Forum: message Robak SOS paid Romanian officals for 5th World Conference

1 January 2006
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Pigs, more important than children   Message List  
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"The lawmakers discussed the EU ban on slaughtering pigs, but not the welfare of children"

Linda Robak, U.S., representative of the For the Children SOS:
"First, thank you so much for allowing such a large portion of your newspaper content to be devoted to the very important subject of inter-country adoption and Romania's current child welfare legislation. And, extremely well-written and researched articles at that. Although many opinions and points have been raised within the articles and subsequent comments section, I would like to send my own.
 Emma Nicholson has long been an anti-inter-country adoption foe. It is her personal belief that inter-country adoptions should be banned - regardless of the circumstances that lead to an inter-country adoption. Given her official government position within the European Union - that of shadow rapporteur on Romania, former rapporteur on Romania, and VP of the EU Foreign Affairs Committee, it is completely irresponsible and questionable for her to allow her personal opinions to overshadow her role as a representative of the European Union and its constituents and her recommendations on what is best for a particular country, in this case Romania. Although she may claim that she has extensive experience with abandoned children, she does not poses a degree in any child development field. As a matter of record, her expertise lies in computer science, and yet she continues to refute renowned international experts' studies on abandoned children - in particular Romania's - and what is in their best interests. The Council of Europe supports inter-country adoption, and at a recent child welfare conference in Romania in February, made note of that fact (see attached speech), which was sadly never mentioned in any Romanian newspaper or on televised news. In addition, the recent amendment in the EU that states the pending cases should proceed and be considered for inter-country adoption was passed by a unanimous vote. Unfortunately for Ms. Nicholson, she was out of country for the vote. 
The current child welfare legislation was not written in consultation with child welfare professionals and NGO's. The original legislation - which had been worked on for more than 2 years and in consultation with innumerable NGO's and child welfare professionals - and not Americans -  did allow for transparent and carefully monitored and controlled inter-country adoptions. This drafted legislation was thrown out in February 2004 and the current legislation hastily written after consultation with Nicholson. It was then sent to the Romanian Parliament and voted upon in March of 2004 - with no discussion of its merits prior to the vote. In fact, I find it incredulous that in December of 2003 there were days of Parliamentarian discussion of the EU ban on slaughtering pigs at home, but no discussion on the welfare of Romania's children when this legislation was introduced for a vote! 
The issues with the new child welfare legislation are not only with the ban on inter-country adoption. In its efforts to appease Nicholson and the EU Enlargement Commissioners, and to prove that the current child welfare legislation has indeed proved to reduce the numbers of children in institutions, DPC directors are now being instructed to "reunite" thousands of children with their biological family members. On the surface, a wonderful proposition, and certainly one that is designed to cut the costs of caring for these children. 
However, to force a child who was abandoned at birth - and who has known via foster care, a group home, a private orphanage, or even a state orphanage, three meals a day, an indoor toilet and bathing facilities, schooling, and clothing - to now live with biological relatives who have never shown any interest in his/her welfare and who are unable to provide these things either due to extreme poverty or lack of concern, is unconscionable. Especially since the current legislation provides for no follow-up on the part of social workers after 30 days - which is rarely done anyway. It's unimaginable - and an obvious oversight - that a child should be returned to a biological family member that is unknown to him or her as a permanent solution and permanent home with no concern or oversight as to the child's welfare, and yet those who adopt a child - domestically or inter-country - are monitored and requested to provide documentation as to the child's well-being for an extended period of time. 
Yes, there are more children being placed in foster care. However, it should be noted that foster families - if they want a raise in their salaries - are now required to take care of two children, or one handicapped child. This would reduce the numbers of children in institutions somewhat; however there is a serious lack of foster homes. Thousands of children still lay in cribs in hospitals across Romania - and yet those children aren't counted in the statistics of children in government care. 
I have no doubt that there are Romanian politicians and child welfare professionals who are truly concerned about the current child welfare crisis in Romania - and it is a crisis regardless of what Nicholson and others would like to believe. And yet I cannot help but question the concern at the uppermost levels in the Romanian government for those who are directly responsible for these children. 
In November of 2005 I attended the 2nd World Conference on Children Without Parents in Boston, Massachusetts sponsored by Harvard University and the International Advocates fro Children. Thirty-one countries participated in discussions and seminars concerning all of the issues surrounding abandoned children in government care. After receiving the invitation to attend, a staff member in Theodora Bertzi's department wrote to the sponsors to inquire if there was financial assistance available to enable two staff members to come, as the Romanian government did not have the funds available to allow them to do so. As it was two weeks prior to the conference when they were notified, the conference organizers had already dispersed with assistance money to other countries. Consequently, they sent urgent e-mails to American organizations asking for donations for the Romanian staffers, including For the Children SOS, a grass-roots group that is a non-profit organization that funds its efforts via donations from members, and advocates for Romania's abandoned children, including the children who await their approval to be adopted inter-country. Unbeknownst to them, FTC SOS members raised all of the money needed to fund the costs of airfare, hotel rooms, and meals for two staffers that Theodora Bertzi selected to attend and represent Romania. We felt that it was important for Romanian child welfare government employees to be given the opportunity to meet child welfare professionals from other countries and to hear professionals speak about the latest research and findings on this topic and how to more effectively care for these children. Needless to say, it was disturbing to watch the behavior and lack of interest and professionalism on behalf of Romania's delegates. One staffer didn't speak English and declined a translator - unlike all of the other non-speaking delegates. Both appeared bored and disinterested throughout the conference, made no effort to converse with other delegates unless they were directly approached, and either disappeared and didn't attend the seminars or left sessions early, including the final session. Their disinterested behavior was noted by all the attendees as it was so obvious. They completely missed Jacob Doek, the Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, (who has a much more demanding schedule than they do and managed to attend all 3 days) stand up and clarify that yes, indeed, the UNCRC allows for inter-country adoption and that long-term foster care is not preferable over inter-country adoption for a child. Quite frankly, I was angry to find out later that although they didn't have the funds to cover their conference expenses for three days, they had the funds to cover their additional three day stay for sightseeing in Boston over the weekend. Obviously they considered this conference just an opportunity for a free vacation, courtesy of altruistic Americans who truly do care about the welfare of Romania's abandoned children. Sadly, it is the children they are responsible for who paid for their vacation."

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