Dutch gov't broke law by destroying adoption files: Inspectorate
The Ministry of Justice and Security violated the Archive Act when destroying thousands of adoption files in 1983 and 1999, the Government Information and Heritage Inspectorate concluded. It investigated the matter at the request of adoptees and parliamentary questions, NOS reports.
It involves thousands of files from the Ministry’s Child Protection Directorate from the period 1967 to 1979. According to the Inspectorate, the Ministry took “insufficient care” in protecting these files, making it harder for thousands of adoptees to find information about their adoption.
The Ministry had set a retention period of five years on the adoption files. The Inspectorate said it found no evidence that the Ministry considered the interests of the “citizen seeking justice and evidence seeking” - in this case, the interest of the adoptees and their eventual need for information - when it set this retention period. And that while the Archives Act stipulates that those interests must be taken into account.
The registration of the adoption files was also flawed, the Inspectorate said. “The overall picture is one of careless management,” the Inspectorate said. However, it added that it is unclear whether the Ministry would have set a different retention period even if it did adhere to the Archives Act. “In that period, the importance of access to adoption files in the long term was less visible.”
The files involved contained the “permission principle” of people who registered as adoptive parents. It establishes that they met the criteria to adopt a child. They also contained personal information about the adopted child so that they could obtain a visa. About a hundred files from that period were not destroyed. It is unclear why the Ministry decided to keep these.
Stephanie Dong-Hee Kim is one of the people whose file got destroyed by the Ministry. She was adopted from South Korea in 1980. “It is too sad for words,” she told NOS about how the government handled adoptees. “It was not taken into account that those cute, brown children would grow up and go looking.”
Kim at least got some information - the Child Protection Board still had her file. “It is especially sad for those who have nothing, who have been desperately searching for decades,” she said. “Or who were abused by their adoptive parents. Those adoptees want to know: how did my adoptive parents get permission to adopt?”
Kim hopes the Ministry of Justice and Security apologizes and “takes full responsibility for what happened.” Compensation for the costs adoptees now have to incur due to the mistakes would be a nice start. She had to pay to restore her surname and get her Korean passport back. “
“It is terrible that you cannot find out what your origin is and where your roots lie,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Security told NOS in response to the Inspectorate’s report. “Unfortunately, we cannot reverse the destruction of files. We can only now make a case for improving the supervision of new files.”
The Ministry will give a substantive response after the summer break, according to ANP.