What do we stand for?

ACT advocates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as the best safeguard against child trafficking. It has been ratified by every country on earth apart from the USA.

ACT serves human rights professionals–networks, NGOs and lawyers–and journalists frequently contact us for our expertise, contacts and viewpoint.

Most importantly, ACT assists the victims of child trafficking – parents and children.act

ACT’s achievements

ACT was founded in 2008 and since then we have, among other things, helped challenge Madonna in Court in Malawi, blocked the toxic “European Adoption Policy”, challenged the Hague Adoption Convention, exposed the intercountry adoption industry in Ethiopia, and highlighted illegal practices in India.

ACT’s achievements: in some more detail

ACT challenged Madonna in Malawi

Soon after ACT was established we heard that Madonna was adopting another child from Malawi. ACT provided technical and legal assistance to the Malawian Human right organisations which intervened in the court case. The first court hearing was won and Madonna’s request for adoption was refused.

Unfortunately the case was lost at the appeal level; the judges decided that Madonna didn’t need to obey the law that foreigners must spend at least 18 months in Malawi before adopting.

Although we were unable to help the grandmother of the adopted child in her demand for visitation rights, we did provide a lot of information to the human rights organisations who then used it for advocacy with the government
ACT news on Madonna

ACT helped the EU keep out child traffickers

In the 1990’s, Romania was an important “sending” country for the intercountry adoption industry and tens of thousands of children were exported before the practice was banned in 2001.

The intercountry adoption lobby was strongly established in Romania but it was successfully challenged by the European Commission and Parliament, who insisted that the trade in children stop before EU membership would be accepted. These terms were agreed, the Romanian child reform system was reformed, foster care was introduced and the number of children in institutions fell sharply.

The “Romanian children’s dossier” at the European Commission was managed by Roelie Post until June 2005. The “Adoption Lobby” then made her stop working. The Commission then seconded her to ACT where she was able to apply the Romanian experience to countries that were under pressure from the intercountry adoption lobby.

ACT challenged the Hague Adoption Convention

ACT believes that the Hague Adoption Convention (HAC) encourages a market in children and undermines the development of child protection services in poor countries—despite its lofty aim of “regulating” the practice. Those countries that enacted the HAC have seen a sharp rise in adoptions.

In 2016, the top legal advisory body in the Netherlands – The Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles – advised the Ministry of Security and Justice that “intercountry adoption is not the best way of protecting children and calls upon the government to shift its focus and to protect these children by supporting the implementation and advancement of the youth protection system in the country of origin.”

A summary of the Council’s report can be found here.

The issue will be debated in the Dutch Parliament during 2017 and, if accepted, will have a global impact as the Hague Convention’s office is based in the Netherlands—and supporting it will no longer be admissible.

The most quoted source in this report—The Perverse Effects of the Hague Adoption Convention—was written by Roelie Post, the founder of ACT. LINK 

In addition, the majority of the cases quoted in the report were from ACT’s field work.

ACT exposed the intercountry adoption industry in Ethiopia

Ethiopia became the African hub of intercountry adoption from 2005.

In 2009 Arun Dohle of ACT was commissioned by the Netherlands adoption agency Werelkinderen to investigate 25 adoption cases in Ethiopia. Arun went to Ethiopia with a social worker from Wereldkinderen and they travelled to meet the families who had their children taken away against their will.

ACT’s report states that the intercountry adoption process in Ethiopia “is riddled by fraud and other criminal activities. Parents are stated dead, whereas they are not, dates of birth are falsified, false information is provided to the Courts,” and the the process is “breaking up families, who could be helped in building up their lives with a fraction of the money involved in intercountry adoption.

The report ( Intercountry adoption: The Rights of the Child, or the “Harvesting” of Children?) was suppressed by the adoption agency Wereldkinderen and the Dutch Ministry of Justice, but ACT made it available online.

There was a global reaction to the report’s findings with TV news reports from ABC Australia, CBC (USA), the Dutch media and many others. As a result, intercountry adoption from Ethiopia was stopped from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. In addition, Ethiopian legislators tightened up the rules on intercountry adoption and the numbers of intercountry adoptions fell by over 80%.


ACT changed the system in India

India was one of the first countries in the world to use intercountry adoption and since the 1970’s it has become one of the world’s big “sending countries ”.

The first big intercountry adoption scandal (Lakshmi Pandey) was in 1984. The Indian authorities investigated but rather than address the crime (child trafficking) they regulated intercountry adoption–creating new legislation–allowing the traffickers to continue their trade.

In 2002 Arun Dohle, the director of ACT, was in India conducting his own search for his mother when he teamed up with a group of women’s rights activists in Andhra Pradesh who were investigating intercountry adoption scandals.

In 2005 a gang of child traffickers were brought to court and ACT followed up some of the cases–leading to Australia and the Netherlands. When the news of these cases came out it caused shockwaves in the media. Official investigations were started but they simply covered up the crimes.

ACT gave technical assistance to the Sakhee and Advait foundations who filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court, demanding a full criminal investigation and a moratorium on intercountry adoption. The Petition included details of numerous trafficking cases and described the difficulties that adoptees have in finding their real parents.

Although the Petition was finally rejected by the Supreme Court, it had an impact–the new legislation on adoption now recognises the rights of adoptees to trace their roots and find their parents.

Partly thanks to the contribution of ACT, intercountry adoptions from India are at an all time low. It’s not over yet, however, and there are powerful forces in India trying to make intercountry adoption into a big business again.