers and experts, this is done with the knowledge of the CCAA.

The second principle seemed and seems not to be conducted: many Social Welfare Institutes and Children Welfare Institutes pay large sums of money for children who enter the home, the sums can amount to more than half years salary. There are several audio recordings of such directors 'orphanages' who pay large sums of money. For “Wereldkinderen” there remained the question of whether in China on a larger scale money is paid for children, or if this is incidentally. “Wereldkinderen” has, after the visits to China and from the additional evidence that was also provided to the MVJ, more and more the impression that these ''incidents'' are not isolated, but that payments on a larger scale happened and are happening. According to “Wereldkinderen” this needs to be further investigated.

The third principle is not observed: the two systems of international adoption and domestic adoption co-exist, next to each other. It is not first considered whether a child can be placed locally. The CCAA provides that it is better to find a family as soon as possible for a child, and that it does not matter whether this is a Chinese or a foreign family. Given that the orphanages for a large part depend on the donations they get through adoption, and that usually foreign adoption brings more revenue than local adoptions, many orphanages prefer international adoption. This is a violation of the “Subsidiary Principle” of the Hague Agreement.

Also played for the “Wereldkinderen the following (this information was then also shared with the MVJ): 
  • Local authorities and orphanages often have more information that is known about the children than the CCAA gives to the adoption agencies. “Wereldkinderen” was informed about this by the Dutch Embassy (in July 2008), we know this also from American research, and we know because we have seen this ourselves when we visited the local authorities (trip July 2008). Children offered for international adoption, while in the homes and at local / provincial level and perhaps at the level of the CCAA the names and addresses of the biological parents are known.
  • Wereldkinderen is of the belief that enough parents inside China wish to adopt healthy children. This was confirmed by a senior Chinese official who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. In other words, inter-country adoptions of healthy children from China are no longer necessary. This does not, however, apply to Special Need Children.
  • China, with its large trade surpluses, is economically able to provide the orphanages the necessary financial resources. China and the Netherlands must comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This requires States to protect children, so the cost of the orphanages should be borne by the Chinese State. Childrenhomes should therefore not be dependent on donations from international adoption.
We also got different and sometimes contradictory information than the information CCAA gave to the MVJ or the MVJ have given to us. This contradiction was worrying Wereldkinderen.

For example: in  the travelreport of the MVJ was written that the CCAA indicates that the Social Welfare Institutes and the Children Welfare Institutes are less dependent on donations, because they receive more money than before from the government. According to the information obtained in July 2008 during the visit of Wereldkinderen to the local authorities from different provinces in China, many institutions receive $1.80 per month for the care of child, while for each child placed for intercountry adoption abroad the orphanages receive $3000. Local authorities and the management of the orphanages in the provinces we visited indicated that they desperately need donations in order to pay the necessary care. In the same trip, we learned that the home visited by the MVJ received no state grants, but depended entirely on donations. Also, the travelreport indicated that Save the Children stated that the orphanages would prefer to join international adoption, this in connection with the donations (funds from adoptive parents, being $3,000-$5,000). These practices are not consistent with the information of the CCAA.

Thus, if it is true that donations to international adoption are no longer an issue, as the CCAA has indicated to the MVJ, why are they not just abolished? And where does that money (of the donations) go then, according to the CCAA the home does not need the money.

Another thing: the travelreport of the MVJ indicated that the CCAA held the view that paying for a child is punishable. However, at the same time the Director of the CCAA, mr Lu, stated to “Wereldkinderen” that it is acceptable for directors to pay a certain amount to “the finder”, the introducer of the child to the orphanage.
Since 2008 more evidence and signals have come forward to show that more is going on than what the MVJ indicates in the letter to the Second Chamber. There is increasing evidence that directors of orphanages pay large sums in baby buying programs. This takes place with the full knowledge of the CCAA. At a conference of directors of the CCAA with the orphanages (16 and February 17, 2006), for example, the CCAA indicated that amounts of 500 to 1,000 yuan were acceptable. But the CCAA also said at the same conference that they understood that directors of orphanages needed more money and that they often have to pay more, since they otherwise would receive no more children for international adoption. (That much is paid and that the CCAA is aware and approves, is confirmed by audio recordings of Brian Stuy (audiotape, Exhibit 22).

In the letter of the MVJ to the Second Chamber dated September 10, 2008, it is further stated that the staff of UNICEF, the delegation of the MVJ spoke with in may 2008, pointed out that their understanding of the incidents is that these are exceptions. However, email correspondence of UNICEF with others shows that UNICEF has done no research into adoptions in China. “We currently do not have enough information in the area that you are most interested. Most of what have been reported in the media are isolated cases and it is not possible for us to come up with a sound situation analysis at present.” (from email exchange of Arun Dohle with UNICEF, August 2007). Furthermore, UNICEF indicated by mail in 2008 that they have done no further investigation: “Currently UNICEF China office does not have a project on adoption as such, but we are including this component to be looked into through one of the "mini"-situation analysis that we are conducting as part of our ‘Mid-Term Review of Our Country Program with the Government of China’ - an initial step leading to perhaps a more comprehensive study that we may want to consider conducting in the future.” (from email change of Arun Dohle with UNICEF dated July 5, 2008). The same information was confirmed to “World Children” during the visit of the delegation of “World Children” with UNICEF in China.

In summary, there was sufficient reasons for “Wereldkinderen” to continue to press for further investigations by the MVJ. This is especially important because the ability to do research by other organizations was not possible (ISS, Hague Permanent Bureau). “Wereldkinderen” feels responsible for the accuracy of the procedures and the accuracy of the background of the children who are adopted through “Wereldkinderen”. As the director of “World Children”, I continued to press for further investigation, either performed by an external party either by itself.

“Wereldkinderen” was told a number of times by the MVJ in October and November 2008 by telephone that research done by Wereldkinderen, in any form, was unacceptable.

Then I, as director of Wereldkinderen, tried to obtain a clear written statement of the MVJ of what could or could not be done. Unfortunately, I got an evasive answer or no answers.

I also wanted to know whether the threat of withdrawing the license of “Wereldkinderen” was a personal action of two individual officials or the policy of the MVJ. As Prof. Hoksbergen was to have a conversation with the Minister on January 9, 2009, I asked him to raise this question in the interview. When Professor Hoksbergen raised the topic of adoptions from China, the issue was immediately countered: He was informed that a study (c.q. the visit of MVJ in may 2008) had been done and that everything was okay.
Meanwhile Wereldkinderen kept informed the MVJ about signals, messages in the media about possible abuses, American studies, etc. “Wereldkinderen” felt that this was disturbing information which warranted further investigation (see Exhibit 22, a document submitted by Brian Stuy).

Eventually, “Wereldkinderen” on June 8, 2009 (Exhibit 23) sent a letter to the MVJ, which included “Wereldkinderen”s attempts to obtain clarification as to who is ultimately responsible for abuses, if “Wereldkinderen” is prohibited from doing further research. IS it Wereldkinderen or is it the MVJ? In this letter I once again indicated that “Wereldkinderen” was told by two officers that we were forbidden to further investigate, on penalty of revoking our adoption license.

On July 3, 2009 another adoption scandal emerged from China. This time it dealt with about 85 children from the Zhenyuan Welfare Institute. Once again the message was that children were taken away from their biological parents and then unlawfully submitted for intercountry adoptions to foreign countries (including the Netherlands). Recent studies by Brian Stuy have shown that some children from the orphanage contained the home address of the biological parents in their reference file (with the local authorities or the home), while being proposed as foundlings. These children were not abandoned by their parents, but yet they were  offered for inter-country adoption. The identity of the child had been deliberately changed, which can be regarded as a crime.

“Wereldkinderen” informed the MVJ on July 7, 2009 (Exhibit 24) that two children from this orphanage had been adopted through “Wereldkinderen”. In this letter I again referred to the threats of withdrawal of my license: "Since we have no power to check in China ourselves, and as you have discouraged us to do research, under penalty of revoking our permit, I request you to verify whether these children were properly disposed."

On July 14, 2009, “Wereldkinderen”, after repeated calls and with reference that they would involve the National Ombudsman, received a written reply to the letter of the MVJ June 8, 2009. It read: "Own research can not be forbidde. But you must realize that, depending on how you perform this study, China can draw conclusions from this, which can be large for all adoptions from China."

In the letter itself on July 14, 2009 (Exhibit 25) is was not denied or contrdicted that the two officials had threatened to withdraw the license of Wereldkinderen and the also again it does not adress a so called supposed undercover investigation. When Wereldkinderen explicitly requested the matter on paper, the answer is "Own research can not be prohibited....” The threat is substantially waterd down. During the last ten months the MVJ held that “World Children's” own research should not be done, no matter what kind of research it was, under penalty of revoking the license.

The same letter also announced that following the recent scandal in Zhenyuan, officials of the Ministry would travel to China in September 2009, during which a discussion of the recent irregularities in Zhenyuan would be discussed.

The Member of Second Chamber, De Roon (PVV) questioned on July 3, 2009 about this scandal. The MVJ replied on August 4, 2009 (Exhibit 26).

It shows that the Minsiter wants to wait for the results of the investigation done by the Chinese authorities. Again we see the flaws of the Hague Adoption Convention: the participating countries are self-checking. But if you are part of the system’s problem, then how reliable is that research?

Given the experience we have with the Ministry of Justice and the CCAA, there will again be no independent investigation, and the truth about the backgrounds of children from China and whether or not systemically children are paid for by directors of orphanages in China will not be investigated. The proposed trip of the MVJ to China will not change that. It will be a repetition of moves.

Meanwhile, there are again signs that many more adoptions from China are not transparent (enough), or not accompanied by appropriate information about the backgrounds of children. In a recent audio recording provided by Brian Stuy (Exhibit 22) one can hear that the CCAA in February 2006 was already aware of the fact that directors of orphanages paid large sums for the application of a child. This evidence shows that the CCAA believes that the orphanages can’t help paying, because otherwise too few children for international adoption will enter the homes, and the orphanages can not survive.

III. Personal Opinion: resigning my position per September 1, 2009
Given these experiences, but also given the national and international setting whereby intercountry adoption is surrounded by, the market forces (demand determines supply), the corruption in some countries and the risks of childtrafficking, the way the Central Authority of the Netherlands, and als some other countries coop with this, I can no longer be part of the system and I don't want responsible for the risks and possible abuses anymore. This applies not only to adoptions from China, but also to adoptions from other countries, which - viewing the mechanism of market forces - I think also possess too much risk.

Adoptees, adoptive parents and biological parents have the right to be protected. This protection should be that inter-country adoption should be pure and transparant. And according to my opinionthe current system does not guarantee this sufficiently. There is always risk, and a 100% guarantee can not be given. But the risk to childrtrafficking has grown within the system of intercountry adoption worldwide. While inter-country adoption was primarily motivated from idealism, it has now become a system that is surrounded with too much “market (demand and supply)”, corruption and high risks to children.

I've been trying to change the system from within and to achieve within the global system that the interests of children be made first. The interests of children means that sincere efforts have to be made to place children in a local family.

In my commitment to transparency and open procedures, and in my pursuit of truth regarding the backgrounds of the adoptees, I was not sufficiently supported, and even stopped by the Ministry of Justice. A Ministry of Justice has to place the interests of the adoptees and children at the first place. My experience is that in the application of international law, the rights of adoptees and children are not sufficiently guaranteed, and that the Hague Adoption Convention gives a false security and that the MVJ the interests of children and adoptees are subordinated to economic, diplomatic and political interests.

The latter is demonstrated by the obstruction of the MVJ to a thorough examination of adoptions from China. It is clear from the results of the General Debate in the Second Chamber on June 11, 2009 that so called deelbemiddeling (partial intermediation ) which is a method where adoptive parents have selected a childrenhome (not being a contact of an adoption agency) and ask the adoptionagency to verify the childrenhome) can continue as usual, despite the fact that all the experts and the Minister himself believes that this method is not sufficient to control). And it is also shown by the ban on doing our own research into the quality and background of adoption procedures in countries that are economically important to the Netherlands.

Where you should expect the Hague Adoption Convention may give a certain quarantee, it gives a high degree of false security because the participating States will be dependent on several other interests, when faced with whether they will or will not account an other State for (possible) abuse.

IV. Recommendations
  • International adoption has, over the past decades, become a system where the demand for children affects the supply (and price) of children. One sees similar experiences in many different countries. A moratorium on intercountry adoption is, in my view, desirable in order for us to reflect on how desirable adoption is in the current system. The international system is sick. A thorough independent investigation into the desirability of intercountry adoptions (in general), within the framework of the market for children, with all the risks of child trafficking and its consequences, is desperately needed. During this period no new process should be started, no new permission to adopt should be given, and no new intakes to the adoption organizations. 
  • Thorough independent research into adoptions from specific countries, specifically targeted to the countries where Dutch licensees work.
  • Parliamentary investigation into the affairs relating to adoptions from China and the attitude of the Ministry of Justice in this matter.
  • Research into the impact of the Hague Adoption Convention. Does it promote local adoptions or is the opposite the case? And does it prevents abuses or does it facilitates abuses, and does it offer a false security?
  • Investigate whether the development of policies surrounding adoption does fit better within the Ministry of Development (promotion of local solutions in the country of origin) or the Ministry of Health (child). Lawyers of the MVJ should only monitor the implementation of laws and regulations.
  • The Dutch system of agencies (e.g. voluntary versus professional organizations, the number of licensees, the private nature of the organizations) has to be reviewed on desirability, possibilities and impossibilities.
Drs. Ina H.R. Hut, former Director World Children (February 2003 to Sept. 2009)
October 1, 2009


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is hard to read, because of both the translation and the content. What sticks out for me is the assertion that the orphanages and even the CCAA have more information (possibly even knowledge of the first family) than is provided to APs. Is the implication that this information is kept on file somewhere or would it be destroyed/discarded once a child is placed internationally?

Scary stuff, but I still feel it is easier to deal with the truth, no matter how uncomfortable, than the unknowns.

Also curious, Brian, if you have any opinions on whether the work being done by Baby Come Home will benefit adoptive families who want to search for first families?

Mindy

Research-China.Org said...

In my research, I have also seen orphanage records that detail birth families. None of them have been given to adoptive families. Whether the records were destroyed I don't know. I do doubt they will ever be offered to adoptive families or adoptees, because to do so will reveal "secrets".

As far as BCH, at this point I don't think they will be of too much help to adoptive families, mostly because their focus is on kidnapped children. They are not staffed to do investigations for young children that have no information to help with. It is possible that birth families might utilize their website, and limited success may be seen in that area.

Time will tell.

Brian

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your dedication to this. For an adoptive parent, it is hard to swallow because we all want to convince ourselves that we have done the right thing. It is hard to see that our adoptions may have been tainted by corruption because for us, this is love. (and for you with your girls, I am sure). So...there will always be folks that don't appreciate your research, but I do, even if it causes some heartache.

Dave said...

This is a very scary/upsetting subject. Our family was over in China in May of 2008 adopting a little girl, in the province of Hunan, and what we found out was there were no kids in the orphanage except one or two special needs kids. All of the kids were supposedenly in foster care, this makes me wonder if our daughter was in deed in foster care or bought/stolen from her biological family. So sad. I have to find out more about this.

Thanks for the very informative story Brian.

Beckett Gray said...

Brian, thanks again for an insightful post. Much appreciated.

My non-profit finally published a new book on Chinese adoptive parenting.

“The Dragon Sisterhood: A Guide to Chinese Adoptive Parenting” .

It can be found on our blog:http://www.dragonsisterhood.blogspot.com

I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing that with your readers.

Keep up the excellent work and we look forward to hearing of your endeavors.

Thanks!Beckett Gray