A Tel Aviv resident was shocked to find thousands of highly confidential documents from a leading Israeli adoption agency strewn on a sidewalk in the city.
The files from the Taf adoption agency listed names of hundreds of adoptive parents and children between the years 1999-2016, and in most cases included their medical records, mental health evaluations, bank statements, and police reports, according to the Ynet news site.
Taf is one of the few Israeli adoption agencies that is authorized to handle international adoptions. The non-profit agency mainly facilitates adoptions from Russia.
After nearby resident Hagar Rofeh saw the folders and papers strewn near her house Thursday evening and realized they were from an adoption agency, she called police.
“Sometimes people do leave their trash on the side of the street, but to leave around sensitive documents like that is outrageous,” she told Ynet. “This is a real crime, these documents could have ended up in questionable hands, and could have destroyed people’s lives.”
When police arrived at the scene, they located the man who tossed Taf’s documents. He claimed the documents were not his, and they had been in a storage unit belonging to an apartment that he purchased some 10 years ago, and was simply cleaning out his unit.
Police were skeptical of the resident’s claims, since some of the documents are dated from 2016, and confiscated the files.
The trove of documents contained personal appeals from childless couples, and original legal documents signed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Welfare Minister Haim Katz.
Photos and videos obtained by Ynet showed dozens of file folders haphazardly stacked in boxes sitting on the sidewalk. Several more were on the ground, some were open, with papers scattered nearby.
The report said the personal appeals included an one from a Israeli woman in her 30s who wrote to Taf begging for help adopting a child as a single parent, because she was unable to find a husband. Another letter from a Russian mother detailed her difficult decision to put her son up for adoption, but said the family’s dire financial situation and her husband’s lengthy prison sentence made it impossible for them to care for him. The mother told Taf that she desperately wanted to keep her son, but said the family did not have the means to provide him a good life.
On Friday, Taf CEO Leonid Zimanenko released a statement claiming the incident was a misunderstanding, and the documents found outside his home in Tel Aviv were never actually thrown away. He said the files were being moved from the the agency’s storage unit to his apartment, when they were left unattended “for only a moment” outside.
“No one was going to throw anything in the trash because that’s against the law,” Zimanenko’s statement said. “I can’t comment on how they were strewn on the sidewalk like that. These are NGO documents and that cannot be allowed to happen.”
“As a CEO, I’m a bit shocked, we keep all of our files, but this was a mistake,” he said.