Flemish government issues apology for forced adoptions

Summary

The government of Flanders has issued an official apology for the system of forced adoptions that took place over a 30-year period up until the 1980s

“Painful realisation”

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

Government of Flanders

Belgium is a federal state with several regional governments. The northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders is governed by the Flemish government, which was created when the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community joined forces in 1980. A minister-president presides over the government of Flanders, and Brussels is the capital city.
Competences - The government of Flanders is responsible for the economy, foreign trade, health care, energy, housing, agriculture, environmental concerns, public works and transport, employment policy, culture, education and science and innovation. Flanders also has the power to sign international treaties in these competencies.
Sole legislator - The powers of the Flemish government and of the federal government do not overlap. Therefore, only one government serves as legislator for each policy area. Flemish laws are called decrees. Decrees apply in co-ordination with federal laws.
Official holiday - 11 July is the official holiday of the Flemish Community, in commemoration of the Battle of the Golden Spurs in Kortrijk on 11 July 1302, when Flemings defeated the army of the French king. Flanders’ official anthem is “De Vlaamse Leeuw” (The Flemish Lion).
6

million people live in the Flemish Region.

5

provinces constitute the Flemish Region: West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp and Limburg.

5

number of years for which the Flemish Parliament is elected. Its elections coincide with those of the European Parliament.