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Is Norway about to halt all overseas adoptions?

Children wave Danish flags as they celebrate Denmark's former Queen Margrethe's birthday, in Fredensborg, Denmark, on 16 April, 2021
Children wave Danish flags as they celebrate Denmark's former Queen Margrethe's birthday, in Fredensborg, Denmark, on 16 April, 2021 Copyright Martin Sylvest/AP/File
Copyright Martin Sylvest/AP/File
By Euronews with AP
Published on Updated
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The Scandinavian nation is considering ending the practice as Denmark's only international agency winds down work.

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Denmark’s only overseas adoption agency has announced it’s “winding down” its facilitation of international adoptions after a government agency raised concerns over fabricated documents and procedures which obscured children's biological origins abroad.

The privately run Danish International Adoption (DIA) mediated adoptions in the Philippines, India, South Africa, Thailand, Taiwan and the Czech Republic. Last month, an appeals board suspended DIA's work in South Africa because of questions about the agency's adherence to legal standards.

The Danish agency announced it was getting out of the international adoption business on the same day Norway’s top regulatory body recommended stopping all overseas adoptions for two years pending an investigation into several allegedly illegal cases.

For years, some families in Europe, the United States and Australia with children who were adopted abroad have raised alarms about fraud, including babies who were falsely registered as abandoned orphans when they had living relatives in their native countries.

Some adoptees have cited paperwork which was falsified to expedite their transfer to a foreign country or prepared in a way that concealed their backgrounds or made them difficult to trace. International laws, including Denmark's, typically encourage keeping children in their countries of origin when possible.

An adoption 'crisis'?

The Danish Social Affairs Ministry called the winding down of DIA, which had also worked with partner agencies in South Korea, Colombia and other countries, “the most serious crisis in the area of adoption in the past decade”.

“When we help a child find a new family on the other side of the globe, there must be the necessary assurance that the adoption is carried out properly in relation to the biological parents,” Social Affairs Minister Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil said.

Over the last decade, international adoption in Denmark has dwindled. There were about 400 to 500 children per year in the 1970s and just 20 to 40 adoptions in the last three years, DIA said.

Local schoolchildren march past the Royal Palace during a parade in Oslo, Norway to celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day on 17 May, 2019
Local schoolchildren march past the Royal Palace during a parade in Oslo, Norway to celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day on 17 May, 2019Ryan M. Kelly/NTB Scanpix/AP/File

In Norway, Kjersti Toppe, the Minister for Children and Families, said she believed there was a need for further investigation and has asked the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs for help.

“Adoptions must be safe, sound and in the best interest of the child,” Hege Nilssen, the head of the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, said in a statement, adding “Our assessment is that the risk of illegalities is real."

The directorate said families who are in the early stages of an adoption process will be allowed to complete the adoption process - but only after an assessment by the agency. Couples who have been matched with a child from South Korea also will be permitted to proceed.

According to national statistics, the majority of the children adopted in Norway come from South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Colombia.

The issues surrounding illegal adoptions

Earlier this month, the directorate said an examination of the adoption system was needed following media reports of allegedly illegal adoptions. Norway's VG newspaper reported that some children in the Philippines were sold and given false birth certificates.

In November, the directorate also stopped adoptions from Madagascar, citing a lack of security to ensure they would "be carried out in accordance with international principles for adoption.”

Norway has three private adoption agencies. Verdens Barn handles adoptions from Thailand, South Korea and South Africa; InorAdopt arranges the adoption of children from Hungary, Taiwan, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic; and Adoptionsforum facilitates adoptions of children from the Philippines, Colombia and Peru.

Sweden's only adoption agency said in November that it was halting adoptions from South Korea following claims of falsified papers on the origins of children adopted from the Asian country.

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