She was only 4 years old when she was adopted from Indonesia by a Dutch family in 1979. Now 47, she is actively expressing her distaste for international adoption in the Netherlands.
Her name is Widya Astuti Boerma, and she believes that international adoption can only do more harm than good. Boerma disagrees with the Dutch government’s decision to re-open international adoption, saying the decision is “like a slap in the face for international adoptees”.
Last April, the Dutch government decided to lift the ban on international adoptions, after the practice was suspended in the Netherlands for a little over a year.
This decision was informed by the Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind to the House of Representatives, in which he wrote that the decision was made with the children’s best interest in mind. He pointed out that under the adoption ban, children are in danger of getting stuck and having to grow up in orphanages.
The practice was previously suspended since February 2021, after the official investigation conducted by an independent commission concluded that the government had failed to act on known abuses surrounding intercountry adoptions, as reported by The New York Times.
“Not a fairytale”
Boerma told The Groningen Observer that although she is grateful for her life in the Netherlands, her experience as an international adoptee was “not a fairytale”, as she claimed to have struggled with identity crisis for most of her life, going so far as to say that her struggles almost took her life.
“If I had a choice, I would choose not (to be adopted) by my parents”, she said.
She explained how her identity crisis stemmed from not knowing where she came from, and who her biological mother was.
In 1991, when Boerma was 16, she went back to Indonesia with her adoptive parents, in the hopes of meeting her biological mother. She recalled how the adoption agency responsible for her adoption, Kasih Bunda arranged a meeting with a woman named Marlin Yani as Boerma’s biological mother, where she described the meeting as “odd”.
In 2020, Boerma was able to track down one of Marlin Yani’s daughters, Hera. She confirmed that her mother, Yani, is not Widya’s biological mother at all, and that the whole meeting was based on a lie, orchestrated by Kasih Bunda.
In 2021, Boerma made a second attempt in finding her biological mother and the truth about her adoption, in which she met up with an ex-employee of Kasih Bunda, Utari. She told The Groningen Observer that Utari admitted to have falsified Boerma’s adoption papers.
“Utari’s task was to contact child brokers to get prospective adoptees and deal with the papers”, said Boerma.
The co-founder of Stichting Mijn Roots, an independent organization that helps Indonesian adoptees in Europe finding their biological parents in Indonesia, Ana Maria van Valen, explained that Boerma might be a victim of child trafficking in Indonesia. She reported that 70 percent of 3,000 children adopted from Indonesia to the Netherlands between 1971 and 1992 were “resourced” illegally.
She believes adoption agencies were profiting off of international adoptions, considering prospective parents must pay a sum of money to adoption agencies before getting a child from Indonesia.
As an international adoptee from Indonesia herself, van Valen is strongly against the re-opening of international adoption in the Netherlands.
She said, “there is no way to determine whether adoptees were actually given up for adoption by their biological parents”, she added, “documents could be falsified in the child’s country of origin, and I don’t think the law proposed by the (Dutch) government could ever detect that”.