CYS staff member weighs in on Dutch foreign adoption debate

Category: adoption| orphans| policy| research

30 Nov 2016
An illegal babies home in Uganda that was closed down in 2013

An illegal babies’ home in Uganda that was closed down in 2013

ISS CYS staff member Kristen Cheney has become embroiled in Dutch public debates about the future of foreign adoptions.

On 1 November 2016, the Netherlands’ Raad voor Strafrechtstoepassing en Jeugdbescherming (RSJ – in English, The Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles) issued a report (in Dutch) advising the Dutch minister of security and justice to ban all foreign adoptions. Among their reasons for coming to this conclusion were documented illegalities and unethical practices in the intercountry adoption system. The report cited scholarly literature — including Cheney’s work — that argues that intercountry adoption can lead to greater institutionalisation of children and/or disrupt the development of robust child protection systems in the children’s countries of origin (see more of Cheney’s research on the topic here).

The Netherlands’ pro-adoption lobby immediately kicked into gear: Several faculty members of the Leiden University Knowledge Centre for Adoption and Foster Care (ADOC) immediately criticised the RSJ report. Marinus (Rien) van IJzendoorn in particular questioned the quality of the research on which the RSJ report based their decision. This included one of Cheney’s articles, Addicted to Orphans: How the Global Orphan Industrial Complex Jeopardizes Local Child Protection Systems, which was co-authored with Karen Smith Rotabi, Associate Professor of Social Work at United Arab Emirates University.

Flyer announcing hunger strike by Guatemalan mothers whose children were abducted into adoption

Flyer announcing a 2009 hunger strike by Guatemalan mothers whose children were abducted into adoption

Cheney claims that the way that van IJzendoorn’s blog distorted the articles’ arguments warranted a personal response — but it also raised crucial concerns about what constitutes ‘quality research’ and the ab/uses of ‘scientific objectivity’, particularly when it comes to social justice and child protection.

See Cheney’s full rebuttal and discussion of these issues at OpenDemocracy.net. She hopes to be called to the Minister’s roundtable on the topic in early 2017.

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