Mon, Aug 15, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Adoption becoming more open

TRANSPARENCY Child welfare advocates want more people to consider adoption, and hope new measures to open up the process and break traditional views will help

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Martin Rijnbeek of the Netherlands adopted his daughter Yentl from Taiwan when she was eight months old. He told her about the adoption before she asked, and made sure she knew that if she wanted to, she could always go back to Taiwan to search for her birth parents, whose names and contact information are kept by the adoption agency.

Rijnbeek's case highlights a growing trend in child adoption. In many Western countries, adoption has evolved from a secretive, closed process weighed down by dark stigmas and painful misconceptions into a more transparent experience. There is open contact between adoptive parents and biological parents, and children are increasingly told, even before they can fully understand, how they came to their families.

Child adoption in Taiwan, however, is still viewed as a shameful secret and the last option for infertile people. Even if they do decide to adopt, Taiwanese prefer private adoption to going through legitimate child welfare groups. Statistics from the Child Welfare Foundation show that in Taipei alone, private adoption is used in 94 percent of adoptions every year.

Adoption services in Taiwan are provided by a few child welfare groups or foster care centers, and the government and child welfare advocates are now cooperating to improve adoption services.

As early as 1993, the government had included legal provisions for adoption in a revision to the Child Welfare Law (兒童福利法). The Child and Teenager Adoption Service Permission and Management Measures (兒童及少年從事收出養服務許可及管理辦法) implemented last year further stipulated that child welfare groups offering adoption services must provide information about an adoptee their birth parents, and the adopters.

Information

Aiming to make adoption more transparent, the Ministry of the Interior's (MOI) Bureau of Child Welfare (兒童局) established a "Child Adoption Information Center" (兒童收養資訊中心), which is expected to open in October. It will hold detailed information on an adopted person's medical history and biological family, including their birth parents' names and contact information. Adopters, adoptees and birth parents will be able to obtain the information.

"Adoption is a part of child welfare services. It is our goal to make the adoption process legal and transparent. The information center is designed to protect adoptees' rights to find their birth parents and prevent illegal trade in children or even trafficking," Bureau Chief Huang Bi-hsia (黃碧霞) said during a press conference earlier last week to welcome Taiwan-born adoptees and their Dutch parents who had returned to Taiwan for a tour.

While congratulating the adoptees -- most of whom had been abandoned because of physical defects or ill health -- on their happy and healthy lives with their new families overseas, Huang discussed new efforts to improve the adoption process in an attempt to boost domestic adoption.

"Frequent home visits to potential adopters and birth parents by social workers are important for the adopted child's benefit. The bureau is also working on a more comprehensive adoption assessment criteria," she said.

Beginning in 2003, the bureau started providing child welfare groups with government subsidies to improve child adoption services, and gave local courts financial assistance to review adoption cases and for counseling services.

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