Children’s rights

4 December 2009

CoE signed by 13 States: the tragic situation of Romania

Despite the tragic situation of over 80 thousand minors without a family, international adoptions in Romania are at a standstill. The conclusion was drawn in the Conference “Challenges in Adoption Procedures in Europe. Ensuring the Best Interests of the Child” that closed in Strasbourg December 1st on the joint initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. In the introductory address at the Palais de l’Europe, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe declared: “Parents don’t enjoy the right to adoption while the child has the right to have a family. This is why the major objective of adoption plans should be that of giving the child a family, giving priority to best interest of the child”.The “case” of Romania. During the conference Bucharest’s government confirmed its band on international adoptions despite the request of the Romanian Office for adoptions (ORA) representative Bogdan Panait, to lift the ban “in order to promote the adoption of children “with special needs”, notably minors over seven, “Roma children with more than one sibling or with health problems”. In the entire world only two States banned international adoption, these are Burma and Romania. Nonetheless these are Countries with high abandonment rates and poorly developed national adoption systems that are scarcely supported by local institutions. Melita Cavallo, President of the Juvenile Court of Rome and former President of the Commission for International Adoptions (CAI), denounced the condition of Romanian orphans on the Italian territory, who, she said, are as many as “4300, some of whom very young, forced to live on the street”. “Romania open your eyes. Now you’re in Europe!”, was the appeal of former MEP Claire Gibault, who in the past legislature conducted a cultural battle against the international adoption ban with the support of a European lobbying network. “Romania now is in Europe. It ought to integrate its child welfare policies with those of the EU”, said Gibault. Hence, it is necessary “to look ahead in order to guarantee a future to young Romanians, the new European citizens”.The Convention. On December 1st also Spain and the Netherlands ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Adoption, thus bringing to 13 the number of signatory States along with Armenia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Island, Montenegro, Norway, the United Kingdom, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. In 2008 the Convention was revised, acknowledging the changes occurred across societies. The Revised Convention provides for the father’s consent in all cases, even when the child was born out of wedlock and for the child’s consent if the child has sufficient understanding to give it. It strikes a better balance between adopted children’s right to know their identity and the right of the biological parents to remain anonymous. Moreover, the Convention extends to heterosexual unmarried couples who have entered into a registered partnership in States which recognise that institution. It also leaves States free to extend adoptions to homosexual couples and same sex-couples “living together in a stable relationship”. A hot debate was centred on this last point of the Convention. “No” to adoption by gay couples. Marco Griffini, President of the Italian Association “AIBI – Friends of the Children” claimed, “A minor without a family was given no choice. He was given no choice to be born and to be abandoned. However, this child has the right to be adopted by parents who will be his life models and points of reference. While it’s true that each person can freely choose the companion he/she wants to share his/her live with”, it’s “also true that this choice cannot reverberate on a traumatised abandoned minor”. “Saying no” to adoption by same-sex couples, Griffini said, “does not infer that a homosexual parent is less capable or that he/she is less sensitive to the child’s needs. Indeed, concerns refer to the best development of the child’s personality especially as pertains to the question of identity. Who am I the child of? This is the child’s first major question requiring an answer. In order to become a serene and responsible adult the child needs role emotional models that reflect clear and codified roles. The child ought to have a mother and a father”. “If the purpose of the Convention is to reaffirm the priority of the best interest of the child – concluded Joan Ahnsink from The Netherlands, representative of United Adoptes Internationals (Adopted children association) – I wonder how a regulation could possibly envisage adoption by homosexual couples”.