Finnish Adoptees Call For Investigation of Fraud: NAAM

This is for day 25 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees, posted on day 27.

A group of international adoptees in Finland has called for an investigation of fraudulent adoption practices in their adoptive country. The adoptees (from Ethiopia, China, India, Colombia, Taiwan, Austria, South Korea, Thailand, and Bangladesh) are calling upon the government of Finland to look into historic “irregularities” in adoption practices.

The group sent a Letter to the Editor of Hufvudstadsbladet, the highest-circulation Swedish-language newspaper in Finland. Here is the letter in English, via Inter Country Adoptive Voices News‘ Facebook page:

Irregularities in international adoptions must be investigated

LETTER TO THE EDITOR 14.11.2021

Swedish Yle reported (29.10) that serious errors in adoptions are examined in Sweden, and that irregularities can also occur in Finland. Patrik Lundberg, one of the journalists behind Dagens Nyheter’s series of articles on Swedish international adoption activities, says that if it is a question of the same adoption countries, there is also great reason for Finland to review its adoptions. This is because the same orphanage has adopted children to several different countries in the western world, and because the same lawyers and corrupt people have been involved. According to Lundberg, control has been particularly poor in countries classified as dictatorships.

With reference to other countries’ investigations of international adoptions, and given that Finland has in many cases used the same adoption contacts as, for example, Sweden, we demand that Finland also appoint its own independent inquiry.

The issue of adoptions that have not gone right is not only limited to Sweden, whose government recently presented directives for an inquiry expected to be completed in the autumn of 2023, or the Netherlands, whose government earlier this year stopped all international adoptions after a comprehensive inquiry showed that children have been stolen or purchased from their biological parents.

We, who signed this submission, demand that the state of Finland investigate the international adoptions that have taken place to date, from all countries of origin from which Finland has adopted children. This also includes adoptions that took place after the Hague Convention was ratified. The inquiry shall be independent and autonomous and no members of the inquiry group may have any connection to the adoption mediation adoption organizations.The inquiry should engage experts and research competencies in the field, such as lawyers, historians and researchers, so that the international adoption activities in Finland can be fully examined. The investigation must be given sufficient resources, both personnel, financially and in terms of time. In addition to adoptions mediated by adoption organizations, the inquiry must also examine independent adoptions (private adoptions) and the role of the Finnish state in international adoption mediation in Finland.

The inquiry shall contain proposals for measures on how to ensure that today’s adoptions take place legally and ethically. The adoption agency must be quality assured and followed up in a comprehensive way. The inquiry must ensure that corruption does not occur in connection with adoptions today.

Finally, the State of Finland should provide sufficient resources to develop and disseminate knowledge about post-adoption services for adoptees. Adoptees must have low-threshold access to free or subsidized therapy services or other necessary psychiatric care for the treatment of adoption-related trauma. Adopted persons should also be able to apply for financial support for, for example, return journeys, in the same way as adoption applicants can apply for adoption allowance for the adoption of a child.

Signed: Muluken Cederborg, adopted from Ethiopia, Sabina Söderlund-Myllyharju, adopted from Taiwan, Patrik Sigmundt, adopted from Austria, Oscar Lehtinen, adopted from Colombia, Maria Kallio, adopted from China, Mirjam Gullstén-Borg, adopted from South Korea (via Sweden), Kati Ekstrand, adopted from Taiwan, Anu-Rohima Mylläri, adopted from Bangladesh, Kerttu Yuan, adopted from China, Conny Wiik, adopted from Taiwan, Khalid Wikström, adopted from Bangladesh, Ada-Emilia Koskinen, adopted from China, Jasmin Lindholm, adopted from China, Jennifer Lönngren, adopted from China, Anton Sundén, adopted from Thailand, Yuli Andrea Paz, adopted from Colombia, Pooja Sandell, adopted from India, Naa Sippola, adopted from Thailand, Janica Palonen, adopted from Taiwan, Mei Monto, adopted from China, Iida Kuukka, adopted from China, Mimosa Torittu, adopted from China, Saba Holm, adopted from Ethiopia, Belinda Söderlund, adopted from Taiwan, Chris Gullmans, adopted from Hong Kong, Oscar Härkönen, adopted from Colombia.

Article from Hufvudstadsbladet, a Swedish-language newspaper in Finland, about adoptees calling for investigation of irregularities in their adoptions.

The original article in Swedish is here.

Netherlands Ordered to Pay Damages to Brazilian Adoptee

The District Court of The Hague on November 24, 2021, ordered The Netherlands to pay compensation (amount not yet determined) to a Brazilian adoptee.

According to Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers, “Patrick Noordoven was illegally adopted from Brazil in 1980. His parentage was thereby misrepresented, by giving him up as the biological child of the Dutch couple who adopted him illegally. Shortly after his illegal adoption, the police conducted an investigation and concluded that Patrick Noordoven and 41 other children had been adopted illegally from Brazil to the Netherlands. Nevertheless, after the investigation, the State did not take measures to enable Patrick Noordoven to know his parentage and the circumstances of his illegal adoption. The Court concluded that by doing so, the State acted in violation of Patrick Noordoven’s right to identity and knowledge of his parentage.”

In 2018, based on Noordoven’s case, The Hague Appeals Court determined that “a child that was illegally adopted has the right to all information about their adoption. This encompasses, among other things, information about how the illegal adoption took place, criminal investigations into the illegal adoption, and press reports about suspicions of child trafficking.” More information is available here: “Illegally adopted persons have the right to obtain all information about their adoption.”

Increasing numbers of international adult adoptees are searching for their origins, and finding that fraud and corruption were involved. Patrick Noordoven spent 20 years tracking down his truth. This appears to be the first time a country, in the case The Netherlands, has been ordered to pay damages for an illegal adoption.

I am not a lawyer, but I would say this case has global ramifications for illegally adopted people.

European Adoption Consultants’ Staffer Pleads Guilty to Bribery, Fraud

The U.S. Justice Department reported today that Debra Parris, program manager at Ohio adoption agency European Adoption Consultants, has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and bribery in the adoption of children from Poland and Uganda.

Parris was indicted in August 2020 along with the executive director Margaret Cole and staff person Dorah Mirembe.

Cole is expected to go to trial in February 2022. Mirembe, the Justice Department says, is “still at large.”

Below is the press release from the U.S. Justice Department. You can also find it here.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Schemes to Procure Adoptions from Uganda and Poland through Bribery and Fraud

A Texas woman who was a program manager at an Ohio-based international adoption agency pleaded guilty today in the Northern District of Ohio to schemes to procure adoptions of Ugandan and Polish children by bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. authorities.

According to court documents, Debra Parris, 69, of Lake Dallas, engaged in a scheme with others to bribe Ugandan officials to procure adoptions of Ugandan children by families in the United States. These bribes included payments to (a) probation officers intended to ensure favorable probation reports recommending that a particular child be placed into an orphanage; (b) court registrars to influence the assignment of particular cases to “adoption-friendly” judges; and (c) High Court judges to issue favorable guardianship orders for the adoption agency’s clients. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that she continued to direct the adoption agency’s clients to work with her alleged co-conspirator Dorah Mirembe, after knowing that Mirembe caused clients of the adoption agency to provide false information to the U.S. State Department for the purpose of misleading it in its adjudication of visa applications.

According to court documents, in a second scheme, after alleged co-conspirator Margaret Cole, the adoption agency’s Executive Director, learned that clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Parris and her co-conspirator took steps to transfer the Polish child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that after the child was injured and hospitalized, Parris agreed with her co-conspirator to conceal their improper conduct from the U.S. State Department in an attempt to continue profiting from these adoptions.

Parris pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and commit visa fraud in connection with the Uganda scheme, and conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the Poland scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2022. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Trial against Cole is scheduled to commence on Feb. 7, 2022. Mirembe remains at large.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan for the Northern District of Ohio; and Acting Assistant Director Jay Greenberg of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

If you believe you are a victim of this offense, please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/victim-witness-program or call (888) 549-3945.

The FBI’s Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case. 

Trial Attorneys Jason Manning and Alexander Kramer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs assisted in the investigation.

The Fraud Section has lead responsibility for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and Cole and Mirembe are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.Topic(s): Foreign Corruption Component(s): Criminal DivisionCriminal – Criminal Fraud SectionUSAO – Ohio, Northern Press Release Number: 21-1140 Updated November 17, 2021

End of Press Release

Additional Information:

The Justice Department press release “Three Individuals Charged with Arranging Adoptions from Uganda and Poland Through Bribery and Fraud” from the August 2020 indictment is here.

I wrote about the August 2020 indictment here.

In 2016, the U.S. State Department debarred European Adoption Consultants for three years.

A 2004 article from Cleveland Magazine about Margaret Cole, “Families in Crisis: When Foreign Adoptions Go Wrong,” is here.

May justice prevail.

US State Department Imposes Sanctions, Fines on Ugandan Officials Involved in Fraudulent Adoptions

The U.S. State Department has imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Ugandan officials involved in fraudulent adoption schemes. This is a highly significant and public declaration. You can read State’s press release here. The State Department press release includes a link to a U.S. Treasury Department press release as well.