essential reading for anyone who has an interest in this issue. 'The reader is taken along on an eight year travel, and will be shown the story of the Romanian ‘orphans’ from a different light, where global politics and private interests compete with the rights of the child.' http://www.romania-forexportonly.blogspot.com Extracts below.
'Romania needed to reform its child rights policy, as one of thee conditions for its future EU Membership. Large ‘orphanages’ were closed and were replaced by modern child protection alternatives.
The author kept a diary of her work for the European Commission that aimed to help Romania reform its child protection…..
The reader is taken along on an eight year travel, and will be shown the story of the Romanian ‘orphans’ from a different light, where global politics and private interests compete with the rights of the child.'
The following are extracts from this book, in three sections, showing that the 1) Romanian ‘orphans’ are not ‘orphans’ at all, 2) how the public have been misled by the manipulation of photographs and media reports, and 3) that brain research in these institutions uses some of these children as subjects.
1) Romanian ‘Orphans’ are not orphans
(p. 50) I remembered our field visit in July 1999….the leagans we had visited looked like baby shops. Had Mariela not told me, a while ago, that in the maternity wards mothers were often ‘advised’ to leave their babies behind, because they were considered too poor?
(p. 77) We asked about the mothers of these abandoned babies. Their identities were all known. Some mothers could not take their children home immediately after birth, for reasons of health or housing, and claimed the children later. But the nurse said she would make sure they would not have their children back. And almost always she was able to convince the mother to sign the abandonment papers.
(p. 130) a Roma mother….recently found back her daughter…she told on camera how her first daughter, mid-eighties, had been born underweight. When leaving the maternity she had wanted the child home, but the doctors opposed saying the child still needed medical care. Each time she came to visit, the doctors repeated the message. From the maternity, the child was eventually moved into the child protection system….and nobody bothered informing the mother. End 2000 she received a letter from the DCP informing her about her child’s whereabouts.
(p. 132) to demonstrate the reform was being done with responsibility and professionalism, he [Michael Leigh] suggested the Romanians to communicate widely elementary facts about the children, for example that most children were not orphans.
(p. 133) the story of a young mother…..Alexandra had just given birth, but she had no Romanian citizenship and therefore could not register her child…..a neighbour convinced Alexandra’s mother it would be better for Alexandra and her younger brother to be brought up by a richer family abroad….Five months later…Alexandra was sent back to her mother, alone on a plane, a sticker ‘unaccompanied minor’ on her chest. ……This ‘orphan’ had been returned to her mother.
(p. 134) MEP Gil-Robles is in Bucharest. He met with the Delegation’s Deputy. Mariela had opposed the children were not orphans, and that the conditions were not as dreadful as he might have been told. [ie. Mariela is saying that the children are not orphans, poorly translated]
(p. 135) The Edelweiss winners [singing competition for children in care] told the audience about their experiences in child protection. One girl said how she remembered a foreign journalist come to her children’s home, who threw hands full of sweets on the floor and took pictures when the children were crawling over each other enthusiastically picking up the sweets. ….After the meeting we showed some of the children websites of adoption agencies with pictures of Romanian ‘orphans’. Full of disbelief they watched. One of the girls recognized some girls that had left her children’s home about a year ago. She did not know why the girls had left or where to. They simply had not been there any more. In general there was a lot of coming and going in children’s homes.
(p. 150) This morning’s bi-annual EP Petition Committee dealt with no less than three petitions from EU citizens on the subject of Romania’s children.....I gave an outline of the events..and called for the EP’s understanding of Romania’s situation: the orphans were no orphans.
(p. 188) Some journalists have been looking into some of the adoption cases….. a girl adopted by a Spanish couple…the girl’s mother declared she had not given up her child voluntarily, but she had been obliged because she was single and poor. She was now married with the girl’s father and had no other children……also tracked the case of the Romanian twins…Ann found the Romanian mother. She was not aware of the adoption. The authorities had taken her twins when she had asked them for milk powder…..
(p. 190) The other fairy tale is that people are made to believe that there are abundant children that need to be adopted….The children are often taken by force; rarely parents voluntarily abandon their children. They either do not have a choice or others take the decision for them.
(p. 193) Three year old ‘rescued’ from Romania…..her story of being rescued from a country where no-one seems to care is a fiction….she is not even an orphan….Her real mother never consented to her adoption…..that was decided by a court ruling…without her mother’s knowledge.
2) Misleading the Public
(p. 18) The Sera report was full of dramatic black and white pictures and the description of the Romanian orphanages was horrific. The Unicef report made clear there were many children in residential care throughout Eastern Europe. This was a matter of concern the more because the conditions in these homes were rather bleak. But the descriptions were not as tragic as in the Sera report.
(p. 31) A week off. One morning I read the most recent Sera report. The same pamphlet-like texts and dramatic black and white pictures as in previous reports.
(p. 43) The first letter of the year was from De Combret. This time addressed to President Prodi asking for more EU money to close ‘death houses’. Attached to the letter was another Sera report… on De Combret’s most recent visit to Romania, including dramatic black and white pictures. Strategically planned as usual, as Prodi was about to embark on a visit to Romania. I quickly checked the briefing our team had prepared to Prodi to see if the part on children was sufficiently clear: Emergency aid underway, and 25 million euros available to continue the reform…..
(p. 44) I realized that what De Combret was writing was often exaggerated. He described some camin spital in dramatic terms, calling them death houses and concentration camps.
(p. 55) After the break, it was Sera’s turn. When Braunsteffer started his complaints about Romania’s camin spital and the failed Commission actions, I saw someone of the EP distributing yellow folders….In it there were A4-format black and white pictures with awful images of disabled children. I walked over to someone from a French NGO who worked in Romania since early nineties. I asked her if she thought these were recent pictures. She said she could not judge on the spot. What she did now know is the horrible images, showing naked disabled children, widely distributed to the media in 1990, had been taken while these children were going to have their weekly bath. But the public was left with the impression these children had no clothing.
Braunsteffer, in his speech, accused the Commission of having wasting 100 million euros……Braunsteffer’s words did not have much effect. The black and white pictures did. The Romanian side was enraged and denied the images were recent.
(p. 59) We knew this camin spital from the Sera reports, where it often was presented with the picture of a cemetery, implying this was a ‘mouroir’ (death house). We asked several people about the cemetery and were told there had been a fire in that institution many years ago in which some children had died. Not quite what Sera’s fund raising report had suggested.
(p. 69) Indeed, Landaburu and De Combret had their informal lunch….two more letters with drama stories on Romania’s children, including a video cassette with images from 1990. Well that was 100 million euros ago.
(p. 141) Sera is once more fundraising for its new model orphanage….a camin spital was filmed at night, with lights off, the only light came from the camera focusing on the disabled children with black and white images as result.
(p. 144) De Combret has organized a postcard action….On the card a black-and-white picture of a baby, ‘behind bars’, in a crib. I recognized the pictures from one of De Combret’s reports from years ago.
(p. 146)…these eight pages were full of dramatic black-and-white pictures: a sad mother holding her newborn subtitled ‘This child would be abandoned.’ Children in a worn down ‘camin spital’. That could not be a recent picture, as I knew that institution had been closed quite some time ago…
(p. 152-153) Landrieu and Craig visited a private children’s home just outside Bucharest…..They found just a few ‘abandoned’ babies instead of the dozens they expected, and thus this part of the visit was left out of the press.
(p. 162) In a six-page letter De Combret lamented that still thousands of children are in orphanages….De Combret asked for donations, if 10,000 people would give 50 euros each,, the children could be saved and placed in small homes of ten beds each. Monthly donations were also welcome….But, Sera Romania already received 1.2 million euros from the Authority, from their National Interest Programme to close the described institution…….
(p. 165) De Combret sent his mission report….Again a disastrous description of camin spitals, with dramatic black-and-white pictures. Most camin spitals that are described have agreed closure plans, either with funding from the Development Bank of the Council of Europe, by Children First or by Sera. But that was not mentioned.
(p. 172) There is lately again a lot of negative media on the children issue. …the UK press…the articles did not attack the Baroness, but reported on how bad things are fro children in Romania. Perhaps they were to influence the Baroness. As for me, I have read and seen so much over the years that I do not even pay attention any more.
3) Medical Research and the ‘orphans’
(p.58) ….we visited the family-type homes built by the European Children Trust in the early nineties with the funds raised by ‘Blue Peter’, that had been shown in the recent BBC documentary. One of the three houses was locked and unused. It was not clear why. Next door was the Sera HIV centre where 24 children lived who had been transferred from the camin spital. This home was quite luxurious, beautiful wall paintings, individually packed cookies with tea. But there were still some eight children in one room. All costs were paid by Sera. I was puzzled about this project. It was beautiful, but posh. Not a Romanian homely environment.
(p. 70) Apparently Dr. Federici was constantly criticizing USAID for not giving him millions of dollars to medically assess the disabled children in the camin spital. He kept USAID and the Embassy quite busy.
(p. 76) Towards the end of the meeting the Director proudly announced a future experimental brain research, to be done by some American Universities. A laboratory had already been installed at the premises. (Saint Ecaterina, the biggest Romanian baby home).
(p. 77) Conditions in the maternity clinic were rudimentary. The mothers were ten in a room and the babies were kept separate, some thirty of them swaddled in cotton, all in one room.
We then asked to see the abandoned babies and were brought to a room with ten babies. So sad…..We continue to ask questions. ‘Yes, all those babies are abandoned and they will be adopted. This one will got to Italy, this one to Switzerland, this one to the US….’
The nurse ……showed us the oldest child, eighteen months, proudly saying it had played a role in an American movie filmed here in Bucharest.
We asked about the mothers of theses abandoned babies. Their identities were all known. Some mothers could not take their children’s home immediately after birth, for reasons of health or housing, and claimed the children later. But the nurse said she would make sure they would not have the children back. And almost always she was able to convince the mother to sign the abandonment papers.
We had seen enough, but the enthusiastic nurse insisted to show us the neo-natal ward and the fertility treatment laboratory. What a contrast. What a luxury and high tech. Premature born babies less than one kilo, were pulled through. Some of these children were also abandoned. But the most incredible was yet to come. The next door held a fertility clinic where over 300 women per year could benefit from IVF treatment. My mouth fell open. I found it almost cynical to have in the same building babies, held in a backroom with a minimum of care, were adopted abroad, while at the same time Romanian infertile women got costly fertilization treatment.
(p. 79) Six emails from Dr. Federici.
‘My name is Dr. Ronald Steven Federici, Neuropsychiatrist in Washington DC area and specialist in the neuropsychiatric evaluation and treatment of post-institutionalized children. They tell me I am regarded as one of the world’s experts in the most complicated cases for children who have been institutionalized, and I lecture all over the world with many of my medical team from my international charity entitled Care for Children International Inc. I am also Director of a large group medical-psychiatric practice and Professor of Child Development.’ …….’We are actively working with one of our very close colleagues….who would be the ideal US Ambassador to Romania and would be dedicated to working with the EU in implementing the proper changes while also working with our medical team to serve as principal consultants.’
(p. 86) The BBC had a programme on children. It did not take long before I realized it was a documentary about Federici’s treatment of de-institutionalized children. ‘Taming the Problem Child’ was its telling title. I watched with growing amazement. De-institutionalized appeared synonym for adopted. Apparently many children adopted from Eastern Europe showed a sort of autistic behaviour that was thought to be the result of having been raised in orphanages.
Federici’s treatment meant that for at least a month, but if needed longer, the child must stay within its adoptive parents reach, for 24 hours a day. The child had to fully obey, if not the adopters needed to force it down to the floor until the child would give up its resistance. The child would not be allowed to play or meet friends. Federici claimed through process most children would have an 80% rate of improvement. His critics believed this process could be damaging…..’
(p. 87) In private many people admitted it was not easy for Romanians to adopt and the healthy children were ‘saved’ for abroad. The selection of children by foreigners was sometimes very thorough. The Israeli, for example, were nicknamed ‘the vampires’ as they took blood samples of adoptable children, which were analyzed in Israel before they were accepted.
(p. 97, 98) I am back in Bucharest. The awareness campaign was not an easy task.
Mariela told them (Romanian staff) to visit the Saint Ecaterina leagan (baby home). I had asked Mariela to wait until I would be back, as I wanted to know more about the American research project……We asked to see the laboratory, and this time we were lucky. The American leader of the research, probably alerted to our visit, arrived within minutes and presented himself as Dr. Koga. This was indeed a state of the art project. The laboratory was in stark contrast with the rest of the ‘leagan’. Ultra modern, with high-tech equipment, almost surreal. Dr. Koga explained for this project, at random, three research groups had been created. Children who remained in the leagan, children who were placed in foster care and children who had always lived with their parents. The study would have to provide the scientific proof that institutionalization had a negative effect on brain development. Therefore the brains of all children, referred to as subjects by Dr. Koga, would be scanned regularly during the three years the programme would run….He also explained one of the basic underlying ideas of the research; the assumption that moving children to another room in an orphanage, or to another family for national adoption, or international adoption, means the same for a child, as until the age of fourteen, language changes would be no problem for a child. The brain would still be flexible and could easily adapt to new languages…..But that was not all. We were then shown a room where children and their carers would be tested. Koga explained the child’s skull would be covered with a cap with electrodes registering brain activity. As a sort of ‘affection detector’ it could scientifically show if a child had a positive attachment to an adult, or not. I asked if this was like a lie detector and indeed this was the case. According to Koga, this could be a useful tool when matching children with adoptive parents. Also, it could be used as evidence in legal proceedings to terminate parental rights. In the US this sort of tests were accepted as legal evidence. This knowledge/practice would now be transferred to Romania, which could keep the laboratories/equipment after finalization of the research. … ‘Was perhaps the well-known Dr. Federici involved?’ I asked.
‘Oh yes, he visited the project not so long ago.’
(p. 102, 103) The Baroness was glad Saint Ecaterina would be closed, but she did want to see the brain research project for herself…..Koga and an American researcher explained the project, but this time just about the effect of institutionalization on the brain development. Not about measuring attachment. Koga was enthusiastic and tried to engage the Baroness, but she was as cold as ice….Later at the Baroness’ hotel a report about another research project of the Mac Arthur Foundation, of which this Bucharest research was part. When Mariela and I read it, we could not believe what we saw: this research network studied attachment and development of social behaviour of monkeys, rats and autistic Romanian orphans. The most favorite guinea pigs?
(p. 132) The Baroness…..expressed her dismay about how Romanian children were used for research and how their image was often abused. She gave as example the American brain research project…..Mariela had told he American doctors that no matter how ethical they considered their research methodology, the fact was their project had prevented the closure of Saint Ecaterina (children’s home)….The American doctors had claimed they were not aware foster care was available in Romania and that institutions were being closed. Surprising, one would assume that USAID, accompanying them to this meeting, would have told them about Romania’s progress. The doctors denied their research had anything to do with intercountry adoptions.
(p. 134) MEP Gil-Robles is in Bucharest. He met with the Delegation’s Deputy. Mariela had opposed the children were not orphans, and that the conditions were not as dreadful as he might have been told….At the end of the meeting MEP Gil-Robles made a startling statement:
‘But what are we going to do to keep childless couples happy? If there will be no adoptions from here, there will be cloning. And that is not what we want.’
(p. 156)…a fresh report of the Rapporteur of the Council of Europe’s Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee says….worldwide, the issue of organ trafficking is not so new. IN the 1980s experts began to notice what was to become known as ‘transplant tourism’ when prosperous Asians began traveling to India and other parts of Southeast Asia to receive organs from poor donors…..It is most likely not without reason that Europol’s definition of child abuse refers not only to sexual abuse, prostitution, forced labour, kidnapping, parental abduction, ritual killing and illegal adoption, but also to the trade in abandoned children and the trade in organs. That probably means such abuses exist. So why would Romania’s abandoned children not have been victims of such crimes?.... I discussed all this over lunch with my secretary. Not long afterwards she sent me an article from a Belgian newspaper, just a few months old. It reported police had halted a Romanian truck coming from Brasov at the Hungarian border. In it, hidden behind a false interception, were two Romanian women with two babies, not their children. The children were destined for organ transplants in the UK. The Belgium Federal Police had sent out a notice to all local police to be attentive to Romanian trucks, as the normal route from Romania to the UK is through Belgium. Chilling.
(p. 205)…the issue of adoption was raised. Especially the recent statement made by Nastase had made in Washington about the possibility of intercountry adoption of special needs children. Jonathan explained that adoption should not be mixed up with medical treatment……
(p. 216) Romania was making it into the international media again: a 66-year-old woman had given birth after IVF treatment, the oldest mother in the world. The treatment, with donor eggs and sperm, had been done in the clinic that Mariela and I had visited end of 2000, where babies were sent for intercountry adoption and infertile women received IVF treatment at the same time. IVF treatment of women that had passed the normal fertility age was forbidden in most EU Member States.
(p. 224) Katja was dealing with another practice that seemed not to be in line with other European standards: Romania’s trade in human egg cells. The European Parliament had adopted a resolution to call for the Commission’s full investigation of this. A US/Israeli company was harvesting the eggs of students for a financial ‘compensation’. These eggs could be ordered via the Internet, and shipped to New York of London for fertilization.
(p. 247) I still follow all adoption news closely…..guess who advised Angelina Jolie when she adopted from Cambodia and Ethiopia? Dr. Ron Federici……Federici announced that the actress was considering taking on a Russian orphan now. In June last year , the Hawaii based adoption facilitator that Angelina Jolie had used for her first adoption had admitted to be part of an adoption ring that paid poor women 100 dollars for their children. The US adopters paid at least 10,000 dollars. Her second adoption had been troubled because the mother of Jolie’s adopted child apparently had not given consent according to the rules.
It is worth noting that Romania has now reformed child protection sufficiently to become an EU Member State.
However, ARK is involved in helping the Romanian children: http://www.arkonline.org/?p=54
Arpad Busson, chairman of charity ARK, wants to raise money for the ‘orphans’:
Busson said his biggest hope is for multiple attendees to pledge 100,000 pounds to help orphans in Romania and Bulgaria...