exposing the dark side of adoption
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Rejected Romanian adoptee sues Canadian couple


TORONTO - A Romanian woman, adopted as a child by a Canadian couple, who sent her back after only five months, is suing the family and the government for years of hardship and loss of identity, her lawyers said.

Alexandra Austin, now 22, was given up for adoption by her mother and brought to Canada in 1991.

After five months, the couple sent the girl back to Romania where she ended up in legal limbo. Authorities there refused to recognize the newly named Austin as a Romanian while Ottawa said she did not have Canadian citizenship either.

"She's suing to hold everyone accountable for what happened to her, falling through the cracks," lawyer Jeffrey Wilson said. "She was a child who was adopted into a foreign country and then, remarkably, sent home on a one-way ticket to Romania.

"She remained there without school opportunities, without health services."

Austin's $C7 million ($8.03 million) lawsuit targets her adoptive parents, who have since separated and live in the United States and Italy.

It also names the Ontario and Canadian governments and Swiss International Air Lines , which flew her back to Bucharest more than a decade ago. The lawsuit alleges all three failed in their fiduciary duty toward the girl.

The parents, who adopted a Romanian baby two days before sending 9-year-old Austin back, are cited for negligence for "reckless infliction of nervous shock, mental distress and abandonment of a child. "

"It's not the first case where an international adoption has broken down," Wilson said. "The obvious answer is simply to place the child in the care of the Children's Aid Society and the child grows up in Canada ... with all the benefits."

Instead, the lawsuit says, she was left stateless in Romania, unable to access state-run services and subjected to grinding poverty.

Austin, the subject of a book and a documentary shown on Canadian television this week, said her life fell apart after she was shipped back to Bucharest where her birth mother no longer had parental rights to her.

"Nobody should ever do this to a child," she told reporters in a brief visit to Toronto. "I've lost my childhood and my identity."

Austin, whose schooling ended at Grade 3, launched the lawsuit after giving birth to a daughter who was also deemed a stateless person in Romania.


2005 Feb 16