Home blind to make the Adoption Center experts on themselves

23 May 2022

The appointment of experts in the inquiry into foreign adoptions is reminiscent of the home blindness that the inquiry seeks to address. The criticism that the government might have hoped for is already being renewed when the legitimacy of the inquiry can be questioned.

It was after Dagens Nyheter's and SVT's extensive investigations of irregularities and crimes in connection with adoptions to Sweden, that the government in October 2021 got its thumbs out and Minister of Social Affairs Lena Hallengren announced that an investigation was being appointed . One of the main purposes is to clarify the existence of irregularities. The assignment will be reported in November 2023.

One subject of the reviews, which has also received a lot of criticism from adoptees, was the Adoption Center, Sweden's largest adoption mediator. Former employees of the Adoption Center in Chile were singled out for making children available for adoption without parental consent, through corrupt contacts in the judiciary, social services and health care. The Chilean tragedy is spreading over large parts of the western world. Children were pronounced dead, they were stolen from daycare, they were torn from their mothers' arms, they lost their families. A major criminal investigation is underway in Chile.

Cold hand

When Dagens Nyheter focused on Colombia , the newspaper was able to provide information about incorrect background stories and how children disappeared from hospitals and day care to eventually be sent to Sweden. The newspaper also spoke with the Colombian families. But when they searched the Adoption Center for a comment about the organization's responsibility for unethical and sometimes illegal adoptions, it became cold.

Why do they hear that their grandmothers are likely to lie, when these most vulnerable women in society tell of how they have been deprived of their children?

In an email to Dagens Nyheter, the Adoption Center's operations manager Kerstin Gedung wrote that they work for the best interests of the child, where they "both then and now sometimes feel compelled to make decisions that are contrary to the biological parents' wishes". An absurd statement in this context.

Do not want to answer questions

When it was China's turn , the Adoption Center did not want to comment on individual cases. This time the individual case where the police stole a child who was then adopted to Sweden through the Adoption Center. And in South Korea, the business is said to be run professionally, despite women stating that they are being pressured to leave their children.

In SVT's documentary "Children at any cost" from 2002, Kerstin Sterky, former head of Thailand at the Adoption Center, laughs when she gets questions about stolen children in the 70s. She does not believe in that, she does not think that you should believe everything you read in the newspaper. When Dagens Nyheter conducts its major review twenty years later, the Adoption Center thinks that the journalists lack expertise, and therefore does not want to answer questions.

Sits in the report

The reason why I sum it all up is the ongoing work of the inquiry. A number of people have now been attached to it. The reference group includes representatives from the adoptees' associations. The experts include lawyers, psychologists and sociologists, as well as the Adoption Center's operations manager Kerstin Gedung. The organization that emerges in connection with irregularities in adoptions from all corners of the world is dubbed into expertise in the investigation of these irregularities.

Tobias Lundin Gerdås is State Secretary to Lena Hallengren, and I ask him what this really means. He explains that the experts are appointed by the government, and assists with information and knowledge to the investigation. The investigator then makes an independent assessment of the data.

- But why are they appointed experts when they are a party to the case? I ask.

- It is not up to the government to assess how the inquiry absorbs the knowledge that the reference group or the experts assist with, Tobias Lundin Gerdås answers.

- There is criticism that the Adoption Center and the state have been too close to each other over the years, I say.

- Our starting point is to get as independent a review as possible, ensure that it will lead to improvements in the future and get light on an issue that has been shrouded in obscurity. There are trade-offs with everything, I am very confident that it is better to give the investigation access to the people and their expertise, says Tobias Lundin Gerdås.

- Had the investigation not been able to get it in any other way than to have them as experts? I ask.

- The inquiry has a broad mandate and will certainly have many bilateral contacts for input. But if you get people as experts, you get a more formalized contact, which in the long run can mean more knowledge and more information. The adoption mediators have a very great interest in assisting in coming to terms with and spreading light on what has been shrouded in obscurity, says Tobias Lundin Gerdås.

The trust that the Adoption Center enjoys is truly strange.

Advised to seek out his mother

Why do adopted Swedes say that they have been opposed when they want to receive information about their background and their first time in life? Why have so many been discouraged from seeking the truth? Why do they hear that their grandmothers are likely to lie, when these most vulnerable women in society tell of how they have been deprived of their children?

Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom is a member of the Swedish Korean Adoptees' Network, which is part of the inquiry's reference group. When she was a teenager, she was advised by the Adoption Center not to seek out her Korean mother, which she later succeeded in spite of all the inaccuracies in her paperwork. She has previously criticized how people affiliated with the Adoption Center are regarded by the state as independent fact communicators. Now she says:

- It is extremely problematic that the inquiry uses the Adoption Center as an expert when their activities have been pointed out several times as involved in unethical adoptions, something they themselves have denied each time. There is nothing to suggest that their expertise would be neutral or helpful when it comes to reviewing Swedish adoption activities.

Never gave his consent

Maria Diemar is the spokesperson for Chileadoption.se, which is also part of the inquiry's reference group. Her Chilean mother never gave her consent to the adoption. Maria's adopted brother was pronounced dead and stolen at BB. Both came to Sweden via the Adoption Center. She says:

- The adoption center's representative in Chile presented it as if I was an orphan. But I had a mother. A woman, a man with feelings like you and me. I, her daughter, had been taken from her in the hospital at birth. And today, a representative from the Adoption Center is an expert in the investigation, on the government's initiative! How tone deaf can you be?

Will they be redressed?

The inquiry's directives are ambitious, but the appointment of experts is reminiscent of the home blindness of the adoption issue that the inquiry is trying to see. The criticism that the government might have hoped for quietly by turning every stone, is already getting renewed fuel when the legitimacy of the inquiry and thus its integrity can be questioned.

Sweden has adopted the most children in the world, per capita. Will the people who have been stolen, soiled and lied to in Sweden be rehabilitated when the investigation is completed? I will pass that question on to the experts.