Abdul Khalik,The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
With hundreds of Indonesian toddlers involved in foreign adoptions in recent years, an official says the government must conduct checks into their welfare in their new homes.
Head of the subdirectorate for children at the Social Affairs Ministry, Afrinaldi, said the government's concerns were well-founded because most of the children were adopted illegally instead of through the complicated and lengthy bureaucratic procedures governing foreign adoptions.
""We have no idea about the condition of these adopted children because we don't conduct follow-up checks on them. It's only when there is a terrible incident that we know something wrong has happened,"" he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday, referring to a recent case of a boy abandoned by his adoptive parents.
Afrinaldi characterized the adoption by foreigners as ""... a hobby, and after one or two years, they become bored and want to get rid of the children"".
Legal experts here have voiced concern about the 1958 Citizenship Law, which stipulates that adopted children automatically gain the citizenship of their adopted parents. They fear the clause could leave children vulnerable to trafficking or their abandonment with no rights.
The issue was highlighted in recent months by the case of Tristan, also known as Erwin.
With the help of a local woman named Rosdiana, Irish accountant Joseph Dowse and his Azerbaijan-born wife Lala adopted two-month-old Tristan from his mother Suryani through the South Jakarta District Court in 2001.
The process was done without recommendation from the social Affairs Ministry, as required by adoption regulations. The Irish government granted citizenship to the boy in the same year.
However, the couple returned the boy to an orphanage two years later, saying the adoption was not working out.
When Tristan's case surfaced, the ministry launched an investigation. Rosdiana has been arrested, while Tristan has been reunited with his biological mother in Tegal, Central Java.
The High Court in Dublin ordered Dowse and his wife in February to pay maintenance for Tristan, in the form of a lump sum of 20,000 euros (US$23,914) payable within one month, a monthly payment of 350 euros and an additional lump sum of 25,000 euros when he reaches the age of 18.
""Not all children are as lucky as Tristan. Who knows the fate of the other children? It is possible that they adopted the children because they wanted to take the children's organs to replace their own or their relatives?"" Afrinaldi said.
Police have also succeeded in cracking down on four other child trafficking syndicates in the last two years.
Sri Mandagi, arrested in 2004 in Jakarta, sold over 880 toddlers to foreigners over several years. Ai Hwa, nabbed in April 2004 in Batam,tried to smuggle 37 toddlers to Singapore.
Almost at the same time, Istania Singgih was arrested in Jakarta. She sold 47 toddlers to foreigners.