Dr. Catherine Lynch JD

26  June 2016

Source:  www.academia.edu

Book Review of

Romania For Export Only; The untold story of the Romanian ‘orphans’

by Roelie Post.

Dr. Catherine Lynch JD

As a child and an adoptee I, like most other adoptees, had known that something was extremely wrong with my world – I felt like I was being punished for something I was responsible for, but I wasn’t sure how I was being punished. I just knew that everything was wrong and it was my fault. Despite this I did live a picture perfect childhood and didn’t want for anything material – I was loved. As an adult I became determined to find out what was wrong with me, discovering instead, through years of study and activism, and in direct contrast to what years of socialisation within an adoptive family embeds into you, that adoption is a panacea, – that the problem wasn’t me. It was adoption itself. I learnt that when adoption legislation was introduced society preferred to believe babies were “clean slates” and so able to be removed from their mothers without damage, an ideology that pro-adoption and pro-surrogacy advocates still cling to today by citing “good outcomes” as if this somehow proved there was no trauma in removal. I learnt that adoption, ostensibly introduced into legislation at the start of the Twentieth Century to solve the problem” of “illegitimate” children and later to “rescue orphans” from overseas, had become by the end of that same century, nothing short of legitimised global trade in children to supply a demand.

I had learnt this over many years studying for a PhD, reading and listening to adoptees around the world and the families that lost children to the adoption markets. What makes Roelie Post’s, Romania For Export Only, published in 2007, so important to me and to adopted people in general, is that it was written not by one of us – and not by our lost families – but by someone unconnected to adoption systems who just happened to be thrown into the deep end of those systems. In 1999 Roelie was employed by the European Commission to work on the “Romanian children dossier” which meant she was to “monitor Romania’s child protection from a human rights perspective in the framework of Romania’s future accession to the European Union” (p 11).

As one of the conditions for its future EU membership, Romania needed to reform its child rights policy, and as a consequence the large so-called “orphanages” were closed and replaced by more modern child protection alternatives such as foster care. Roelie soon found that the inter-country adoption system in place was nothing short of a market for children, riddled by corruption. After international criticism as a result of these investigations inter-country adoption out of Romania was halted temporarily. It became clear that in Romania’s reformed child protection there was neither place nor need for inter-country adoptions. The narrative of this book then takes a surprising turn as a ferocious lobby wanting to maintain inter-country adoptions reared its ugly head and began to apply its pressure, not only onto the Commission, but also onto Roelie herself.

Roelie based her book on her “kept notes and memory” and says it summarises the events she considers most important (p13). When Roelie says she entered a world that she “did not understand at first” you can get some idea of how her documentation of what she encountered is in no way driven by any hidden agenda or ideology. If you were to protest your lack of knowledge in your new area you may well be told, “You are not an expert, you say? The Commission pays you to be an expert. Become one!” And so Roelie did.  In the process she soon acquired a similar instinct to that of the adopted child: she “soon felt something was wrong with the adoption system.” By the end of the process, when she was “relieved” of her duties, she found herself defending her very person against victimisation and even physical threats – at the wrong end of the “extremely ferocious” international pressure of pro-adoption ideology.[1]

The stars of this book are, however, the Romanian institutionalised children themselves “for many years wrongly called “orphans” or “abandoned”.  What they had to endure and continue to endure as adoptees is the hidden message of Roelie’s story and their silence is the hidden signal that “part two” to this expose will be written – this time by the Romanian adoptees. Adoption is a place where global politics and private interests not only compete with, but win against, the rights of the child, specifically Articles 20.1, 20.c, 8.1, 12.1, of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but only adoptees themselves can tell how these rights violations are felt as lived experience.

In the meantime adoptees cannot be accused – as we are so often accused – of telling a “negative” tale about adoption, trying to ruin adoption for everyone else because we had a bad experience. This is because adoptees didn’t write this story: a stranger did, someone who was not part of the adoption world before her employment by the European Commission. Roelie is no longer a stranger to the world of adoption, instead she made herself an independent expert in adoption, a truth-teller, and a dear friend to the global community of adopted people fighting against the quasi-religious pro-adoption ideology, fighting for equal rights, fighting for justice.

26 June 2016


[1] There has been further personal impact for Roelie after publishing Romania For Export Only. Roelie soon found herself unwelcome working as a civil servant inside the European Commission and was instead seconded “outside” to a newly established NGO called ‘Against Child Trafficking’. In August 2014 this secondment ended necessitating her return inside where she continues to find herself being treated as an unwelcome whistleblower.

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