Senators Press Romania to Ease Adoption Rules

Date: 2003-04-15

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST, Romania (Reuters) - U.S. Senators on Tuesday said they would push Romania to ease foreign adoption rules to allow more orphans to find foreign parents.

Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's ban on contraception packed squalid Romanian orphanages with 100,000 unwanted babies. Their plight came to global attention after his 1989 overthrow and many foreigners rushed to adopt, often for a price.

Romania said it would resume international adoptions in June after a two-year European Union (news - web sites)-imposed ban aimed at cleaning up a corrupt system of orphans to the highest bidder.

But it said the foreign adoptions would be subject to stricter rules and only be allowed as a last resort if no Romanians could be found to adopt the child.

The ban angered up to 3,500 foreign couples, mostly from the United States, who were caught in the middle of the adoption process when it was imposed.

"We're here to not only encourage them to stay on that (June) schedule but also to bring the necessary laws into place to ensure child protection," Senator Larry Craig, a Republican from Idaho told Reuters during a visit to check on Romania's progress.

Craig and Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, from a group of lawmakers called the Congressional Coalition for Adoptions, said they were now reviewing the new legislation.

The new laws, demanded by the EU, will encourage Romanians to adopt more babies, scrap fees related to adoption and set up an 18-month compulsory residency period for prospective foreign parents.

"They (authorities) were kind enough to ask us and we said we would be happy to make recommendations based on our experience and our own laws," Craig said.

He said the compulsory residence term seemed too long and would deter attempts by would-be parents to adopt in Romania.

"I think we need to be very careful about timelines because they set up automatic barriers that either cause action or inaction based on the length of time," Craig said.

Landrieu said some 120,000 U.S. couples adopted a child in 2002. Around 20,000 babies were adopted from abroad. The biggest source was China with 5,000 and Russia with 4,000.

"We were adopting maybe a few thousand from Romania each year and then it stopped," she said. "But there are many, many children here who will not be adopted in Romania, they're either older children or have special needs or are disabled."

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