The Flemish government is to tighten its rules on adoptions from other countries, Wouter Beke (CD&V), minister for the family announced.
The decision comes following a devastating report issued in September alleging widespread human trafficking being carried out under the cover of intercountry adoption. The report was written by a panel of independent experts who had been working on the question since 2019.
“This is something that all parties involved have been saying for many years we have to tackle,” Beke said at the time. And he sketched out the basic principles of the “ambitious reform” needed to intercountry adoption, including multi-parenthood, strengthening partnerships with countries of origin, building bridges between foster care and adoption, and focusing on aftercare and counselling.
Beke also suggested a two-year hiatus for all international adoptions to allow the necessary reforms to be passed. However that proposal was shot down by N-VA, arguing that while reform was needed, a revolution was going too far.
Today, Beke presented his new proposal to parliament: a set of six strict selection criteria designed to weed out bad adoption prospects. Countries that do not apply the criteria will simply be scrapped from the list of acceptable candidates.
The main criterion is traceability: the Flemish authorities must be able to follow a chain of evidence that leads back to the decision to opt for international adoption.
“What we don’t want is a process by which a home can decide for itself to take in a certain child and then indicate after a while that the child is eligible for adoption, without having followed a procedure within youth care,” he told MPs.
“Traceability is also important for adoptees looking for the story behind their adoption, and for prospective parents who want to make sure that the best interests of the child have been carefully considered.”
The government also insists that the procedure include a consideration of what could be done to place the child in a home in their own country, starting with the child’s extended family and their circle.
A more controversial proposal would remove from the list of acceptable countries any that are known for corruption. That might include high costs for the adoption procedure itself, all the way up to bribery of officials. The worry is that innocent applicants risk losing out if they are forced to meet the demands of corrupt officials.
“The practice whereby candidate adopters pay certain amounts to the home where the adopted child resides or to the person who mediates, poses a risk of abuse in the adoption process,” he said. “Adoptees and prospective adopters should be able to rest assured that there are no financial interests involved in the adoption.”
Countries who fail the test will be immediately dropped from the list of approved adoption partners maintained by the Flemish authorities. Beke is known to be no fan of inter-country adoption, so the reduction of the list of approved countries will suit his aims, while curtailing the chances of the growing number of couples seeking to adopt from abroad.