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."

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