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Sweden To Investigate Illegal Intercountry Adoptions

Follows Netherlands Government’s Decision to Halt Adoptions

Vy över Sveriges parlament (riksdag) i Stockholm den 9 april 2006. © WikiPedia/Creative Commons

A recent inquiry in the Netherlands into intercountry adoptions uncovered such damning abuses that the government froze all overseas adoptions. Following the Dutch investigation, the Swedish Family Law and Parental Support Authority, the agency responsible for adoptions, has called for a similar inquiry in Sweden, which has the highest number of adopted children per capita in the world.

The Dutch report, examined adoptions to the Netherlands between 1967 and 1998. It found many children had been stolen or sold, and mothers often gave up children under social pressure or coercion.

Intercountry adoptions to Sweden started in the 1950s with adoptions from South Korea and peaked in the mid 1970-1980s with many children also coming from Chile, Ethiopia, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Following scandals, changes in policies and socio-economic developments in source countries, intercountry adoptions have steadily declined since the early 2000s. In 1997 Sweden became a party to the Hague 1993 Convention on Intercountry Adoption, but even with conventions and laws in place, reports of irregularities have occurred in almost all source countries.

Many of the 60,000 adoptees in Sweden have voiced concerns as some have found, in searching for their birth families, that their adoption files lack information or the information they contain is incorrect. Some have learned their adoptions were illegal.

The Swedish government’s responses have been mixed. A January 2021 report on current adoption activities by the Agency for Public Management found corruption is common in source countries and this could facilitate rights violations, but recommended no changes to the adoption system. The Minister of Social Affairs said earlier today the government will investigate intercountry adoptions that took place between 1960 to 1990. However, government officials have reported adoption irregularities took place in the 2000s as well.

A motion submitted to parliament in August 2020 calls for an investigation into intercountry adoptions, stricter supervision of adoption agencies and the transfer of all adoption files to a government agency. The motion is currently with the Committee on Social Affairs who will prepare a proposal for consideration by the chamber.

Under international law, the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration in cases of adoption, and the Swedish government should ensure it is doing what is needed to guarantee this is the case for all adoptions. An investigation into concerns and abuses that have taken place is a first step, as they may still pose a risk in intercountry adoption today.

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