Tougher regulations: Is adoption in Switzerland on its way out?

A historical picture of a baby adopted from Asia
This child was adopted – the photo comes from guardianship authority files from the City of Bern Archives

(Peter Klaunzer/Keystone)

The boom days of adopting children from abroad are over – nowadays hardly anyone is adopting in Switzerland. There are several reasons for this.

The airplane was full of children, Elena, Tom and Rhea (all names changed) can recall it clearly. But Myra was too small to remember. All four were adopted by Swiss parents in the 1970s. Their own parents could not or did not want to care for them anymore.

Around 1,200 children from South Korea were adopted in Switzerland during this time. Many of them still meet up at the Dongari associationexternal link, where they can talk freely about their experiences. Members Elena, Tom, Rhea and Myra have agreed to speak about their adoptions to

Although they have been through a lot, they can still have a laugh together – such as over their experiences of South Korea. “I am not that fond of Koreans,” said Myra. “I am Swiss and express my opinion. Koreans mostly don’t. And all this macho behaviour….” The others laugh and seem to know what Myra is talking about. Rhea confirms, “as a woman you are not really taken seriously by men”.

The association was founded in the wake of tragedy – there was a series of suicides among people adopted from South Korea within a short span of time. A Korean priest in Switzerland founded Dongari in 1994, following the fourth suicide. The association receives financial help from South Korea. “It’s obvious that they have a bad conscience about the adoptions,” Myra said. Instead of building up welfare for single mothers and poor families, the country focused on adoptions abroad, right into the 1980s.


Categories: Europe, Switzerland

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