“ I just got a glimpse of his foot. Then they wrapped my newborn son in a blue hospital blanket and took him away.” Colombian María Orfi Cifuentes did not see her child until forty years after giving birth, in the Netherlands. “At the hospital, they said he was dead, but he turned out to be adopted.”
The story of Cifuentes illustrates the abuses referred to by the Joustra Commission in its report published today. As a result of the investigation, the Netherlands immediately suspended all adoptions from abroad.
The committee, which investigated adoptions from abroad in the period 1967-1997, focused in addition to Colombia, also on Brazil, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“ A nun came to my bed and said that the baby was really bad. She had two blank sheets of paper with her and told me to sign it. That would allow me to have my son baptized before it was too late. She also asked me to give him a name.” María Orfi signed and gave her child a name: Hernando.
“ A little later, a nurse came to me, who told me that my son had died.” Cifuentes didnt get to see her babys body. She was poor, she didnt know the city, and she was stuck in a problematic relationship. “Deep in my mothers heart, I felt it couldnt be true,” she says. “But I couldnt talk to anyone about it.”
It happened in 1977, and for years the Colombian carried her grief with it. “It was psychically very heavy. I have considered suicide, but I have continued for my other children.”
Maria has given all her love to her children, she tells correspondent Marc Bessems. “Why wasnt I allowed to give that love to my son?”
Decades later, she was told that her son was alive. “It felt like he was born again.” Hernando turned out to be adopted by people in the Netherlands. Cifuentes was desperately trying to find her dead child. “That is very difficult. Nobody, really nobody helps you, everyone keeps from everything.” She came into contact with the Dutch NGO Plan Angel, and turned on the help of the programme Spoorloos.
That turned out to be the breakthrough: her son was found thanks to the television program and in 2019 she met her Hernando and his adoptive mother in the Netherlands.
“ It was great,” says Cifuentes with tears in her eyes. Shes full of praise for the adoptive mother. “There is nothing to blame for her, they lied to her, too,” says Hernandos biological mother. “I got to see the adoption papers. They were the blank sheets of that nun at my hospital bed.”
Llied to and data falsified
María Orfi emphasizes that she never renounced her son, that she was lied to, and that her records were falsified. “I was a minor and I didnt even have identity papers at the time. Yet they claim that I went to the notary to part with my boy. Theres nothing right at all.”
The Colombian hopes that the Dutch government will follow the advice of the Joustra Commission to stop adoptions from countries such as Colombia. “A very good idea,” she says. “Let those children stay in Colombia, where their roots lie.”
“Im not the only one.”
She also hopes for justice, although she does not know how the guilty should be punished. “Im not the only mother whos been done to this. And all those adoptive children, including in the Netherlands. There is so much suffering, how can you ever make up for it?”
As far as she is concerned, the Netherlands must now help the adoptive children and their biological parents. “The Netherlands is far away and the journey to it is expensive. I cant afford that, but the Netherlands could help us embrace each other at least once a year.”
María Orfi Cifuentes now has regular contact with her son in the Netherlands. He doesnt speak Spanish and she doesnt speak Dutch. They only saw each other once after childbirth. “He is so beautiful, truly a wonderful person,” she says with maternal pride.