White children, pricey goods for adoption
From: All children have rights
“White children, pricey goods for adoption”
Romania Libera, 12 March 2007
After having monitored, for the European Commission, child protection in Romania, Roelie Post has written a book in which important aspects on intercountry adoptions from Romania are revealed.
Roelie Post considers that the ferocious lobby to re-open intercountry adoption is about the most wanted sort of the market: white eastern European children.
Which are, in your opinion, the most important aspects that are revealed in your book “Romania For Export Only – The untold story of the Romanian orphans”, which you recently published in your country the Netherlands?
I think that this book shows, clearly, which is the “ferocious” lobby that Romania underwent, internationally, so that it would lighten the new legislation on intercountry adoptions. At the same time, by relating concrete events that I witnessed the eight years I was occupied in monitoring “the Romanian children dossier”, I think that this book shows the mechanisms of corruption in intercountry adoptions, as well as giving the names of many personalities, internal and international who were implied in this complex combination.
This lobby continues at the moment? By which means?
Considering the market, internationally adopted children come in many “sorts”: white, black, yellow. If Romania does not restart intercountry adoptions, there is a risk that other countries in the region, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, follow its example. But, the most desired children and the most expensive are the white children, those coming from Eastern Europe.
How did you end up working on Romanian child protection?
On 1 March 1999 I got the job, within the European Commission, to deal with the “Romanian Children dossier”. The colleague who dealt with this before told me: “Here are the children, have fun”. This colleague was cynical, but at that moment I did not understand this irony.
How much time did you spend in Romania and how did you get to know the dossier you had been confided?
Between 1999-2005 I traveled to Romania over 40 times, staying there every time one or two weeks. I got to know, through direct contact, about 90% of the child protection system of your country, and became an expert in that matter.
The book you wrote is presented in the form of a journal, in which you describe, day by day, many concrete events that you witnessed.
I selected those days which, added one to another, tell the untold story of the Romanian “orphans”. I came up with a book that tells, from different perspectives, the way in which global policies and private interests competed with the children’s interests. I highlighted that the international adoptions system in place in Romania was not far from being a market on which the children were “goods”, and in which corruption proliferated. Since the adoption, in 2005, of the new legislative package concerning child protection and adoption, which limited drastically international adoption, on the international scene started a ferocious lobby to get back to more permissive legal provisions, so that that market could continue functioning.
The chapters of the book referring to these periods have suggestive titles: “The year 2005 – Guerilla War” and “The Year 2006 – Open War”. Which price used to be paid for Romanian children for intercountry adoptions so that “turning off the tap” produced such anger?
Prices varied between 10,000-40,000 $, younger babies being more expensive. For Roma children it was paid the same, on the condition that they were under one year old. Now, even if the prices would remain unchanged, they cannot be obtained anymore. By law, paying for children for adoption is considered as human trafficking and it is heavily punished.
What do you know about cases of Romanian children adopted and then used for organ transplants or pornographic industry?
It was not my task to follow such issues. I don’t know what to say about organ transplant, but I found out about pedophilia from the press and that many of the abused children were from orphanages. One can presume that the international adoption market offered children for such purposes, too. I can also tell you that – even if I have never accused anyone – because of my “Romanian job” I am not anymore working at the EC.
Mention some of the aspects in the book concretely related to the way in which the corrupted adoption system functioned in Romania.
For example, Thursday, 2nd November 2000, when, at a meeting at the EC Delegation in Bucharest, to which Baroness Nicholson also attended, the then Head of the Romanian Office for Adoption, Mr Popescu, insisted that Romanian legislation and the system of points (introduced by Mr Tabacaru, former secretary of state for child protection in 1997) on the basis of which a child was declared as “adoptable” were in line with the United Nations Convention for the Children Rights and the Hague Convention, and that limiting international adoptions would have meant discrimination. Such affirmations were, of course, not correct.
The date of 8th February is also worth mentioning.
On that evening I was in Brussels, and Baroness Nicholson called me from Bucharest, where she was supposed to hold a press conference at the Romanian television. She told me that Traian Basescu, then the leader of the opposition and mayor of Bucharest, and at the starting of his electoral campaign for the presidential elections, had just finished a press conference on TV. On the occasion he had distributed to the journalists two memoranda of the Government including exceptions to the moratorium on international adoptions. The shocking part was that after the name of each child it was written “by means of exception” and also the name of a foreign politician who lobbied for that adoption and presented himself as the warrant for the correctness of the adoption. Amongst the nominees, could be found John Kerry, Edward Kennedy, other American congressmen, Jacques Chirac, as well as members of the European Parliament. But the name mentioned most often was that of Romano Prodi, then President of the European Commission.
How would you comment this?
It is the mere description of political pressure. Economic projects were also used to influence political decisions, as mentioned by François de Combret, president of the SERA Foundation (SERA Romania), very much involved in international adoptions.
Do you consider that the ferocious lobby manifested itself exactly when Romania was preparing to comply with the EU accession criteria and was aiming at annulling this effort?
Obviously, yes. Outside the EU law is more permissive. And as such economically interesting as the international adoptions could easily catch up.
Those who want to read the whole book can access the following link:
Expert in the field
Which is the profile of the expert in child protection – Roelie Post?
I graduated Political Science at the Amsterdam University, where I studied international relations and political economics, with a specialisation on compared social models in the EU.
What were you doing before being offered the “Romanian job”?
I was an EC official since 1983; in 1999 I was offered a position in the Romania Team in DG Enlargement as task manager for Children, Minorities, Civil Society.
What did you know about Romania when you accepted this position?
I knew very little about Romania and nothing about the orphans and child protection issues. But I was an EC civil servant and here there is a principle applying which a former boss of mine expressed very clearly: “You are not an expert, you say? The Commission pays you to be one. So be one in the field assigned to you!”