A 13- year-old adopted girl puts a bomb under the adoption system

17 February 2014

English subtitles


13 -year-old Amy was adopted by Danish parent 4,5 years ago. Now her biological mother is going to court to revoke the adoption, because Amy was never happy with her new Danish family.

It means a lot, it affects me, it makes me really sad that it daily life and school are so hard.

Welcome to Monday news, starting with a 13 -year-old girl who may put a bomb under the adoption system.

Amy Steen was adopted to Denmark from Ethiopia, but she was never happy with her adoptive family. Now 4,5 years later, her biological mother goes to court to revoke the adoption. It is the first time that such a trial will be done for a Danish adopted child. If Amy Steen’s mother wins the case, it can have serious consequences for other adoptions.

Amy Steen at the library in Naestved flipping through piles of newspaper articles from the 4.5 years she lived in Denmark .

Amy : They’re so many, I think what a life , sometimes I don’t think it’s about me.

Amy Steen came to Denmark at age 9, maybe she was in fact 10 or 11. It is certain that she never bonded with her adoptive parents, so she was placed with a foster family. But when the relation between foster parents and adoptive parents went awr, this happened:

(clip from Amy’s removal from the foster family)

Amy: That I can clearly remember, it’s like a copy of my head.

Amy was removed and placed in residence care, later she was allowed back to the foster parents. The experience has left its mark.

Amy: I cannot be alone and I cannot stay home alone. I have been afraid. I feel scared and not comfortable enough.

In Ethiopia, Amy’s mother followed on the sidelines. She handed over two of her four children for adoption because she is poor and infected with HIV. She believes that both Næstved Kommune and the adoptive parents failed, as Amy and she did not have contact.

Genet: I will make clear to the Ethiopian and Danish authorities what my children have been exposed to. And I want them removed from the adoptive parents. So I go to court.

Therefore she goes tomorrow to the court, to cancel the adoption.

Genet: if I win, I will be happy for myself and my children.

Amy: It means a lot. Especially if she can be allowed to decide over me, that will mean a lot.

And that is the goal of the organisation Against Child Trafficking, fighting against child trafficking and helping Amy’s mother in filing the case. If they win in Ethiopia, next step is file in Denmark.

Roelie Post: There is a good chance that the case can be won in Denmark. The Danish law says that if there are irregularities or adoption did not go well, an adoption can be revoked.

Amy’s adoptive parents are against the impending lawsuit but did not want to comment, nor does the highest authorities, the Appeals Board. No matter what happens, Amy wants to stay with the foster family and her future lies in Denmark.

Amy: I will always be in Denmark, I will because I have friends and school and also family in some way. So I will not go back to Ethiopia, but I want to go and visit my mother, but I belong at in Denmark.

Adoption laws give possibility to revoke an adoption in cases like Amy, or like the girl Masho from the documentary Adoptionens Pris (Mercy Mercy).

This is the assessment from a legal expert.

Tyge Trier : Legally we are a bit in new territory with the Amy case, because I don’t think we’ve had a similar case before. If there will be a clarification of the law in Amy’s case and perhaps later in Mashos case , then it is clear that there may be implications for other adoptions.

Iben Høgsberg you are a social worker, you have written books about adoption and you have adopted 2 children. What do you think as an adoptive mother about the trial is now underway.

Iben : I think it’s a really heartbreaking case for all parties involved . I also think it is very important for the entire adoption system, both here in Denmark and around the world, because it is a sign that something is very wrong .

I know that you believe that this matter should be the starting point of a showdown of adoptions as we know them today. What do you think is wrong with the system?

Iben : I think that time has run out for the anonymous adoptions as we know up to now. We very much need to open up the adoption system, so that adopted children can get to know their origin.

But how could it have helped Amy, for example, in this case, if she would have had an open adoption, and she would have kept in touch.

Iben: Amy was not a baby when she was adopted. She had her start, her origins in Ethiopia, she has her memories there. And that is what is required and what should be kept as a right in order to develop an entire identity.

reporter: Iben Høgsberg, thank you.