Seminar: The Transnational Illegal Adoption Market (Utrecht)

The Centre for Information and Research on Organised Crime (CIROC) organises on Friday 14 June 2019 a seminar on:

The last half-century has witnessed the emergence of a transnational market in adoptable children. Numerous cases have been uncovered whereby children from the Global South were obtained illegally to meet the high demand for adoption among couples and individuals in the Global North. Children were purchased from their impoverished families, or abducted from their homes, the streets or from orphanages. Birth mothers were fooled into thinking that their new-born children were stillborn or died shortly after birth, while in reality the babies were being abducted from the hospitals. Vulnerable birth parents were coerced or provided with misleading information on the consequences of an adoption in order to obtain their consent for an adoption.

Child trafficking for adoption purposes is a hidden crime. The majority of children are infants that do not realize the illegal circumstances of their placements and their parents often lack the voice to report the illegal removal of their children. The nature and extent of the illegal adoption practices do, therefore, remain largely invisible. Nonetheless, prominent adoption scandals have thrown light on the widespread existence of child trafficking for adoption purposes.

Also the Netherlands had to deal with numerous major adoption scandals within the last couple of years that shocked the public and resulted in heated parliamentary debates. 

In 2016, the Raad voor Strafrechtstoepassing en Jeugdbescherming recommended banning intercountry adoptions to the Netherlands, arguing that the risks of abuses within the intercountry adoption system were too high. The Netherlands was one of the first receiving countries to seriously consider prohibiting foreign adoptions. Although the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security did not follow this recommendation, it promised to increase the layers of control within the Dutch adoption system.

This CIROC workshop will address the issue of child trafficking for adoptions purposes from different angles. It will deal with the organization of the transnational illegal adoption market by identifying the main actors involved, the processes that take place in illegal adoptions and the socio-cultural factors that facilitate them. It also deals with the promises and pitfalls of the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption which represents the most significant attempt to tackle illegal and commercial practices within the intercountry adoption system.

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