Being between two countries, I have access to two cultures and media. Coincidentally, in the UK and in Denmark, there is a debate about adoption.

The UK is coming from the direction that once parents are found to be suitable carers for children, there is too much time spent on matching. So, it can take half a year to be cleared for adoption and then another 9 months to be matched with a child but matching does not have an evidence base to suggest it works.

The UK authorities take great care to match children, even in fostering cases, with parents from the same sort of ethnic background. This can result in situations where a French speaking child from Congo ends up with an English speaking adult “from” the Caribbean which makes about as much as sense to me as an English speaking adult “from” India or China or England. Their skin tones match!  Is that really all that is important?

Anyway. They work really hard to match children and it’s not really “a thing” to see white parents with children from other ethnicities a la Mia Farrow or Brad Pitt. I don’t know how I feel about that. One of the kids in my class when I was 11 was a black girl adopted by white parents and she seemed okay with it.

So the debate in the UK is: what is really truly important, what does a child need, how can we support adoption, how can we get children in children’s homes off the lists and into loving families?

Denmark is having  the opposite debate. Denmark has almost no children up for adoption in the country. This is mostly because of the ease of getting a termination in the case of an unwanted pregnancy (and the way boroughs can force women to have terminations) but probably also in part to the way the Danish authorities often declare disturbed or neglected children “need” professional care without close, personal relationships in children’s homes. (WHAT THE FUCK? That’s so wrong I don’t even know where to start. Oh wait, I’ve covered it before.)

Most adoptions in Denmark are intercultural, that is to say, children are adopted from foreign countries. Only a few are truly orphans. If this were a mission of mercy, then it would probably be better to give support and education to people in those countries, rather than take their healthy and able bodied youngest members away. It is just an easy way of getting babies into the arms of the childless. There are very few controls and it appears not much in the way of preparation or support for the adoptive couples.

A documentary was recently shown on Danish tv about an adoption case gone wrong. The director had hoped to show a story of nice Danish people doing a great job helping the poor little Africans but what she ended up filming was something quite disturbing.

A couple with five children had been told they were going to die of AIDS in a few years. They decided that it would be best to give two of their children up for adoption and asked only that they have a telephone call once a year and a regular report about their children. They are told that their children will get educations and then be able to come back to Ethiopia and be scientists and doctors. They also seemed to think that they would be helped out financially by their new family members but as the adoption went through, they were told this was not possible.

The footage of the mother with her girl is very revealing compared to what happens later in Denmark: she sings to her, she does her hair, she tells her she is loved. The couple are kind and nice but in an impossible situation.

The Danish couple are in their late 40s and had not conceived in the seven years of trying. They do not speak Amharic beyond “Salaam”. They meet their children a couple of times at an orphanage but are not taught anything about their children’s needs or culture. They are not given any training on how to deal with emotional difficulties. They are not taught how to understand their children. Their children are not taught about what is happening or what will happen to them. The Danes meet the Ethiopian parents and are really fucking patronising. The Ethiopian couple ask the Danish couple if they can say goodbye at the airport. The Danish woman says “No, I don’t think it would be a good idea for the children. We have to be on a plane for 10 hours with them.” Which is about the most selfish thing I have ever heard. She is also very patronising. Which reveals that she thinks she is better than the Ethiopian couple, she does not talk down to any Dane in the film.

The children are naturally confused and upset but the Danish couple have no idea what the children are saying and so cannot comfort them. Their hotel room has absolutely no toys or things of interest for a small child. With predictable results.

Then in Denmark, the children are expected to be “perfect”. Everything is a showdown. Taking toys to the wrong place, eating the wrong amount, giving the wrong answer. Both children’s hair was allowed to become unkempt and matted. In London, if any of my students came to school like that I would ring social services. The couple had not done any basic research into how to care for a child from their background. This is symptomatic of everything wrong with this adoption.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian couple are trying to get some answers. They are a lot healthier than they were told they would be six years ago, they are able to work, their life expectancy is going up. They have had no reports from the Danish family and are going out of their minds with grief. The Danish adoption agency just give them the runaround and send them from one office to another rather than give what they promised.

The Danish woman is incredibly cold towards her daughter and her daughter shows signs of depression. The couple use English as a “secret” language around the children. The Danish borough get her a “bonus family” for the weekends, which in a child who is suffering from attachment problems seems a little unkind. Then it gets much worse when the Danish woman calls the borough and has her taken to a children’s home because it is “too hard”. The Danish borough has no plans to place her with people who can love her while they deal with her emotional needs because “she needs professional help with people who are not closely emotionally involved with her.”

News Translation (from Ekstra Bladet)

My daughter treated like an animal

I believed our little girl was going to a humane and developed country. But her Danish adoptive family have treated her like an animal.

Nine year old Masho’s biological parents in Africa (sic) were on Wednesday shown the shocking footage from the girl’s life with the family in Holbæk.

This happened when the programme team from TV2’s News showed the pair clips from Monday’s tv-documentary “The Price of Adoption” which has created huge debate here in this country all week.

Home as soon as possible

Late on Wednesday evening, Ekstra Bladet came in telephone contact via an interpreter with Masho’s father Hussan Immishu in the family’s home in a small village 300km from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

He was still shocked about the programe where you can see Masho being coldly rejected by the adoptive mother Henriette Vedsegaard when the little girl wants to help carry a bag.

“I feel very let down by the Danish adoptive parents. I think only about how we can get Masho back as soon as possible. But someone must help us. We don’t have the funds to get ger home ourselves,” said Hussen Immishu.

The Ethiopian couple gave Masho and her little brother Roba up for adoption five years ago to the Danish couple Henriette and Gert Vedsegaard. The couple were HIV positive and did not think they were going to live very long.

Since then they have got medicine which keeps them alive.

Worried for the boy

“We would have never believed that our daughter would be treated like that. We hoped that she would get a good education and one day come back to Ethiopia. Instead, we can see now that she has been treated like an animal,” said the embittered father.

He told at the same time that the family is now very worried for the little brother Roba, who is still with the Vedsegaard family.

“We are afraid that he is getting the same treatment as Masho. We have not heard from his own mouth about how he is,” said Hussen Immishu.

All in all, the family has not heard from the children in a long time.

It would be worse in China. Oh wait.

News translation:-

Lawyers: Borough councils pressure women to have terminations.

Many poor (“resource-weak”), pregnant women experience being pressured into having an abortion by their social worker at the borough council.

This is what a group of lawyers who specialise in helping vulnerable citizens claim. But it is not legal for social workers to interfere in questions of life and death, believes an expert in this area.

Have an abortion – if you want to keep your daughter

21 year old Simone Jørgensen is one of the women who has experienced the situation. It happened when she became pregnant in September last year.

“My social worker said if I wanted to keep the daughter I already had, I needed to have an abortion,” said Simone Jørgensen.

More lawyers confirmed in a survey conducted by DR News that social workers encourage young women like Simone Jørgensen to have a termination.

“It happens every other month, that I am rung up with that situation,” said lawyer Lars Buurgaard Sørensen from Brøndeslew and called the practice in borough councils “grotesque”.

Coercion outrageous

Lawyer Rasmus Hedegaard from Aarhus agreed with the critics. He is rung up every month with the problem.

“It is outrageous that one can almost threaten that ‘if you don’t have an abortion, then I as a social worker am going to get the authorities to forcibly remove your child’. It doesn’t fit with their role. You cannot sit with a sword in one hand and at the same time want to be a secure base of guidance for citizens,” said Rasmus Hedegaard.

Lecturer in social rights at Aalborg University Trine Schultz said that the law gives social workers the right to guide and inform about which scenarios arise if a family increases in size.

“But that’s a long way away from going in and giving specific advice about abortion. That responsibility lies in a completely different area. It is the health authorities who can advise about things like that,” she said.

It’s okay to talk about abortion

Peter Brügge, the social services leader in Simone Jørgensen’s previous borough council in Randers was presented with Simone Jørgensen’s case and the lawyers’ criticism. He does not believe that the borough council has made a mistake.

“I think, that it is okay to talk about abortion. Abortion is a possibility. This does not mean to say that we should pressure someone or over-encourage them but they should have an understanding of the consequences they might get.”

Immigrants and the brain drain thereof.

For all the money that Denmark spends on higher education, it still needs to look abroad to recruit “highly educated” foreigners to keep the economy going. The trouble is, these immigrants are not staying as long as planned. A study or seminar or survey is launched every six months or so and the findings are always the same. “Luksus indvandrer” leave earlier than planned because of reasons as static and immeutable as the permitted toppings on smørbrød. Yet, incredibly, someone always needs to replicate the study just in case the findings change to something Denmark wants to do something about.

A major plank of the government’s strategy for retaining immigrants seems to be telling foreigners they have it all wrong. They may feel like their workmates ignore them, they may feel like they are not informed of the “unwritten rules”, they may feel like the Danish people they come in contact with have been rude but really, truly, everything has been because Danes are modest, kind and respectful!

My favourite type of disgruntled immigrant is the returned Dane. Their issues could be my issues and yet they can hand-on-heart say “The language barrier is NOT the reason for my problems.” There are serious issues with settling in modern Denmark not to do with cultural misunderstandings and linguistic problems.

What are these reasons? Reportedly:- happiness of the spouse, communication problems at work, poor minimum standards of public decency and high taxes.

Job finding in Denmark without a network (or Danish skills), is almost impossible. Spouses may have been able to get English-speaking jobs on their own merits in other countries but they will struggle in Denmark until they know someone who knows someone who can get them in. If the spouse cannot find work: they they move country.

My first year or so in my job were spent being intermittently told off for not having done something and when I said I had no idea what they were talking about: “If you didn’t know, why didn’t you ask?” My workmates and employers were neither being respectful nor disrespectful of me, they just could not empathise with my situation. Having this lack of social ability dressed up as politeness or even shyness means that no progress can be made. Which means people move country rather than deal with it.

Movements like “Fucking Flink”, illustrate that many Danes have poor social skills and need to be trained in the use of random acts of kindness, casual civility and friendliness towards strangers. If the only Danes they interacted with on a regular basis were rude or unfriendly, they might get the idea Danes are all like that. And then they move country.

As for taxation: it is a scandy socialist paradise, right? You pay into the system and you get great services in return. Except the problem is, the Danish state is expecting luksus immigrants to pay the same as everyone else. Even though they will never qualify for a state pension, use nursing homes, draw benefits. Pay the same and receive much less? If the other services like the police, health and schools were world-class, perhaps the immigrants could rationalise paying their 50-60% tax bill. Honestly though, these services are patchy at best. If they feel ripped off, they will move country.

What seems to be the biggest problem is that for all the times these questions are posed, they only invite Danes to talk about it in Danish. The survey goes out in English and then Danes stroke their beards and explain what the foreigners really meant.

None of these problems can be solved, though. Rude Danes will not get social skills overnight, colleagues cannot suddenly develop a theory of mind, employers will not stop nepotistic recruitment, the taxation situation is not going to change. At best, they can hope that employers have more international-friendly recruitment. So, it makes sense to keep foreigners at arm’s length during this lip service. Otherwise, things could get nasty.

Why else hasn’t the rhetoric moved on from “cold Danes” as opposed to the less friendly to the Danish ear “racist, xenophobic, rude, boorish, peasant Danes” that you hear from disgruntled foreigners on the way out of the country? There has to be a reason that none of the criticisms the foreigners come up with in the surveys match what I am hearing on the ground. (Remember the people reportedly citing “cold Danes” as a negative are the ones who want to leave, not the happy ones who are satisfied and want to stay.) There has to be a reason that the criticisms reported by organisations trying to explain to Danes why foreigners don’t like it here are toothless and gentle. And I suggest the reason is SHENANIGANS.

What these organisations and the government are missing is that they do not need to recruit foreign talent from abroad. They do not need to go to all this effort. Much of this talent is already here. Married to a Dane or highly skilled “expat”. If they recruited from this captive market, they would halve their problems overnight.

And they could stop putting out these stupid surveys.

Hold your own Danish Party

Politiken newspaper breathlessly informs that British newspapers are giving tips on how to hold Danish style parties. Ahh, has Forbrydelsen made it to the UK already?

(Let’s all imagine the situation where a British newspaper informs its readers that another country has written articles praising a drama serial or explaining how to have a British-style celebration. Now relax. Your frown lines will become permanent otherwise.)

This is really how to host a Danish style party:-

Step one:- invite people. If you are going to do this more danico, you need to ask your guests about a month in advance. Since we are past the J-Day Event Horizon, you may need two months notice. Do not expect all your invitees to respond with “sorry, can’t make it,” which you may have expected to be basic courtesy.

Step two:- be ready for the time you said in the invitation. If you said 6pm, hoping your guests would arrive around half an hour after that, meaning you can faff around painting your nails or buggering up your prep at any point, prepare for a surprise! Make them take off their shoes so they are in party dresses and stockinged feet. Mwahahaha.

Step three:- Serve meat, potatoes, some veggies, beer and for god’s sake light some candles. Remain in the dining chairs until you and your guests are drunk. Turn the music up.

Step four:- Be ignored by one or more of your guests for at least a quarter of the evening if not the entire party. (They may ignore you because their phone is more interesting, they are shy or because they believe you will say nothing of interest whatsoever.)

Step five:- Turn the music up.

Step six:- Drink.

Step seven:- Start to shout. Now that people are looking up from their phones or their partners, suggested conversations:- summer houses, meat ball recipes, how crap other countries are during the “crisis”, how much you get paid, how much your rent is.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, avoid deep conversations. 

Step eight:- Serve chips/crisps. Pour alcohol into the glasses of those who are drinking soda or slowly.

Step nine:- Drink. Shout some more. Turn the music up.

Step ten:- Are you seeing double? Talking shit? Unsteady on your feet? Unable to think straight and keep track of your things? No? Repeat step nine. Yes? You are now ready to go to the bar.