AMSTERDAM Children from other countries are effectively being sold into adoption in the Netherlands under current regulations, an official advisory council said on Wednesday, recommending that foreign adoptions be halted.

In a report commissioned by the government, the independent Council for the Protection of Juveniles, which oversees child protection, found that foreign adoption tended to undermine child protection systems in origin countries.

"In children's homes, it's sometimes the case that the director earns more money if he places the child in another country," said Yrrah van der Kruit, who helped write the council's report.

In countries such as Uganda, where she said this was the practice, that could lead to violations of international welfare conventions, which say the interests of children are best served by placing orphaned children with foster families at home.

The council was initially asked for advice because fewer children are coming up for adoption in the Netherlands and fewer parents are offering themselves for fostering, but ended up addressing the broader question of how to protect children potentially being adopted from overseas.

The report had no specific criticism of the Netherlands' regulations, but instead urged it and other rich countries to help end the possible exploitation.

"The council is of the opinion that intercountry adoption is not the best way of protecting children and calls upon the government to shift its focus and to protect these children by supporting the implementation and advancement of the youth protection system in the country of origin," it said.

The Dutch government is likely to react to the council's report in January, though a parliamentary debate is likely to be necessary before any rules are changed.

As an initial step, the council recommended that adoptions from China, the United States and Europe be halted immediately, saying it was impossible for Dutch authorities to verify that adoptions from China were not financially motivated.

It said it was implausible that all possibilities for placing European and U.S. children with families domestically had been exhausted, meaning adoption by a family in the Netherlands would never be justified.

The availability of foreign adoption significantly increased the risk of children being put up for adoption because of poverty, a practice that is forbidden under international treaties but which is nonetheless widespread.

Some 304 children were adopted in the Netherlands from overseas last year, down from 1,185 a decade ago. But those adopted now are typically older, and frequently children with special psychological and physiological needs.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alison Williams)