Three countries of origin are given the green light for further adoption cooperation after extensive screening

14 February 2023

The first screening round of countries of origin with which Flanders collaborates for intercountry adoption has been completed by the Growing Up Agency. Five countries were examined. Collaboration with Portugal, Colombia and South Africa will continue. For the cooperation with Kazakhstan, an on-site visit will take place to gain more clarity on a number of important issues. Cooperation with Vietnam is being terminated because there are insufficient guarantees that the rights of children eligible for adoption and their families are guaranteed. Minister Crevits confirmed this during an exchange of views in the Welfare Committee.

If there are children for whom we can do something, we should not close our eyes to them. That is precisely why we believe in a future for intercountry adoption. But we can only guarantee that future if we give society at large and all those involved, the children themselves, but also their parents and adoptive parents, the best possible guarantees that we have done everything we can to rule out abuses. The Growing Up Agency has carried out a very intensive screening. We want to make sure that families are not pressured to give up children, that the rights of the child are not affected or that there are no financial interests involved in an adoption.” - Hilde Crevits

In mid-2021, the Flemish Government instructed to screen cooperation with countries of origin in the context of intercountry adoption. This screening must sharpen the context in which intercountry adoptions take place in order to avoid possible malpractice in the future. The Growing Up Agency developed a detailed decision framework based on the guidelines established by the government . International organizations with expertise in youth protection and children's rights such as UNICEF, International Social Service (ISS) and Child Identity Protection (CHIP) were called in to provide the most accurate possible picture of the cooperative relationship in each country of origin based on contacts with local authorities, NGOs and organizations involved in youth care and adoption processes. Both adoptees and the intercountry adoption services in Flanders were given the opportunity to assess all information. The Flemish Center for Adoption of the Growing Up agency made the final decision.  

First round of screening

Five countries were part of the first round of screening: Portugal, Colombia, South Africa, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. For Portugal, Colombia and South Africa, the screening provided confirmation that a further direct cooperation relationship with Flanders is appropriate and that further agreements can be made. Kazakhstan turns orange: this means that an on-site visit is necessary before a final decision can be made. For the time being, contact with the competent authorities in the country was only possible to a very limited extent. A working visit should provide an answer to the question of whether a sustainable cooperative relationship for adoption with Kazakhstan is possible. Pending more clarity, the collaboration will continue in the meantime. In the coming months, the 15 other countries of origin with which Flanders currently has an adoption relationship will also be examined.


A final decision has been made for Vietnam to refrain from further cooperation in the context of intercountry adoptions. This decision was made, among other things, after the conclusion that not only the government or a court, but also facilities themselves decide whether or not a child is eligible for adoption. Moreover, there is no transparency surrounding the effective cost of an adoption for prospective adopters. The practical application of asking permission from a child's parents or guardian to proceed with adoption is also insufficiently regulated.  Unclear criteria were used to decide when a child was eligible for adoption.  These are enough alarm bells for Flanders to no longer allow intercountry adoptions from Vietnam, just like Denmark did in 2018.

Acting Administrator General of Growing Up Bruno Vanobbergen:  “Such a thorough screening has never been carried out in the past. This estimate was made based on international studies, advice from children's rights organizations and contacts with the competent authorities in the various countries. Adoptees themselves and adoption services were also involved in the evaluation. The decision to no longer cooperate with Vietnam was taken after an intensive process. Based on various signals and observations, we cannot guarantee that every adoption will be concluded lawfully. Families, prospective adopters, on the waiting list who have indicated that they want to adopt a child from Vietnam, can reorient themselves towards the countries of origin with which Flanders still collaborates.”