Saturday, 15 December 2007



I know we live in a throwaway society. This however, goes too far.

It is reported today that a Dutch diplomat and his wife have ‘returned’ their adopted daughter because she did not fit in.

The child is of South Korean origin, and was adopted at the age of a few months when the diplomat was stationed in Indionesia. She is now seven years old.

Raymond and Meta Poeteray, it appears, already has their own son when they adopted the child, whose name is Jade. They subsequently had another son of their own. The family moved from Indonesia to Hong Kong three years ago, when Jade, was, one assumes, four years old.

Three years later, Jade is being sent back for readoption in Hong Kong. The reasons given include claims that she was not adapting to Dutch food, and culture. And yet this little girl had been their daughter for nearly seven years.

It also appears that she was looked after by indigenous babysitters and nannies. One babysitter has said she seemed a normal if quiet little girl. “I took care of her in the evenings, while an Indonesian woman was with her in the daytime.”

The Poeterays now also have another son, their own, born in the last few years.

Now, let’s get this straight. You fancy having a second child. So you go and get one. You don’t spend much time with the child, but hand it over to nannies and babysitters, who talk to the child in its own language, and make the child their own food.

You never apply for Dutch citizenship for the child…

And SIX YEAR later, you complain about bonding issues, about a failure to assimilate your culture?

And you give the child back, as though it is faulty goods, covered by a guarantee?

I find these people beyond the pale. Children are not fashion accessories. They are not covered by guarantees. And just as these ‘parents’ are deeply, deeply morally flawed, so the child will have been damaged by her early childhood, and will now be doubly, trebly damaged, thanks to this couple.

I quote Law Chi-kwong, Professor at the Department of Social Work at Hong Kong University. “They adopted her when she was a baby. They are responsible for shaping the child’s mind and culture. How can you say that the child cannot adapt to the culture in which she was raised?”

But isn’t that the point? She was never considered their daughter. She was a thing. Like a dog of a fashionable breed, who falls out of favour because the owners do not follow the correct diet and care instructions?

I suppose Jade should be grateful.

We put dogs down.



I was at The Foundling Museum in London recently, firming up the arrangements for the launch of my book.

On the ground floor is an intensely moving, fascinating exhibition explaining the history of Thomas Coram's vision, The Foundling Hospital.

Among the exhibits is a small display case containing tokens left by the mothers who originally left their babies in baskets outside the gates, as otherwise, their only option was to abandon them.

I will explain more in later posts. But suffice it here to know that when left there, babies were then sent to Kent for their infancy, and brought up in the countryside. They were then returned to London at the age of five, often without warning.

But here, I'd like to draw your attention to three benches where you can sit to listen to recordings made by three people who were brought up within Coram's vision, as the Foundling Hospital only closed in the 1950s.

I find it impossible to listen to these recordings without wanting to weep. At their gratitude, their sense of otherness, their sadness, the fondness with which they recall the Kent families who cared for them until four or five. The tough regime they experienced once separated from their foster-families, for that was how things were done back then. The education, the music (Handel was a great supporter, founded the choir, I believe..)

I could go on.

I was reading something in a display case near these benches, and was vaguely aware of two women sitting down to listen to one of the recordings. An elderly man who recalls his foster parents with such love...and who says he has had a good life, but still wishes he had hugs at bedtime when he came to the big school. He describes in sharp detail the everyday routines, and although he is grateful for his chance in life, you can sense he really ached for warmth as a child. And that ache remained in the old man, telling his story.

One woman to another. "I say! He awfully articulate, isn't he."

Other. "I know. Amazing, isn't it,"


No, madam. It's your attitude that is, frankly, amazing.


Anonymous said...

It's a goddamn travesty of their mis-perceived status. String the bastards to high hanging branches. I've seen it from the front row. They would come in their Rolls and Bentley cars. Buy their babies and bring them back later; can I have my deposit back? I was too old. Four on arrival. Thank God.

I've seen it second-hand too. They trade them at the Regal Hotel at Hong Kong Airport; $10,000 for anyone unsuitable under their own jurisdiction. Don't believe it? Go there. Friday nights. Fifty kids in a misfit convention off to the red, white, and blue; freedom, liberty, and justice for all.

Hank 'em high, say I.

Kaolin said...

... eurgh. wtf.