but will continue here: Romania for Export Only BLOG

President Basescu at the European Commission, 22 April 2010

Thursday, 22 November 2007

The international adoptions lobby: an insider's perspective

The international adoptions lobby: an insider's perspective
A review by Rupert Wolfe-Murray,

published in VIVID Romania through international eyes, 19 November 2007

Romania - for export only, the untold story of the Romanian 'orphans' by Roelie Post
There are several unusual things about Roelie Post and her important new book on international adoptions. An employee of the European Commission, between 1999 and 2005 Post handled one of its most controversial dossiers: Romania's institutionalised children. She is one of very few EC insiders who has risked her career by publishing her experiences, in diary format. Whether one agrees with her or not, one has to admire this courage.

The book itself is not particularly fancy looking: it has a plain white cover and a title some would call clunky. Although such a cover may look out of place in a modern bookshop where cover designs are becoming increasingly sophisticated, I appreciate the clean and simple look as a sign of its seriousness. Despite these superficial drawbacks the book is very readable and engaging.
Post's story is compelling. In 1999 she was given the Romanian children dossier and as she gradually learnt about the issue she came to be one of the champions of the remarkable reform process that has resulted in the closure of Romania's large children's homes. To better appreciate this achievement it is essential to understand that Romania is the only country in Central and Eastern Europe that has managed to stop the practice of institutionalising children in need, and has set up alternatives such as foster care, daycare centres and family-type homes. The basis of the reforms are that families are the building block of society.

However, her job and the reform process are but a backdrop against which the real drama is played out; the relentless lobby for international adoptions from Romania. Much has been written about this shadowy and unaccountable lobby, but never before has so many details been revealed about their actions in the heart of Brussels, and their access to some of the world's top politicians.

During the 1990s the adoption of babies from Romania was a free-for-all. During the early 1990s a child could be adopted with a simple receipt from a local judge and before 1997 the records of how many were sent abroad are scant. The 1997 reforms were formulated by those in the pay of the lobby, and a free market in children was set up. The results were that the so-called ‘orphanages' became processing centres for the export of children, and corruption became rampant. By 2001 the practice was banned and since then the lobby has been desperately trying to prove that Romanian women are unable to look after their own children and international adoption is the only answer.

Not only did the Romanian government come under tremendous pressure from politicians in the US politicians and in some EU member states (namely, Italy and France) but Roelie Post was continually harassed in her job at the Commission. Her book is a blow by blow account of the main lobbyists in Brussels, with scandalous walk on parts from the likes of Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi. For anyone interested in the intriguing international adoption story this book is essential reading.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Roelie Post talks about International Adoption
By Ashleigh Elson

So, what rights do children caught up in crisis situations have? We asked Roelie Post. Post worked for the European Commission on the reform of Romania's child protection for many years and is the author of Romania: For Export Only.

Post wasn't surprised to hear about the Zoe's Ark situation and compared it with the international adoptions that happened during the tsunami crisis in 2005. She says children should be helped in their own country."

Many people believe that Zoe's Ark has the best of intentions, but Post says she's heard this argument before:
"NGOs create this wrong image of children in poor countries, saying that they are abandoned orphans and that they need to be rescued. Most of the children - including in Darfur - have at least one parent, have extended family, and are part of a community. They are not orphans, they are not abandoned and therefore they should not be rescued."
According to Post, there aren't actually many true orphans. In cases where war and HIV/AIDS have left children without parents, the children are usually looked after by relatives and by their community.

"This is where the support should go - to helping local communities look after the real orphans. And not what a lot of NGOs are doing, setting up orphanages and taking children out of their communities and villages. That makes children vulnerable, it isn't a good way to live. And from there often comes the suggestion that children would be better off in another country in a nice family. But experience worldwide has shown - and the international community has always agreed - that children are best off in their own surroundings."

Post says, based on her experience in Romania with people who were involved with international adoption, she's not optimistic that the Zoe's Ark people are as naive as they might seem.

"One must not forget that there is an enormous demand for children in the western world by people who want to adopt. And this market is demand-driven… One should really wonder if this is the right way to go and how far people are innocent."

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Import and Export of Human Life

Thu, 2007-10-25 13:49 — Kerry

The Import and Export of Human Life

It amazes me how quickly Americans forget how children are brought and bought into this country.

I can't, as I was born outside the states, but taken in as one of it's own because Americans wanted a baby. I am white, so they got what they wanted, through an agency that knew how to get what the demand was seeking.
I was Choice Meat. I bet they paid top dollar. The agency didn't last very long. It didn't have to, did it? Back in the 1960's, early 70's with the Vietnam War going on, who could risk long-term commitment, anyway? More babies were going to be produced soon enough, and prices would drop, no doubt. Problem would be, those babies would not be purebreds, would they?

Roelie's book is perhaps the match that sparks the trail to more explosive truths about the historical facts about man's inhumanity towards man when it comes to the brazen disregard to family values and physical boundaries.

Leave it to a woman to see the obvious, and be sure men to say "Whoa! She can't do that!"

Too late, we bastard cats and dogs have already been let out of the bags, and scattered all over the world.

We learned to speak and verify the truth.

Now what?

We do just that, and hope it's enough to right the wrongs that have gone on for far too long.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The Market of Adoption

Sunday 21 oktober, 21h50 Netherland 2
And: Tuesday 23 oktober, 10.25 uur Nederland 2

See the speakers of the programme

See background interview Hilbrand Westra and Roelie Post

Once it seemed pure idealisme. By now adoption has become a worldwide buyer market. A market where the youngest, the healthiest and the whitest children go to those who pay most. An overstressed market above all. According to Unicef there are for every child 25 waiting parents available. About parents who in their desperate search explore the boundaries of law, raise prices and put doubtful organisations at work.

Thirty years ago adoption was above all idealism. Give a child a chance. Now adoption is foremost the last option. In the Western world we wait longer and longer with having a child. And when we want it, often it no longer works. The number of involuntary childless couples grows. For them adoption is more often the last safety net.

In the documentary, inter alia, some Dutch adoption agencies are speaking out. They acknowledge the existence of a market, but say they do not participate at the price battle. Not a penny too much and certainly not under the table. The Dutch as the best pupil of the classroom. Where other countries as the US and France pamper children's homes in the third world with luxerious dinners and fat dollarcheques. How proper are our adoption agencies? How far did the market functioning enter here? What must one pay for adoption? Is there a reduction for children with a handicap.

According to the Dutch adoption agency Wereldkinderen (Children of the World) the offer of children is changing. Because we pay less at the international market, we get more often less wanted children. Children with a heirlip, with a club foot or a developmental delay. And not everyone wants such a child. Most want a healthy baby. And these are less and less available and so most parents are mainly waiting. Often for years.

More and more parents no longer wait. They take the initiative at hand. They go to the US. The market where you can adopt a baby of a few days old. Only 10 years ago just a few children came from the US, but this year it will be over 60. These so-called "private adoptions" from the US are growing explosively. The way to get a young baby fast. If you pay. Pay a lot. Pay to US commercial adoption agencies who take care of it all. The Dutch agency who needs to check this, Kind & Toekomst (Child & Future), rings in Reporter the alarm bell. They can not do these checks well. They are very worried about the biological mothers who relinguish children. The import of children from the US must stop, according to this agency.

Monday, 3 September 2007

The perfect didactic material...

On 5 July Radio Romania broadcasted Claudia Marcu's interview with me.

As Dutch correspondent of Radio Romania, Claudia Marcu announces that since a few weeks the Dutch press is abording the question of 'orphans' and more specifically international adoption.

For this discussion she considers the book 'Romania - For Export Only' the perfect didactic material.

I was asked to summarise the chapters of the book: Crisis, Forwards, Change, Progress & Resistance, EU Know-How, Children's Rights are Law, Guerilla War, Open War.
Asked if Romania were to blame, I could only say that most of the blame falls outside Romania.

Listen to the interview

Monday, 13 August 2007

Romania - For Export Only (a review)

Sun, 2007-08-12 21:00 — Niels
Romania - For Export Only (a review)

When in 1999, Roelie Post started working for the European Commission on the "Romanian Orphan" dossier she could not have forseen the consequences of accepting that job.

In 1990, soon after the Ceausescu regime had been overturned, the world could witness ABC's 20/20 documentary on Romanian Orphans. The shocking TV images gave rise to many initiatives to "save the children". Most often started with best intentions, help to Romanian orphans during the 1990's lead to a soaring market of international adoption.

Especially after 1997, when a point system was introduced, the Romanian adoption market was booming. With this system, adoption agencies could earn points by investing in social services. When enough points would be gathered the agencies would be given a child for international adoptions.

Late 1990's the European Union had started the Phare project, which aimed at reforming Romania's child protection system, needed for its accession to the EU. This project focused on closing down large institutions, setting up a foster care system and implementation of family preservation.

Against this background Roelie Post started her work for the European Commission, on changing the European Union's projects for Romanian children, a job she held for eight years. Those eight years she describes in detail in her book: Romania - For Export Only.

From the onset she makes clear how the adoption lobby has one primary interest, delivering as many babies as possible to the adoption industry, all in the name of a child's best interest.
The French business man Francois de Combret sets the stage in the story that reveals itself in the 270 pages of the book. With black and white pictures, showing horribly underfed Romanian Orphans, he bombards media and authorities to raise funds for his organization Sera. The pictures, not representing current Romanian situations, were actually taken years before Romanian child care reform had started.

De Combret has an adoption agenda and Post's book unravels the workings of that agenda. She shows how several projects by NGO's affiliated to or working with adoption agencies are doing little to improve child care facilities in Romania, but mainly focus on keeping status quo, while preparing babies for adoption.

The book takes an interesting turn when in 2001 Romania's moratorium on international adoption starts, leading to 2004's adoption laws. Because many adoption agencies working in Romania had already assigned children to prospective parents, the moratorium led to pressure from several countries on Romania to stop its moratorium.

Roelie Post takes us to conferences, diplomatic meetings and shows how trade negotiations and NATO accession negotiations were used to put pressure on Romania to change adoption regulations. We meet Baroness Nicholson, Special Rapporteur for Romania's accession to the EU, who played a crucial rol in the 2004 Romanian adoption law and the moratorium leading to it. Post sketches a knowledgeable picture of the Baroness and reveals many of the political ins and outs of the political arena this British Member of European Parliament operated in.
She takes us to Romanian institutions too and tells us about the situations she meets, varying from maternities run by American adoption agencies, institutions with Renault "everywhere" and orphanages that don't really care about the babies, because they will be adopted soon anyway.

Towards the end, the book takes a grim turn, when Roelie Post tells us about constant threats made against her. The pressure around her builds up as the Romanian accession reaches its deadline. Candid and well documented she describes how she eventually is forced to leave her job, due to political pressure on the adoption agenda.

Romania - For Export Only is a captivating book. I read it cover to cover over the week-end. It is a very well documented account in diary style of the wheelings and dealings over the access to Romanian orphans. At times it can be a tough read, because she gives many details of the Romanian case. Fortunately the book is much more than cold facts and figures. Roelie Post keeps closely focused on the child's best interest, both in her work and in the story she has to tells us.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

New adoption scandal

There is another adoption scandal in the news. A Dutch couple was arrested in Sri Lanka for baby-buying. As a result, NOVA - the main Dutch newsprogramme - invited me for an interview. Only in Dutch.


Sunday, 8 July 2007

Radio Netherlands Worldwide

The Dutch Radio Netherlands Worldwide broadcasted an interview with Ina Hut (Director Wereldkinderen/Children of the World), Professor David Smolin and me:

Wednesday, 20 June 2007


Several radio programmes and the Dutch TV have broadcasted interviews about the book.

Links to these programmes can be found on the website (IN THE MEDIA)

and the Dutch Blog

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

“International adoption is in fact child trafficking”

Interview with our reporter Margreet Vermeulen

”It is a heavy message. But intercountry adopdtion is legalized child trafficking. A white child is more expensive than a black child. African children are guaranteed AIDS-free. If that is not traffick? On top of that, many adopted children are not orphans. They are here because the agreed quota must be met.”

Saturday, 2 June 2007


De Telegraaf

The scandal surrounding fifty illegally adopted Indian children is just the top of the iceberg. Just over the last months similar practices become known in Sri Lanka and in Nepal where hundreds of children were for big money channelled to Western (probably also Dutch) adoptive parents, paedophile networks and possibly even to criminals in the disgusting traffic in organs.

Roelie Post, Dutch civil servant at the European Commission, had in Brussels for many years the infamous dossier "Romanian children" in her care. She saw how the hurt country of the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu bravely recovered , but ran into the powerful, international lobby of Western businessmen, politicians and even government officials who want to maintain the foreign adoptions stream and at best see it grow. Her resistance got her into problems: our compatriot was threatened and set aside. Today exclusively in De Telegraaf the shocking story of the Dutch children whistle blower.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

India asks adopted child back from The Netherlands

The Dutch TV programme Netwerk was yesterday full of the news that a mother in India wants her child back, as it was stolen from her in 1999. The child was adopted by a Dutch couple.

Children often are stolen for intercountry adoption, their records are falsified, children are declared dead at birth and instead...

Well, you can read it all in the book.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

French Adoption Agency has difficulty in satisfying waiting families

The French set up a new French Adoption Agency (AFA) a year ago, to double the number of intercountry adoptions. This has not happened, instead the number of adoptions decreased. Mainly because sending countries more and more prefer national adoption, or close down because of corruption.

In an article of 15 May 2007, AFA defends itself.

"AFA also has to face 'competition' from other countries,
like Spain and Italy, without speaking about the United States,
very offensive, which accompany their adoption requests
with humanitarian aid.

Classical adoption is over, confirms Laure de Choiseul, the
countries ask now in parallel cooperation actions. It is
something that not had been envisaged when AFA was
created. Which therefore has no budget for that.
AFA envisages creating a foundation to receive private
funding. It is also considering, with local regions and the
ministry of Foreign Affairs, to link cooperation actions
to adoption."

So, now that sending countries prefer national adoption, the French consider linking aid to adoption: no adoptions - no aid. Indeed, like the US threatened Romania.

No doubt the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, will like this. After all, the humaniatrian ngo he set up is also France's biggest adoption agency: Médecins du Monde.

However, it would go against the spirit of the Hague Convention, that concluded in 2005:

75. [...]Furthermore, it was highlighted that international
co-operation is essential for national adoption and such
international aid programs must be clearly delineated
from intercountry adoption.

Monday, 7 May 2007


Mariela Neagu, my colleague in the EC Delegation in Bucharest, has been appointed Secretary of State for Child Protection.

She was for seven years the driving force behind the EC Programmes that supported the reform of the Romanian child protection.

A clearer commitment to the Rights of the Child could not be made by the Tariceanu government.

Congratulations Mariela!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

EXCERPT from the BOOK -

8 February 2004

Early evening the Baroness had called from Bucharest. Not long before she had arrived at the TV station for her press conference. She had been surprised by the excited activity there, and quickly learned that the leader of the opposition and the mayor of Bucharest, Trajan Basescu, had organised a press conference just before hers. He had distributed to the press two Government Memoranda for exceptions to the moratorium. The shocking fact was that the memoranda gave, behind each child, whose name was crossed out, the name of a foreign politician who had lobbied for its adoption, described as a personal guarantee for the quality of the adoption. A politically correct description of political pressure?

The Baroness said there were names like John Kerry, Edward Kennedy, several other US congressmen and senators, and MEPs like Jose Marie Gil-Robles, Antonio di Pietro and former EC President Jacques Santer. But she had felt most embarrassed when the press asked her opinion about the most prominently present name: EC President Romano Prodi. So were we.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Press Release

While working at the European Commission on the DG Enlargement, Romania Team, Roelie dealt with issues of Children's rights, particularly adoption. This work involved the monitoring of these issues in the framework of Romania's accession to the European Union. Also the programming of pre-accession assistance, the Phare Programme, on these issues was part of her tasks.

In 1999, the adoption policy of the Romanian orphans was connected to a system child trafficking, under cover of corruption. The European Commission asked Romania to reform its policy of children's rights, in order to be accepted into the European Union. Roelie Post was a civil servant who became a whistle blower with the publication of he book based on the diary she kept over an eight-year period beginning in 1999, while she worked to reform Romanian adoption.

Her book reads like an exciting tale of mystery and espionage as she uncovers memos, files and emails that spell out a "point system" pitting American against Europeans as to who can pay more and thus get more children for adoption; phonied photos to make conditions look more dire than they are to increase private and public funding that seldom got to the children or the employees caring for Roelie discovered on her field trips to the Romanian orphanages.

She also tells about her meeting with Belgian associations fighting child trade, and the Baroness who sought to stop - at least temporarily - the international adoption of Romanian children.

Friday, 13 April 2007

For Information

Roelie Post publishes a remarkable book. A book about export of Romanian children for adoption. A book, that when one reads the first chapters, overwhelms you if the issue is new. Unfortunate for the undersigned it is not. I even wished that a similar empirical and personal book had been written by the sort of researcher as Roelie Post at the time in Korea and now in China.

Roelie Post dares to describe a taboo-issue at a level that can compare with the works of Noreena Hertz and the movie Constant Gardener. Unfortunately such reporting in general does not receive a lot of media attention, because of its political sensitivity. If you read the book, you find out why. A nest of scorpions of big (business) interests interwoven with political and social actors, and the large demand for adoptable children, creates indeed a market functioning that until now was systematically denied. As a result the discussion remained in the margins of society.

The introduction of the book about a mini-breakfast conference of her children concerning this issue illustrates in my opinion that we have gone far beyond the real and primary question, which still is: what is the interest of the (adoptive) child?

Best regards,
Hilbrand W.S. Westra
Coördinator - United Adoptees International - Netherlands

Friday, 30 March 2007

After one month...

The book is out now since one months and sales are not bad at all. The book is now also available in bookshops, for example Waterstone's in Brussels.

The book already found its way to 20 countries:

Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, Burkina Fasso, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, the United States, Finland, Italy, United Kingdom, Zwitserland. And of course Romania.

The Guardian published this week the above cartoon to illustrate the Bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the UK.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007


Over the years numerous people suggested me to write a book. Here it is: the story of Romania’s institutionalised children, for many years wrongly called ‘orphans’ or ‘abandoned’ and the pressure to have those children freed for international adoption. A story about global politics and private interests.

In 1999, employed by the European Commission, I started working on the ‘Romanian children dossier’. Romania was known for having over 100.000 children in large residential care institutions, where the living conditions were appalling. My task would be to monitor Romania’s child protection from a human rights’ perspective in the framework of Romania’s future accession to the European Union. Furthermore the Commission would offer financial support to improve the situation. I entered a world I did not understand at first.

Soon I felt something was wrong with the adoption system.
The Romanian government, after criticism of the European Commission and the European Parliament, halted intercountry adoptions in 2001 and started to review its legislation. The international pressure, from a small group of people who wanted to re-open intercountry adoption, was extremely ferocious.


The Year 1999 - Crisis
The Year 2000 - Forwards
The Year 2001 - Change
The Year 2002 - Progress & Resistance
The Year 2003 - EU Know-How
The Year 2004 - Children’s Rights are Law
The Year 2005 - Guerilla War
The Year 2006 - Open War
Acronyms & Initialism

Saturday, 3 March 2007


The book has found its way to places as Australia, Jordan, Morocco, Greece, France, the UK, Portugal, Ireland, the United States, Finland, Italy, Zwitserland, Belgium and the Netherlands. And of course Romania.

Those who do not wish to pay through the Internet, can send an e-mail to

and you will receive the details for bank payments

Sunday, 25 February 2007


Romania needed to reform its child rights policy, as one of the conditions for its future EU Membership. Large ‘orphanages’ were closed and replaced by modern child protection alternatives.

The author kept a diary on her work for the European Commission that aimed to help Romania reform its child protection.

She soon found out that the intercountry adoption system in place was nothing short of a market for children, riddled by corruption. After international criticism this practice was halted temporarily. When redrafting laws, it became clear that in Romania’s reformed child protection there was neither place nor need for intercountry adoptions.

A ferocious lobby that wants to maintain intercountry adoptions stepped out.

The reader is taken along on an eight-year-travel, and will be shown the story of the Romanian ‘orphans’ from a different light, where global politics and private interests compete with the rights of the child.

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