False certificates and forced abandonment: study documents irregular adoptions of foreigners in France

9 February 2023

Adoption without parental consent, falsification of documents, payment for child abandonment. These are some of the irregularities found in a study of four decades of international adoptions by French people in different countries, including Brazil. The report, published this week, documents illegalities and crimes that occurred in the adoption process, in the registration of the child and in the removal from his country of origin.

The study was carried out by Yves Denéchère and Fabio Macedo, two historians from the University of Angers, and reveals the dark face of the increase in the number of international adoptions carried out by French people from 1979 onwards.

The researchers analyzed thousands of diplomatic files from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the subject and found reports of various illicit practices in the process of adopting children. The researchers studied documents up to 2021, which contained information about adoptions in dozens of countries.

“The most common problem is the lack of consent by the biological family. Be it lack of free and informed consent from the mother, or from the biological family”, explains Macedo.

In the period studied, the countries of origin with the highest number of children adopted by French people were Vietnam, Colombia, South Korea, Haiti and Brazil.

Another crime that appears recurrently is document fraud to "facilitate" adoption. “If we take the case of Brazil, there is what is called 'Brazilian style adoption'. The woman has the child, but instead of her, the child's father or someone from that mother's family registering the child at the registry office, it is the 'adoptive couple'. This is a type of fraud that existed a lot [in Brazil] in the early 1980s", says the historian.

payment for the child

The analysis of cases and complaints allowed the researchers to perceive certain patterns and show systematic illegalities. In the Brazilian case, the search for children by the French created in the 1980s and 1990s a market of lawyers specializing in international adoption in the country. “These specialists, instead of looking for children available in public or private shelters and orphanages, would look for children in the poor outskirts of Brazilian cities”, says the Brazilian historian.

“In the outskirts, they would identify a teenage mother or a couple who already had several children and were expecting one more and would make a proposal for money and ensure that the person had a reasonable pregnancy from a material point of view. As soon as the child was born, he would do the fraud or the international adoption process.”

The report documents allegations of child trafficking, the purchase of minors, and kidnapping involving French couples in Vietnam, Cambodia, India, and Madagascar. There are also reports of mothers forced to abandon their children in Latin American countries.

Most adoptions with traces of illegality took place in poor countries and in times of crisis, such as armed conflicts or humanitarian crises.

Lack of control facilitated fraud

In several countries, the lack of organization in the international adoption process promoted a scenario conducive to illegality. This is what happened in the Brazilian case, for example.

According to Macedo, until the 1980s "it was possible to adopt in the country without going through the Juvenile Court" and, in some cases, only going through the registry office.

"The ECA [Statute of Children and Adolescents] will reorganize the adoption system in Brazil. It provides for the creation of state judicial commissions for international adoption in all states of the federation. From that moment on, in the mid-1990s, the process begins to centralize what was spread across the districts and without any control", says the historian.

Macedo points out that it is not possible to quantify the number of adoptions carried out in this period with evidence of illegality among the 120,000 foreign children adopted by French families - including 6,000 Brazilian ones.

The problem has been addressed in recent years from adopted adults who seek their origins and discover crimes in their process of leaving the country. The researchers' objective now is to collect testimonies from children adopted by French people who went in search of their origin, in a new step of the research.