International adoptions equal ‘child trafficking’

by Nina Eikens and RNW Internet Desk


Author and former EU official Roelie Post

Thousands of Romanian children adopted by foreigners in the 1990s were not orphans, but had been sold to agencies by their parents, according to a former European Commission official.

Dutchwoman Roelie Post was the EU official who investigated adoption practices in Romania for several years. In her new book, Romania, For Export Only she claims that most international adoptions are nothing more than child trafficking.

She also says political and diplomatic pressure was put on the Romanian government by a network of interest groups to try to water down new laws meant to protect children.

RNW asked Roelie Post who was behind these groups.

RP: There were several networks at different levels. First of all in Romania there were people who were finding children who would make sure that the children were legally adoptable – adoption organisations, Romanian and foreign, but also the facilitators – middle men – they located children and they receive money for [doing] that. On the other hand, you also had political and diplomatic pressure on Romania by certain countries, the countries mainly were the United States, Italy, Spain, France and Israel.

They sometimes put diplomatic pressure and political pressure on Bucharest. There was also adoption agencies which either put pressure directly on Romania or through their politicians, or through the prospective adopters who were told by their agencies, or sometimes by politicians, to write letters to Romania, or sometimes to the European Commission to put pressure to allow or to re-allow inter-country adoptions.

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Listen to the interview with Roelie Post

RNW: How did the government of Romania act on this?

RP: When, in 2000, the government of Romania was told by the European Commission and the European Parliament that their adoption system was not necessarily in the best interests of the child and it needed to be reviewed, the next government which came into power in 2001 – they phased out adoptions while they started reviewing the legislation.

That was not an easy task, because many organisations and individuals had an interest to gain from international adoptions and they all volunteered to give advice, etc and therefore the Romanian government as they explained at the time, sometimes felt like being stuck between two elephants: between the European Union who said ‘you have to stop selling children’, and the United States who said, ‘we want inter-country adoptions’.

Orphans awaiting adoption

RNW: Which side did Romania choose?

RP: Romania wanted to become a member of the European Union and therefore the prime minister at the time asked the Commission for support in drafting legislation and as a result in the end, Romania has adopted a law which does not allow for international adoption, as a measure of child protection.

RNW: And is it under control now?

RP: So far yes, progress has taken place, on the other hand pressure continues because those who are interested in inter-country adoptions – they would like Romania to open [up again] because they’re afraid that other countries in the region or in the world might follow their example and stop adoptions.

RNW: Are you saying that inter-country adoptions should be banned?

RP: I think the way it is at the moment, it can’t continue because now there’s a full market in many countries where the prices are going up, there’s competition between the countries who want children and the number of [available] children is not that high. So either they have to put pressure on to get more children… so this competitive kind of market should not exist and therefore an international discussion is necessary to see how to tackle this because inter-country adoptions were meant as a last option for children who had no chance of being cared for in their own country, but not as a measure to provide countries with children they would like to have.

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