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ROAD: adoption and research on origin

The Tdh ROAD (Research on Origin/Adoption) service provides help and support to people who were adopted through Terre des hommes to help them research their past.

Adoption – an issue that raises many questions. Many adopted people face emotional choices. Some would like to know about their past, others focus on the present. The ROAD (Research on Origin/Adoption) service provides help and support to people who were adopted through Terre des hommes to help them research their past.

Terre des hommes (Tdh) began its adoption programme when the Foundation was set up in 1960 and when the war in Algeria had given rise to large numbers of orphans. Adoption, only ever a last resort when it was no longer possible to reunite the child with their family, allowed these children to find a new home. For more than 50 years, our service has assisted in the adoption of children from around the world, many of whom came from South Korea, India, Vietnam or Colombia.

Today, the number of adoptions has dropped sharply. Whereas in the 1980s, some 1600 children were being adopted in Switzerland every year, by 2016 the number was 343, two-thirds of whom were the child of one of the partners. Tdh ended its adoption programme in 2013 and now offers support to 2905 people who were adopted through the programme and would like to find out where they came from.

The right to know where you are from

With the conviction that everyone has the right to know where they are from, Tdh retains all records relating to adoptions for 100 years. Anyone who was adopted can access their personal file. They also receive counselling during the consultations and research carried out in their home countries. In 2016, 19 people used our service.

Awareness of potential difficulties

However, it is important to be aware of the challenges and difficulties that may arise. “Some people move heaven and earth with no results; they don't manage to find their families. Others find someone who doesn't want to see them,” explains Mischa Steiner, a Korean who was adopted in Switzerland and has gone back to live in his native country. Some people feel at home in the country where they were born. Others like Alfonso, a young Colombian adopted in Switzerland, feel Swiss.  In some cases, people who were adopted see no reason to trace their roots. Some, however, may feel a fundamental urge to unlock this mystery about their past, a step that can help them find peace.

“We offer psychosocial support because these are sensitive situations and some information can be difficult to find out. We’re dealing here with the issue of abandonment, which is behind every adoption and is a major trauma in the life of the person who’s experienced it. Dealing with this can give rise to all kinds of emotional reactions and it’s important to offer them professional support,” explains Caroline Durgnat, ROAD coordinator at Tdh. No matter what, everyone has the right to know their past – that’s Terre des hommes’ commitment.

If you were adopted through Terre des hommes and would like to contact us, please write to


"My life began when I was seven years old."

Alfonso Hänni, adopted as a child, searched for his origins