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.