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1921-2021

Being married or not, that was the question

Moederheil (Mother’s salvation)

A century ago in the Netherlands the Moederheil Foundation was established. Originated from the Magdalen Foundation, founded in 1915, founded in 1921 and renamed to Valkenhorst in 1972.

Moederheil was a Roman Catholic institution run by sisters (nuns). Here babies were taken away (stolen) from young mothers, often still teenagers, immediately after delivery. Also adult women were victims of this official practise. The reason for this was simply that the mothers-to-be had gotten pregnant without being married. This fact was socially unacceptable at the time. An unwed mother was a disgrace to her family. The expectant mother’s opinion was irrelevant as she had practically nothing to say about this herself. The father’s role wasn’t worth mentioning.
The expectant mothers were pressured by the church and public society and for many of them this was the only “proper solution” to remain accepted within their own families and social life. The expectant mothers came here voluntarily only to a limited extent.
Later the institution was run by non-clerics.

The trauma to the mothers and children that resulted from this cruel policy has left an open wound on the lives of thousands of women and children in the Netherlands to this very day. Many have repressed this traumatic history from their memories.

The forgotten despair

Valkenhorst

From 1972 the institution was renamed to Valkenhorst. At that time, still many unmarried mothers had to give up their newborns under duress. Valkenhorst became also a maternity hospital for married mothers which served as legitimacy for less ‘legitimate’ practices.
Valkenhorst eventually got a much better reputation as a maternity hospital and shelter and unmarried mothers were increasingly able to keep their baby due to the changing public society. But despite the institution closing its doors in 1995, the consequences for those separated there are still felt.

Purpose of this website

There are various organisations and institutions with information about Moederheil and Valkenhorst, but because each organisation has its own story to tell, the information is rather fragmented across the internet. With this private initiative about Moederheil, we want to change this.
The purpose of this website is to provide a central source of information for the (now adult) children who were born in Moederheil and Valkenhorst at the time as well as for their biological parents. On one hand by bundling existing online sources and on the other by offering information that has not been available before. In addition, it is a source of information for the former staff, adoptive parents and other interested parties.

“In fact, this was nothing less than an institutionalized form of child kidnapping authorized and facilitated by the church and Dutch authorities”

Lucas Verberne

The primary theme of this Dutch website is the function of Moederheil as a transitional home. And especially about the mostly young mothers who were forced to give up their babies for adoptions. In fact, this was authorized child robbery. The way this happened has been downright traumatic for the thousands of mothers. The despair and suffering of these very young mothers has always been an overlooked facet of the adoption journey. There was just no attention for this entire process prior to adoptions.
The other functions of the home will also be discussed, albeit to a lesser extent. A distinction is made between transition home, maternity hospital and shelter. In addition, attention is paid to the specific interest groups in the distance and adoption process.

“You don’t know what you’ll destroy if you go looking”

Moederheil, Valkenhorst, plm. na 1985
Moederheil – Valkenhorst (c) Ruud de Haas, collection municipal archives Breda, The Netherlands

There is an increasing demand from relinquished children and parents for answers. The relinquished babies have grown up a long time ago and are looking back on their past, particularly on how, why and when they were given up and whether they were adopted or not. They seek contact with fellow victims, attempting to restore family ties or they seek to get in touch with the carers at the time. Others are also intrigued to know about the abuses at Moederheil from a historical perspective. The emphasis of this website is on what giving up or relinquishing your child does to people.

This website is now available in eight languages via Google Translate. Set your preferred language for the website by clicking on the Translate button in the bottom corner on the right.

Lucas Verberne

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