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Flemish government issues apology for forced adoptions

23:09 25/11/2015

The government of Flanders and parliament have issued an official apology to the victims of forced adoptions that took place in the region between the 1950s and 1980s. The apology was supported by the Belgian bishops.

Forced adoptions usually took place in the case of teenage girls who were pregnant. After giving birth, they were often forced to give up the child immediately, sometimes in the delivery room. In many cases, the girls were not informed that the baby would be taken away after birth.

Special agencies matched children to adoptive parents, and the birth mother was given no contact information. “We recognise that what has been done cannot be undone,” said welfare minister Jo Vandeurzen (pictured). “That painful realisation confronts us as to our responsibility.” The Flemish authorities, the apology admitted, did too little and acted too late to address the interests of both the mothers and children.

“We must do whatever victims need to help process their grief and to move towards recovery,” Vandeurzen said. That includes the creation of a DNA database and an agency to gather information that would allow the adopted children, all now adults, to trace their parents.

In the meantime, an exhibition on the subject is being organised by the Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent, to open next year.

The Belgian bishops pledged their assistance in gathering information on the many adoption cases in which the church was involved; they will supply any information to the Flemish family organisation Kind & Gezin. “We need to admit that too little attention was paid to the mother and the effect on the rest of her life,” said Antwerp bishop Johan Bonny.

Photo: Jasper Jacobs/BELGA

Written by Alan Hope