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Panel promotes foreign adoption


Panel promotes foreign adoption

Conference helps underprivileged kids find homes abroad

By Ondøej Bouda
Staff Writer, The Prague Post
October 1st, 2008
[****PHOTO id=8343****][****PHOTO id=8344****]
Local institutions have joined an international effort to break down
bureaucratic obstacles preventing foreign couples from adopting Czech
At a Sept. 24 conference in Brno, south Moravia, addressing
international adoption, a panel of European experts agreed that
children should be placed within their country of origin as much as
possible, but stressed that other options must be made available.
A mere 277 Czech kids have been adopted by foreign families since
2000, when the Czech Republic ratified a Hague convention on adoption
and child protection. These children, predominantly of Roma origin,
often find their new homes in Denmark, Germany or Italy.
"Czech parents are very picky. They practically require a warranty
with their adopted child," said panelist František Schneiberg from
the Institute of Social Medicine and Public Health. "They expect
guarantees that the child will be always healthy, extremely talented,
get good marks at school and go to university. Foreign parents are
much more tolerant."
Aside from this comment, most panelists skirted the exact reasons
behind the difficulty in placing children with suitable families in
the Czech Republic. However, Lenka Pavlová, director of the
government Office for International Legal Protection of Children
(ÚMPOD), reluctantly hinted that prejudice and racism in Czech
society prevents locals from adopting underprivileged children.
"Our priority is always to keep Czech kids in the Czech Republic, but
we are often faced with problems of ethnicity or health, whether
mental or physical disabilities," she said. "International adoption
is the only hope for many kids to lead a normal life in a loving
family, which will provide them with education and a good start into
independent life."
Overall, the findings presented at the conference indicated that the
Czech Republic was improving its efforts to facilitate the adoption
of local children by foreigners.
However, when asked how many foreign children had been legally
adopted into the Czech Republic since 2000, Pavlová responded
briskly: "None!"
The problem is not caused by a lack of interest in foreign children,
she said. The institute has already recorded more than 80
applications for foreign adoption since 2000, but all of them still
await processing.
"We are faced with the lack of a legal and institutional framework.
The guarantees that a receiving state has to provide for the safety
of the child are complicated," Pavlová said.
In addition to bureaucratic hurdles, the government currently
displays little interest in helping children and families, she added.
The ÚMPOD office has only 15 employees, who are too overloaded by the
current agenda to address broader issues.
The Czech Republic also lacks accredited bodies to help parents adopt
kids from abroad, unlike countries such as Italy, which has 69 such

Laid-back parents
In other European countries, prospective parents view issues such as
physical disabilities or Roma ethnicity in a different light than
their Czech counterparts, experts said.
"In Denmark, a different skin color is considered an advantage," said
Margrethe Primdhal, director of AC International Child Support, a
Danish nongovernmental organization. "Denmark has a 50-year tradition
of international adoptions. Everyone sees that the child is clearly
adopted, and the whole society tries to make the child feel welcome.
Later in life, the children will meet with positive discrimination,
so their lives will be much simpler than they would be back home."
In countries such as Italy, adopting Roma children is more common for
socio-ethnic reasons, according to former Italian Adoption Central
Authority Director Carmela Cavallo. "Often, they look like their
parents, especially in Sicily," she said. "Italian parents are also
more laid-back in their upbringing, and don't mind lively kids."
Also attending the conference were several Italian families who had
recently adopted Czech Roma children. The youngsters were indeed
lively: They ran around the premises for the duration of the meeting,
and even climbed over the assembled international experts.
"Our greatest fear was the language barrier, but the two brothers
learned fluent Italian within three months," said a mother who
recently adopted two Roma boys. "At the beginning, we were more
nervous than the boys. When we took them home to Italy, they kept
pointing at us and repeated [`Mom' and `Dad' in Czech], after which
they'd collapse in laughter. They were clearly making fun of us."
Experts say it is often the parents — rather than the children — who
require psychological help. "We provide parents with pre- and post-
adoption service. Even when they go to pick up their child abroad, we
stay in touch with them," said Marina Virgillito, an Italian
psychologist who has herself adopted a Czech Roma girl. "Even though
I lead these courses, they gave me a lot of insight and understanding
once I had gone through them as a client."

Ondøej Bouda can be reached at news@..

2008 Oct 1