There have been so many lies, luck, setbacks and perseverance that the story of Patrick Noordoven, 41, will become a book in Holland. This month, two new facts have added twists and turns to the life of the Brazilian who recently left his homeland, adopted by a Dutch couple, and one day decided to meet his biological family.
The first novelty arrived on the 8th of this month. A committee set up in the Netherlands after repeated complaints from Patrick highlighted the state’s responsibility for “various kinds of abuse that have occurred structurally”, and the government has shut down intercountry adoption processes in the country.
The story begins in February 1980, when a days old baby was taken from the maternity hospital to Lar Jumbinho, São Paulo. From there it was handed over to the Dutch couple Noordoven, whose wife (then 27) had lost the chance of getting pregnant after cancer treatment.
In March 1980, Patrick arrived in the city of Gouda (62 km south of Amsterdam), where he grew up knowing that he had been adopted. But it was only when he became interested in his origins, 20 years later, that the Noordoven told him a secret: they had falsified his birth certificate, and there was no document in which he could find the names of his biological parents.
The “legal” parents, as Patrick calls them, asked him to forget about the idea of “looking back on the past”. But the boy did not forget. He saved his purse as much as possible, pressed the Noordoven until he got the name of a contact in São Paulo, and set off for Brazil with no return date.
The doors slammed in his face from the first days: the so-called adoption intermediaries shouted everything, he said. The boy then asked the manager of Lar Jumbinho for accommodation, in the hopes that Dalva would remember a clue.
A month later, he was almost giving up when he met Daniel, the driver and Dalva’s brother. “I took a Dutch woman to Beneficência Portuguesa, and we came back with a baby,” he said.
It was little, but it was the only end of the ball, and Patrick started to shoot it. In the maternity ward, she spoke of the dozens of cases of women who had given birth to a boy in February 1980 and, still in the age of internet pre-research, she used the phone book and the sole of her shoe. to go after each one, in a job that lasted ten years and, on average, one trip a year to Brazil. By exclusion he came to a name: Maria do Nascimento.
A maria in the haystack
We still had to find the right Maria, and for that Patrick had the luck and the help of a researcher, who found an application for RG made in 1979. When he saw the photo, he was sure to find it. his mother. Confirmation of identity came with the DNA test of his sister, Ana Paula, but Patrick never saw Maria, who died at the age of five, in 1985. “It was two years of mourning”, he said. Then he closed the chapter on finding his mother and opened two more.
In the first, Patrick went in search of the identity of his father, information that no one in the maternal family could give him. In the second, he devoted himself to understanding how a child could be removed from his country and his past completely erased and what was the responsibility of the Dutch government in this matter.
In the investigations, reference was made to a report by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on the illegal adoption of Brazilian children. He spent the night searching the digital archives cover-by-cover of the publication, since 1979, until he found the one he was looking for, published in 1983.
Under the name of the policeman in charge, he found the investigative report, which began in 1981 to find large-scale criminal complicity in irregular adoptions.
In it, Patrick found out that the Noordovens were interviewed in 1982 – 64 parents of children born in Brazil, a fraction of the total, were heard and 42 admitted to making false birth certificates to bring them to Holland, which was a crime in Holland. the two countries.
To investigators, the “legal parents” said they had resorted to the regime for fear of being refused because of their age.
Good intentions vs alienation
No one was prosecuted after this investigation. The prosecution understood that everyone had acted in good faith, without the intention of harming, which Patrick – and other people involved in children’s rights – disagree: “Take a child out of the society in which he is born and erasing its origins are an attack on their right to identity. This causes a feeling of emptiness, of loss, enormous, that many adoptees do not discover until adulthood ”.
From the 1960s, when they began to develop, until the 1990s, international adoptions were seen as a boon for children, especially as they moved from poor countries to richer ones. This mentality changed at the turn of the century, however, when international law to guide the issue emerged – the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989, and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, in 1993.
Consequently, the consensus has broadened on the fact that the child should only be separated from his large family and his country as a last resort and has the right to his identity (which includes his origin).
Patrick, who stumbled over obstacles to discover his origin, ended up suing the Dutch state for omitting information. In 2018, a special committee was created to investigate irregularities in these cases, the findings of which were made public two weeks ago: “The Dutch government has stopped acting for years, deviating from abuses by matter of intercountry adoption and not intervening, which allowed them to perpetuate ”.
The Netherlands apologizes
There have been “structural abuses, such as document forgery, child trafficking, fraud and corruption,” says the report of the commission, which in addition to Brazil investigated adoptions in Sri Lanka, in Bangladesh, Colombia and Indonesia. He also cites “unethical acts, such as forcing parents to abandon their children under false pretenses or under moral pressure, deliberately creating uncertainty or ambiguity about someone’s origins and profiting from poverty.”
Introducing the document, Dutch Minister of Legal Protection Alexander Dekker asked for forgiveness on behalf of the state: “Adopted people deserve to be recognized for the mistakes of the past. They must be able to count on our help in the present. And, for the future, we have to ask ourselves if and how we will continue with adoption from abroad ”.
For Patrick, founder of an NGO for the defense of the rights of international adoptees, the decision is far from being necessary: “Apologies are welcome, it means a lot to all of us, but the Netherlands should have put an end to it once and for all. international adoption, a practice that violates fundamental rights ”.
Although in decline, the practice has not disappeared in Europe. From 2004 to 2014, 11,610 officially adopted in the bloc came from outside the EU, and the Netherlands was the fourth destination country, with 687.
During the same period, Brazilians were the eighth most numerous group among adopted children (3,239) and were most often taken to Italy, France and Holland itself.
Banning this “expatriation” is one of the current flags of Patrick’s organization, alongside international NGOs, like Icav, and national projects in countries like Australia and France. In Brazil, he is also working to have justice rule unconstitutional the rule that allows maternity hospitals to destroy their birth certificates after 18 years. “These documents are one of the only sources that illegally adopted parents can find. Without them, I would never have known who my mother was. To destroy them is to infringe the right to identity, ”he said.
Technology has recently opened up new avenues, and it is for one of them that Patrick has started to get closer to his father line: DNA banks. Thanks to MyHeritage, he was contacted by a second cousin from his father’s side. Therefore, they had in common, the great-grandparents, a new path for a hunt, which lasted ten years.
Patrick found birth and marriage records for his great-grandparents and data on the ten children who survived – one of them, his alleged grandfather or grandmother. While completing a master’s degree in law at UnB – on intercountry adoption – he started looking for likely parents one by one and asking for genetic testing.
“Of the 10 families, 9 agreed. I have met over 30 cousins. The physical similarity in some cases was impressive, but the results did not indicate direct ancestors, ”he says. The tenth, his probable grandfather, by exclusion, had already died and his only son refused the DNA test.
In order to investigate the relationship until the end, Patrick went to court. He asks that as a last resort, the body of the tenth brother, his supposed grandfather, be exhumed. Last Monday (15), Judge Daniele Machado Toledo, of the 1st Civil Court of the Ibiúna District (SP), ruled that, if there is no final decision, the remains in question are preserved.
Patrick says he hopes the only son will revise his position and avoid the exhumation. But even when he finally gets that DNA test, he still won’t have killed the conundrum, he says. The strongest evidence is that his biological father is not yet the man who refused to take the test, but another son of his grandfather, born out of wedlock.
If this hypothesis is confirmed, the Brazilian should embark on a new almost impossible mission, but this theme will have to remain for a second book. The first, according to the publisher’s plans, will launch later this year.