Hundreds of Spanish babies 'stolen from clinics and sold for adoption'

The families of 261 babies who disappeared in Spanish hospitals over five decades call for an investigation

By Giles Tremlett

January 27, 2011 /

Hundreds of Spanish babies were stolen from their parents by a secret network of doctors and nurses and sold for adoption, according to a petition filed in Madrid.

The families of 261 babies who disappeared in Spanish hospitals over five decades called on the attorney general to open an investigation into the scandal, after presenting evidence from former employees at maternity clinics and parents who admitted illegally adopting babies.

What started as a system for taking children away from families deemed to be politically dangerous to the regime of General Francisco Franco became an illicit business that continued at least until the 1980s, a campaign group has claimed.

Doctors, nurses, nuns and priests are all suspected of lying to mothers who were told their children had died during, or straight after, birth. Journalists investigating a clinic in Madrid at the centre of the allegations found a baby's corpse in a fridge, leading to suggestions that bodies were kept to show parents to prove their own child had died. Campaigners believe thousands of cases of stolen babies will eventually come to light.

"The father of a friend of mine admitted to him that both he and I had been bought from a priest and a nun from Zaragoza after being born in the Miguel Servet hospital," said Antonio Barroso, who discovered four years ago that he was adopted. DNA tests have proved that the people who raised him were not his real parents.

"There are cases that are accompanied by proof in the form of DNA tests and others that are simply mothers who suspect that their babies were stolen," said lawyer Enrique Vila, who represents the National Association of Irregular Adoptions. "We think it was an organised mafia."

Inés Pérez, 89, has confirmed that a priest encouraged her to fake a pregnancy so she could be given a child due to be born at Madrid's San Ramón clinic in 1969. Her adopted daughter, also called Inés, was among those demanding an investigation.

In a separate case, workers from an undertaker's in Malaga said they sometimes buried empty children's coffins that arrived from a local clinic.

The street outside the attorney general's office was blocked by weeping people today hoping to discover what had become of their lost children.

Many said they had been told that apparently healthy babies had died within hours of birth. They had never seen the bodies and the hospitals had taken care of the burials.


According to other reports....

...newborns were stolen from their mothers and sold to other families, as recently as the mid-1990s.

It is well documented that in the immediate wake of Spain's 1936-39 civil war, babies and children were taken away from women who supported the government, or Republican side, that was defeated by the right wing forces of Gen. Francisco Franco. Investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzon has put the figure at 30,000.

But Vila said this politically motivated punishment eventually transformed purely into a moneymaking scheme that lasted well past Spain's return to democracy in 1978, three years after Franco's death, and until well into the 1990s.

Vila said there was more or less a nationwide network behind it, involving doctors, nurses, midwives, nuns and intermediaries that would find children for couples that wanted them.

[From: Spain urged to probe alleged baby trafficking , January 27, 2011 ]

For those unfamiliar with adoption scams, this classic move, (involving doctors, lawyers, and 'others' with good solid connections) is known as The Dead Baby Scam.  Amazingly, in spite of the use of  fictitious/false documents, and third-party involvement, for some strange reason, these adoptions are considered legal.  Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie.  As more and more investigations are called for, more and more people will see there are (and always have been) plenty of people entering the adoption-market, showing a real interest in adoption services, and agreeing to pay cash for said services, provided the child the adopters receive is not one of those older unwanted children put in an orphanage (or foster care).

More about the Dead Baby Scam, as it has been used elsewhere in Adoptionland, can be found here:  They took my baby boy, and Violence Against Women:  Dead Baby Scam (UN report, 2003)


This is very interesting information, and shows how adoption depends on an infrastructure of "child providers" and attorneys. As long as the infrastructure remains the adoption practice continues.

It is a commonly believed myth that adoption from Eastern Europe started with the fall of the iron-curtain. Certainly the images presented of Romanian orphanages created an immediate uptick in the demand for Romanian children, but adoption could not have boomed so quickly if there had not been an adoption infrastructure in place already.

Until 1987, Romania had a flourishing adoption industry, mostly providing children for Italian and French families, though several children also made it to the US in those days.

In 1987, the Ceaucescu regime froze adoptions, but after the fall of that regime, it took less than a week for intercountry adoptions to be resumed. This would not have been possible if the adoption infrastructure had not already been in place.

The very attorneys active in inter-country adoption before the 1987 freeze, were active in inter-country adoption during the adoption boom of the 1990's.

A similar pattern can be seen in Haiti. When compared to the Tsunami that hit Indonesia and Thailand in 2005, there is one striking difference: in Haiti an immediate effort to take adoptable children from the Island was launched immediately following the disaster, while the Tsunami of 2005 lead to a response of restraint.

Why do such comparable events lead to such vastly different approaches? The answer is simple: Haiti was already a major sending country with a sizeable and largely unregulated adoption industry, while both Indonesia and Thailand hardly have an adoption industry and very strict legislation.

This story about Spain's illegal adoption industry operating well into the 1990's fits perfectly into the thesis that adoption happens wherever the infrastructure to do so is available. The regime change after Franco's death in 1975, may have had an impact on the upper echelons of the political system, but it didn't change the behaviours of doctors, nurses and attorneys.

Since the existence of an infrastructure is so important for the sustenance of an adoption industry, it is necessary for countries that close their borders, to do it well and to do it for an extended period of time. Many Latin American countries learned there lesson well, and to this day have very limited inter-country adoption. 

I sincerely hope a country like Guatemala will understand this lesson. They closed their border three years ago and it would be far too early to even attempt limited inter-country adoption. There are still far too many practicing attorneys with an interest in inter-country adoption around to even consider any other approach than a complete moratorium. As long as the infrastructure is in place, child trafficking/illegal adoption/coercion is a certainty.

Habiba and Alma - 15 month old baby taken from her mother

On May 30, 2011, the Minor and Family Institute of Madrid, Spain (IMMF - Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia) took a child away from her mother because she would not comply with their demand that she abruptly wean her daughter using medication to dry her milk supply. The child was removed to a different shelter without explanation or notice, and the mother was evicted from the shelter. The IMMF claims that Habiba’s parenting practices (which included on-cue breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “being affectionate”) were chaotic and harmful to her child.

No legal procedure was or has been followed to separate this mother from her daughter. She was not allowed to say goodbye to her daughter and she was not told where they were taking the child, provoking feelings of severe helplessness.

Habiba was thrown to the streets in the same moment that her daughter was taken, she was told there was no longer a place for her as the residence was for mothers and she did not have a daughter anymore. A humanitarian aid foundation has given her protection, shelter, sustenance and legal aid.

We consider the case of Habiba and her daughter to be a severe violation of Human Rights and Children’s Rights. The damage is already done, but if mother and daughter can reunite it can be healed. We demand the immediate release of the child to her mother.

Pound Pup Legacy