Apologies over adoption blunder

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The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet) admitted it had made a big mistake by sending out ambiguously-worded letters to about 10,000 children and youths. The letters read as if the recipient had actually been adopted, and the institute was bombarded by calls from upset and confused young people.

The letters stemmed from a survey of students in the Hordaland region conducted by health research organization Uni Helse in 2012, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The public health institute then sought to use the results to investigate the mental health of adopted children, and invited the 10,000 youths to participate in the research.

“We’re making contact with those of you who took part in the survey… to inform you about a project about mental health among adopted children and youths,” the letter read. “The goal of the project is to map the mental health and school performance among children and youths who are adopted.”

Håkon Andersen said the letter turned his daughter’s world upside down, and after dwelling on it for a while, she confronted her parents. “You could well have told me in a decent way that I’m adopted,” she said. Andersen said he was left speechless after reading the letter for himself.

“It is easy to understand that my daughter, to put it mildly, was shocked and unsure,” Andersen told NRK. “It is shocking that it is possible to make such a mistake. Young people should not be exposed to something as foolish as this.”

More than 100 calls
Chief researcher and project leader Leif Edvard Åre at the institute said they’d received dozens of inquiries from confused young people. “We have made a huge mistake,” he said. “We should have included a sentence here, that the letter went out to all 10,000 students, whether they were adopted or not.”

Åre said the researchers were so concerned with getting the content of the letter factually correct, they didn’t notice that the content could be misinterpreted. “We can see now that it’s written in a way that leads to misunderstandings, and the focus on the technical details has been at the expense of those who should receive the letter,” he admitted.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate