Letter to Prime Minister regarding inter-country adoption


Letter to Prime Minister regarding inter-country adoption

Mr. Adrian Nastase

Prime Minister




-                      Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, MEP, Rapporteur for Romania

-                      Mr. Jonathan Scheele, Ambassador, Head of Delegation, Delegation of the

                       European  Commmission

-                      Ms. Elena Dumitru, Minister of Labor, Social Solidarity and Family

-                      Ms. Gabriela Coman, Secretary of State, National Authority for Child Protection and Adopti

                                                                                                                                                            February 6, 2004

Dear Prime Minister,

UNICEF has been carefully following the recent debate on the issue of inter-country adoption and wants to express its position and make suggestions for the Government and your counterparts, thus contributing to find adequate solutions to this very sensitive and compelling problem.

Your recent statements, deploring the mounting pressure on the government under the circumstances surrounding the moratorium, and expressing clearly that Romania is on its way to find national solutions to the phenomena of abandonment of children coincide perfectly with UNICEF’s standpoint on the issue. In our view, as stipulated by the proposed legislation package and the international conventions, inter-country adoption is to be considered as an exceptional measure and last resort within the alternative forms of child protection.

All over the world, UNICEF’s work is geared to the fullest possible implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and is directed solely towards helping to ensure that conditions in each country and community are such that all children can receive appropriate care, in line with the provisions of that Convention and other relevant international standards.

In this context, UNICEF supports all efforts to:

-          ensure that children can, wherever possible, remain in the care of their parents;

-          prevent abandonment;

-          secure placement with family members or others in the community if parental care is impossible for whatever  reason;

-          identify a permanent in-country, family-based care solution as quickly as possible;

-          implement measures that preclude the need for recourse to institutional placements.

UNICEF recognises that the rights and best interests of some children may nonetheless best be served through inter-country adoption, in which case the pertinent international standards must be systematically and strictly applied on a case-by-case basis.

UNICEF has been deeply disturbed by the flagrant violation of these standards in and by many countries world-wide in recent years. Such have been the gravity and frequency of these violations that in many cases the countries concerned and/or the countries where their children were being adopted have had to suspend adoptions for the period necessary to take effective measures to prevent recurrence of illegal practices. Central and Eastern European countries have regrettably experienced such problems on a possibly unprecedented scale since “transition” began. In addition to Romania, no less than six other countries in the region – Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine – have consequently had to resort to declaring moratoria on inter-country adoptions at certain junctures during this period.

When Romania itself was first obliged to impose a moratorium in July 1991, UNICEF was among those supporting the efforts of the competent Romanian Authorities to put in place legislation, structures and procedures that would ensure that adoption of Romanian children by foreigners took place in accordance with internationally-accepted norms. Regrettably, and for various reasons, serious abuses nonetheless continued.

The decision to suspend inter-country adoptions once more in 2001 was inevitable in the circumstances. UNICEF believes that the decision taken at that time to carry out a thorough reappraisal of the child protection legislative framework, including that pertaining to inter-country adoption, was undeniably necessary. As is the case for law reform in virtually all countries, the drafting, consultations, enactment and preparation for implementation of new and fundamental legislation is a lengthy process. In the light of experience, UNICEF also believes that the moratorium has to remain in effect for as long as that process takes.

The UNICEF position is fully in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its Concluding Observations issued in February 2003, which advised Romania to “expedite the adoption of the new law, ensure that sufficient human and other resources are made available for the effective implementation of the law, ensure that the cases of inter-country adoption still under consideration are dealt with in full accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention, and explore ways to encourage the national adoptions so that the recourse to inter-country adoption is a measure of last resort”.

UNICEF deplores the pressure brought to bear by some quarters which could considerably prejudice the basis and aims of the moratorium and of the legislative review. It believes that such pressure may not be consistent with respect for the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this regard, UNICEF notes that in recent years it has proved possible to effect significant improvements in the child protection system in Romania. The largest and most inappropriate institutions for children are progressively being closed, levels of child abandonment are decreasing, and appropriate forms of alternative care are being developed. UNICEF is among those supporting these efforts. Clearly, the number of children benefiting from such developments is immeasurably greater than that of children who, had the moratorium been lifted, might have been deemed available for adoption abroad. Indeed, it is UNICEF’s view that the need for recourse to inter-country adoption is now declining very rapidly, and that within two to three years, Romania should not have to envisage the adoption of its children abroad in all but the most exceptional cases. UNICEF believes that this is a goal towards which each and everyone should be working.

In this regard, therefore, UNICEF would respectfully suggest that Romania avoids legislating the imposition of an unqualified and definitive ban on any future adoption of a Romanian child abroad. European States generally leave open the possibility for inter-country adoption from their territory, recognising that there may be given circumstances – such as extended family members abroad – where the child’s best interests might be served by such a solution. Indeed, such adoptions do take place, albeit in extremely limited numbers, from and between these States. At the same time, they understandably place clear and often very severe restrictions on the kind of situation where inter-country adoption may be considered and, in particular, they ensure that full control is exerted by the competent authorities. UNICEF believes that such an approach is more consistent with the spirit and letter of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1993 Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption than total prohibition. UNICEF nonetheless fully agrees, of course, that an immediate stop has to be imposed on the spontaneous submission of dossiers by prospective adoptive parents from abroad, whether individually or via agencies, which is a major factor fuelling the pressure on Romania to allow significant numbers of its children to be adopted abroad.

UNICEF will continue to provide needed support to the Government of Romania, to ensure that the best interest of the child and the provisions of the CRC on inter-country adoption are fully respected. Inter-country adoption, as is well recognised, is intrinsically linked to the wider child protection/alternative care question. UNICEF has identified three timeframes in this regard:

-          2004, equivalent to the minimum period during which the moratorium is currently expected to apply;

-          2004-2007, assuming that Romania’s application to join the EU is on track;

-          2005-2009, Romania-UNICEF’s next programme period.

For 2004 specifically, UNICEF will strongly and clearly defend the justification for the moratorium. It will also contribute to monitoring, and to discussing with the National Authority for Child Protection and Adoption and any other appropriate Romanian or foreign authorities, recourse to inter-country adoption while the moratorium is in effect. It will provide support to ensure that the content of the proposed legislation will be well understood and internalized by the different stakeholders.

For 2004-2007, UNICEF will place major emphasis on supporting efforts to reduce recourse to abandonment, maintain/reintegrate children with their families, and provide valid in-country non-institutional forms of out-of-home care. It will also contribute to countering effective demand regarding the adoption of Romanian children abroad. The overall aim will be to ensure that, by end 2007, conditions are such that inter-country adoption from the country is very rarely required and that it is therefore no longer a “phenomenon” as such but a truly exceptional and individualised practice.

For 2005-2009, the strategic intent of UNICEF presence in Romania will be to support Romania in ensuring that all children and youth can grow up in a caring family or a family like environment and that their fundamental rights for survival, development, participation and protection are fully realized. The program will focus on policy development, in the areas of health and fight against HIV/AIDS, education and child protection. Many of the proposed interventions will aim at reducing the level of abandonment of children, fight against child trafficking, and ensure adequate care to vulnerable children, families and communities. Additional efforts will be provided to ensure a proper monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and an appropriate response to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, for which UNICEF has expressed its interest in supporting the creation of an inter-ministerial body, to monitor the implementation of the Convention, in partnership with civil society organizations.

Reasserting my entire availability for meeting you, should you need any further discussion, I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to you, dear Prime Minister, the assurances of my highest consideration.


                                                                                                Pierre Poupard,                                                                                                                                                           UNICEF Representative


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