11 May 2006


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin

06BUCHAREST769 2006-05-11 15:39 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Bucharest




DE RUEHBM #0769/01 1311539


P 111539Z MAY 06











E.O. 12958: N/A




¶1. (SBU) Summary: On May 3, Consul General, and the AID

Director called on Theodora Bertzi, Secretary of State of the

Romanian Office for Adoptions (ROA). The purpose was to

present our formal reaction to the March 29 GOR report on the

files of Romanian orphans and abandoned children on whose

behalf foreigners had filed adoption petitions before the

January 1, 2005 ban on inter-country adoptions. After

lengthy discussion, we confirmed Bertzi has no intention of

revisiting the ban, explaining the Working Group's

conclusions, or credibly explaining the gap between the

ideals expressed in the law and the tens of thousands of

Romanian children who lack permanent families. Meanwhile,

news reports about the May 9 release of a U.S. NGO report

condemning Romania's handling of orphans and abandoned

children with disabilities have rocked Bucharest, with some

Romanian media condemning the Romanian government for its

inaction. A May 10 announcement by the Prime Minister's

office that an investigation of these new allegations will be

carried out by the High Level Working Group for Romanian

Children, which is led by international adoption foe and

Member of European Parliament Emma Nicholson, does not

suggest any change of thinking yet in government circles.

End summary.

CG to Adoptions Chief: Your Report is Unacceptable

--------------------------------------------- -----

¶2. (U) CG opened the May 3 meeting by telling Bertzi the USG

found the Working Group (WG)'s report unacceptable and

lacking credibility, since the WG, in its non-transparent

process, had found not one of the 1,100 children in the

pending cases eligible for intercountry adoption. CG

reported we would present her government with a formal

request to individually review a substantial number of the

pending cases filed by Americans.

¶3. (U) Bertzi rejected the possibility of conducting a full

second review of the pending cases, saying she did not have

the staff for it. She stated with confidence that she had

the backing of Romania's President, Traian Basescu, and Prime

Minister, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, as well as "all the

European ambassadors who told her the ban was correct and she

should hold the line." She did allow that the Romanian

Office of Adoptions (ROA) could possibly monitor regularly

scheduled quarterly reports from local authorities on the

situation of orphans and abandoned children, and could

respond by letter to our questions about individual cases. CG

replied we more likely would seek direct review of individual

files of the pending cases.

¶4. (U) Bertzi argued that we misunderstood the results of the

Working Group review. Family situations have changed over

the years. Some of the children were never legally adoptable

and still are not. Some children were subject to multiple

petitions. Some families seeking one child petitioned for

multiple children. Many children were matched with potential

adopters by photographs. The Group did not have new criteria

for evaluating the cases, but analyzed children's real

situations. If children were in stable situations the Group

could not move them.

¶5. (U) Bertzi asserted that it was no longer possible to talk

in terms of 1,100 cases because so many pending cases were

clearly resolved by domestic solutions. Among the 415 listed

in the report as being in "substitute families," and the

other 83 listed as "placed in the protection system," none

are legally adoptable, even for domestic purposes. If any of

those children were eventually found "adoptable," and whether

inter-country adoption (ICA) was an option would depend on

what the law was at that time. Some of the children in the

state protection system live better than other children

living in poor families, Bertzi claimed.

¶6. (U) She argued that the new law was not retroactive, but

did give birth families the right for a reconsideration of

their earlier loss of parental rights. She said the new law

is better in many ways, allowing authorities new powers to

intervene in cases of abuse or neglect. But in the past,

some parents had been pressured or induced to give up their

children, or lost rights after six months of no contact under

the old law. Sometimes a child was reported "abandoned"

despite receiving parental visits, after intermediaries

bribed child center workers to omit official reporting of the


¶7. (SBU) The new law requires that parents formally

relinquish their rights before a court. Child law courts are

BUCHAREST 00000769 002 OF 004

needed as soon as possible. AID Director offered to seek

funding to help the GOR establish the children's courts it

needed, to help improve the process of clarifying the legal

situation of children potentially needing adoption, if the

GOR were to commit to including ICA in its options for

addressing the needs of children. Bertzi showed no interest

in the proposal.

¶8. (U) Bertzi said the ROA has sent eleven past cases of

inter-country adoptions to the courts for investigation and

possible criminal findings. Three involve children being

swapped for others named in petitions. Some involve adoption

foundations operating in Romania, which had matched the same

children to multiple foreign families.

Bertzi's Delusion: "Our System is a Model"


¶9. (U) Bertzi said she had proposed during meetings in

Brussels that there be common rules for ICA throughout

Europe, which would be needed before Romania should resume

ICA. The domestic adoption process, itself, needs to be

cleaned up and protected against corruption before the law on

ICA can be revisited. The law will always be strict regarding

ICA, since this is the EU vision, she claimed. Bertzi said

her vision would be for eventual very limited ICA in which

children would be raised in a culture close to their own.

She allowed as she was not a specialist in the field but

speculated child welfare experts could be consulted as to the

relative benefit to children of being raised in their own

culture and a foreign one. CG and AID Director countered

that no experts were needed, since all Bertzi needed to do

was ask the children themselves whether they would rather be

in an orphanage or group home in their home culture, or in a

family abroad. Further, global harmonization of European

adoption norms could last a full generation. Bertzi had no

response on either point.

¶10. (U) After AID Director challenged Bertzi's public

statements promoting Romania's child welfare policies as a

model for the region, Bertzi said she considered the system a

model in terms of "how fast it has developed, not that it is

perfect." Much support is needed to properly apply the new,

more rigorous law, she said, including better methodology and

tools at the local level for evaluating potential adopting

families and matching them with children. The ROA has

created tools for doing this, with help from UNICEF and a

Belgian consultant, she said.

¶11. (U) Bertzi observed that the UN Convention on Children's

Rights is interpreted differently in the U.S. and the EU. CG

and AID Director pointed out that UNICEF headquarters has

made clear it interprets the UNCCR as endorsing ICA in

certain cases, and finding ICA preferable to domestic

institutional care.

Keeping the Door Closed on International Adoptions

--------------------------------------------- -----

¶11. (SBU) Bertzi said she was glad to have achieved a common

approach to ICA among the ROA, President Traian Basescu and

Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu. She said it was

"beyond her" if either of them had indicated in anyway that

there could be any flexibility in applying or changing the


¶12. (U) Bertzi asserted "politics has no place in a sensitive

issue like adoptions." CG replied that Bertzi herself has

tried to close the issue on political grounds regardless of

the true situation of children needing adoption. AID

Director pointed out that Bertzi had stated in December 2005,

months before the final report, that no case would be

considered for ICA. Bertzi replied that, at the time, the

Working Group already had reviewed all the cases. CG replied

that this meant the GOR had misrepresented the status of the

review, telling this Embassy in December and January that the

review was still underway.

Schaaf/Baiban case


¶13. (SBU) CG repeated the urgent request which we had raised

with both the President's and Prime Minister's office that

the GOR stop all action in processing the domestic adoption

of Valentina Baiban, a young girl on whose behalf U.S.

citizens Allyson and Michael Schaaf of New Hampshire had

filed an adoption petition in 2002. CG expressed our strong

BUCHAREST 00000769 003 OF 004

concern that the domestic adoption appeared to have been

hastily arranged, then rapidly expedited, to coincide with Ms

Schaaf's testimony against the ban to the European Parliament

in Brussels on April 25. According to Bertzi's own email of

April 26 to the Embassy, after four years of no Romanian

families expressing interest in the girl, between March 27

and late April a Romanian family was suddenly found, visits

arranged, a psychological match determined and a file

deposited with the court to seek the girl's adoption. The

group home where the girl had lived for four years reports

she was removed to live with the Romanian adoptive family on

Easter Monday -- a national holiday on which all normal

activity ceases.

¶14. (SBU) Bertzi protested that our suspicions were "no more

than science fiction" and that she was not the kind of person

that would arrange such a thing. Bertzi said she understood

the Schaafs had never visited the child and had registered to

adopt her when she was only seven months old while the

previous Romanian Committee for Adoptions (RCA) only

considered ICA for children over three. AID Director pointed

out that the RCA criteria were not public at the time.

Bertzi said she understood the case was emotional, given that

the home where the girl was living was named for another

child the Schaaf's adopted who died young. When CG corrected

her -- the house is named for the late adopted daughter of an

associate of the Schaaf's -- Bertzi was momentarily shaken.

She claimed not to have known anything about the child's

situation until the Romanian ambassador to the EU called her

in preparing for his own meeting with Schaaf and U.S.

Representative Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire. She insisted she

made her first call to the Gorj County authorities then, and

learned of the girl's placement with a Romanian family. She

claimed the girl had been shown to two families in her home

county, and finally matched with a couple from another

county. CG pointed out that in her April 26 email, Bertzi

had stated that prior to March 27, no match had been found

for the child. CG stated that the sequence of events Bertzi

described was hard to believe.

Trying to Cut Out Foreign NGOs?


¶15. (U) CG and AID Director protested the letter Bertzi dated

March 14 and sent to all county level Departments for

Protection of Children and Social Welfare prohibiting contact

between foreigners and orphans or abandoned children in

Romania, except foreigners related to the children or who had

adopted siblings of the children. CG and AID Director told

Bertzi that the letter was being interpreted by foreign and

Romanian NGOs and local officials as necessitating a complete

ban on contact by foreigners with the children, including the

many foreign NGOs who are licensed by the GOR and provide

critical child care in under-served areas, and the many

foreigners who visit Romania to volunteer in institutions.

Bertzi retorted that "any such interpretation of the letter

is abusive." She argued that, by referring to Article 4 of

the Hague Convention in its fifth paragraph, the letter

"clearly" was limited to prohibiting contact between the

children and foreign families visiting Romania specifically

to find children to adopt. She rejected the suggestion she

send a clarification of the directive to the field.

¶16. (SBU) Comment. As she has in previous meetings and press

interviews, Bertzi pointed to formal law or ideals rather

than discussing current realities. Family courts "should" be

set up since under the new law only a court may abrogate the

rights of negligent parents and declare orphans or abandoned

children "adoptable." In fact, only one such court exists,

so children whose parents neither exercise parental

responsibilities nor actively give up their parental rights

are trapped in permanent limbo, living in foster or

institutional care. Bertzi tried to misrepresent our

position of seeking inter-country adoption for a limited

number of pending cases as advocacy for wholesale resumption

of the corrupt and abusive adoption system of the 1990's.

She changed the subject whenever confronted by inconvenient

evidence of the deterioration of conditions for Romanian

orphans and abandoned children under the new law. She

retreated into blaming the Romanian Department for the

Protection of Children's Rights for inaction, or claiming she

could only control processes that follow court findings of


¶17. (SBU) Comment Continued. The meeting with Bertzi preceded

the May 8 release of a report by Mental Disability Rights

International on the plight of some disabled orphans in

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Romanian institutions. The high level of international

attention accorded the report -- and GOR concern that it

could impact a pending decision in Brussels on Romania's EU

accession date -- contributed to the establishment by PM

Tariceanu of a task force to investigate institutions that

deal with disabled children. However, the task force is to

be coordinated by the High Level Working Group, which is led

by MEP and former European Parliament Rapporteur for Romania

Emma Nicholson, a vehement opponent of international

adoptions. The High Level Group also includes Bertzi and

other officials responsible for the current flawed system.

In the words of one Embassy contact, the investigation will

be "a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house and will

not produce the fundamental changes in approach that will be

necessary to protect the thousands of Romania's orphaned and

abandoned children who are living today in sub-standard

conditions. End Comment.