As in Australia, England and Wales, adoption rates in the Netherlands are dramatically lower than in the US.* With a population of 16.7 million, one eighteenth that of the United States, the Netherlands has approximately 20 domestic infant adoptions each year compared to 15,000 domestic infant adoptions in the US. If Americans were relinquishing at the same rate as in the Netherlands, they would have given up a fraction of the babies relinquished today--a mere 360 babies, not 15,000. Why the discrepancy, we wanted to know. Theodore filled us in.A Dutch native, he is familiar with the effects of adoption in his own family, due to what he refers to as an illegal grandparent adoption. He is currently working on a translation of a book about Jewish parents who were separated from their children in WW II, but got them back after the war.
RECOGNIZING LOSS TO MOTHER AND CHILD
As in the U.S., unmarried Dutch mothers suffered through a Baby Scoop Era. The high point was 1970 when about a thousand babies were relinquished. The reasons for the decline in adoptions after that was multifaceted, as in America, but a less prudish attitude throughout the country allowed for good sex education, readily available contraceptives, accessible and abortion. At the same time, welfare benefits improved. "Unmarried mothers are common and widely accepted, while public perception a woman who relinquishes her child is quite negative," he writes. "Surrendering one’s child became something simply “not done.” At the same time, quasi-official support for adoption declined as professionals recognized the loss to mother and child. Today adoption decisions are met with opprobrium; women who give up their babies are not looked upon favorably. (As they seem to be in America, we inject, given the kudos given to Catelynn and Tyler of Sixteen and Pregnant celebrity.) About 50 percent of babies are born to unmarried mothers in the Netherlands, compared to 40 percent in the U.S. Today in the U.S. more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage--a reality that neither Lorraine or I could have imagined when our children were born in 1966 and we felt only deep shame and societal censure.
Unlike in the U.S.. Dutch law allows adoption only by those who already have a parent relationship with the child, i.e. step- and foster children. There is no immediate handing over of a baby to a waiting couple or single adopter.
Mothers considering adoption initially place their child in neutral grounds, i. e. foster care, buying time to consider their options and find the resources they need. They have about two weeks when they can claim their child back. After two weeks, mothers must appear in court and sign a revocable declaration of relinquishment. How different here in the United States! Our mothers typically give irrevocable consent to adoption of their babies within a few days of birth--some even sign consent before birth--and have little or no chance of getting their child back, even if they were coerced by extreme pressure or biased information.
Three months after birth, during which time the Child Protection Council, a government agency, has selected three potential adoptive families (PAPS) based on the needs of the child and the wishes of the mother, mothers must decide from among adoption, raising the child, or long-term foster care. PAPS pay about 4,000 Euros (about $5252) for expenses related to adoption compared to $30,000 in the U.S. Thus, the profit motive that drives the adoption industry in the U.S. is non-existent. If mothers choose adoption, the child is placed with the PAPS who learn about the baby only after mothers select them. The child remains with the PAPS for up to a year before they can adopt the child. If a mother changes her mind about adoption within the year the child will remain with the PAPS--unless the mother can convince a judge she is able to care for the child. The longer a woman waits before seeking return of their child, the less likely she will be successful, because courts do weigh the rights of mothers against the rights of PAPS who have been caring for the child. While the process to get back one's child is not easy, it is at least possible.
Dutch law does not specifically allow open adoptions but adoptive and natural families may keep in contact if they choose to do so. Mothers who wish to stay in contact with their children are advised to keep them in foster care instead of relinquishing the child for adoption. Not only does this permit continuing contact between mother and child, it also allows mothers to retain the possibility of raising their child. Mothers who opt for foster care remain the child’s mother rather than relegated to mere "birth mother" status.
NO PHONY AMENDED BIRTH CERTIFICATES
Dutch law does not allow amended or false birth certificates, as does the U.S. When a child is adopted, the adoptive parents’ names are simply added to the birth certificate. Birth certificates, and often all relevant court records, are accessible to the adoptee. We cannot read this without thinking how much grief and aggravation would not occur in this country if we had the same sane, humane policy here.
Our policies regarding adoption in the United States are positively barbaric, when compared with adoption in other Westernized countries, such as the Netherlands, as well as Australia, England, and many other nations. The more we learn, the more we understand that the American way of adoption is determined by the desires of the people who are the paying customers that is, the prospective adoptive parents. The more we learn about the American way of adoption, the more we see it as a money-making business designed to provide babies for the burgeoning market of men and women who decide they wish to become parents past their most fertile years. The more we learn about the American way of adoption, the more we understand how it brutally encourages the separation of mothers and their children. In the Netherlands, Catelynn and Tyler would not be hailed as generous and smart young people who made the right choice to opt for adoption of their daughter, but as young people who went against the social mores and gave their children to someone else.
*Domestic adoptions in Australia are near zero. England and Wales with about one-fifth the population of the US do about 5,000 adoptions each year compared to 136,000 in the US. The difference in domestic infant adoptions is even starker, 125 in England and Wales compared to 15,000 in the US.
High number of adoptions in the US is a national disgrace
Adoption: Aussies and US
State adoption laws