ANALYSIS: Dutch-Korean adopted child affair raises questions

Date: 
2007-12-14

Asia-Pacific News

Amsterdam - Problems such as the placing in care of an eight-year-old girl adopted by a Dutch diplomat based in Hong Kong can stem from the original adoption procedures, Laura Martinez-Mora, a legal expert in adoptions, told Deutsche Presse Agentur dpa Friday.

News reports in the South China Morning Post said that after their Korean-born adopted daughter developed behavioural problems, Dutch vice-consul of Hong Kong Raymond Poeteray and his wife decided to put her into care in 2006.

However, the couple issued a declaration which was published in the Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf Thursday that rejected the accusations published in the Hong Kong media.

The Poeterays said their eight-year-old daughter Jade, adopted in 2000 as a four-month-old, was suffering from what they called 'commitment anxiety' and that they were advised by the Chinese Social Services to 'place her in foster care temporarily.'

They wrote that 'contrary to what has been written in the media, we do not want to get rid of our daughter. We never even considered giving her up.'

The Poeterays returned to the Netherlands this week without their daughter.

Martinez-Mora, who is the Adoption Programme Coordinator at the Permanent Bureau of The Hague Conference, explained that there are many ways to adopt a child, domestically and internationally.

With the increasing popularity of intercountry adoption, The Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted a special adoption convention in 1993 to ensure children would be adopted through proper procedures, thereby preventing child trafficking and corruption, and providing a child protection system.

Countries that have ratified the adoption convention promise to perform adoptions according to the convention's rules. A total of 75 countries have become parties to the convention, the US being the most recent one, having ratified it on December 12.

'The Dutch couple adopted their Korean daughter in 2000 when they lived in South Korea,' says Martinez-Mora.

'This means it was a domestic adoption, performed under domestic law and the local social services system. Therefore the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is not applicable to this case.

'Countries that have ratified the convention should develop the adoption procedures as a part of a child protection system, providing special social services before, during and after the adoption for parents and their children,' says Martinez-Mora.

South Korea is not a member of the 1993 Adoption Convention, which makes is difficult to assess the workings of the domestic adoption laws and child protection services.

State parties to the convention are obliged to try to keep children in their birth family or in their home country through domestic adoption if possible, the legal expert said.

Intercountry adoption should only become an option when domestic adoption is impossible, the convention stipulates.

In addition, the social services of countries that have signed the convention are equipped to try to match children with their adoptive parents, says Martinez-Mora, 'to increase the chances of success of an adoption.'

'Countries that ratify the Adoption Convention basically agree to certain uniform standards.'

However, there are no guarantees that adoptions will go smoothly even if a country has ratified the convention.

'Ideally, countries first adjust and upgrade their social services system and their adoption laws before ratifying the adoption convention,' says Martinez-Mora.

'In practice, it can take several years before a country that has ratified the convention, meets all the requirements to implement the laws properly. Ratification is often only a first step.'

Meanwhile it remains unclear whether Jade can remain in Hong Kong - she has only Korean citizenship, being neither Dutch nor Chinese, and speaks only English and Cantonese.

'Citizenship is a problem when adoptions are performed in countries that have not ratified the adoption convention and whose domestic laws and social services also do not meet the international adoption standards,' says Martinez-Mora.

'Contrary to adoptions made under the convention, such adoptions may not be recognised abroad,' she added.

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