SECRET REPORT ACCUSES KID CHARITY OF FRAUD
PHELIM McALEER in BUCHAREST
THE charity behind a paralysed tug-of-love Romanian girl’s escape to Ireland has been accused of cashing in on the lucrative adoption trade.
Little “orphan” Mihaela Porumbaru was at the centre of a custody battle between Romania and Ireland 18 months ago.
But a Romanian government investigation into her case has accused the charity that set up her adoption of fraud and misrepresentation.
The investigation into how five-year-old Mihaela went to Ireland for a two-week holiday and ended up staying five months has also revealed the child is NOT an orphan but has parents who have visited her.
Mihaela captured Irish hearts when Dundalk mum Briege Hughes mounted a vigorous campaign to keep her here after her two week summer holiday in 2001 finished.
Briege Hughes believed wheelchair-bound Mihaela lived in a grim dilapidated, Romanian orphanage.
And she feared when the child returned to Romania she might be placed in an adult psychiatric institution because she had lost her place in the orphanage.
But it was then revealed Mihaela did not live in a grim Romanian orphanage – and had been living in a loving foster home.
The confidential report into FAMA, the children’s charity which took Mihaela by Romanian Child Protection Agency reveals it:
l Was not properly licensed to look after children.
l Sent children abroad without proper and false documentation.
l Profited from bringing young children to Ireland on “holidays” as a way of introducing them to potential adoptive parents.
l Misrepresented children such a Mihaela as orphans available for adoption.
The report said: “It was an attempt to put together children in Romania with potential adopting parents in Ireland.”
International adoptions out of Romania are big business. They can cost between $10,000 and $30,000 – a fortune in a poor country like Romania where the minimum wage is just $50 a month.
The business has also been found to be damaging to child welfare because the huge sums of money involved encouraged the institutionalisation of children whose parents were unable to cope through poverty or illness.
The report added: “FAMA told the Child Protection Committee the children were going to Ireland for eventual adoption.
“They were allowed to go despite not being available for adoption because they had parents in Romania.
“This has had severe consequences on the children’s psychological development, because they started to form attachments to Irish families.”
The report also heavily criticised the local authorities for not trying to reunite Mihaela with her family.
“No action to reintegrate the children in either the natural or extended family was carried out by the Child Protection Commission,” it said.
Now the Romanian Embassy in Dublin has told the authorities that FAMA should not be involved in “any project in child protection between Ireland and Romania”.
FAMA chief Gabriela Stanescu said she was not allowed to speak about the report’s findings.
Ivan Ivanoff, President of Dambovitia Child Protection Commission said the report was flawed but admitted FAMA was not licensed and that children travelled illegally.
Briege Hughes, who still hopes to adopt the young girl and bring her to Ireland, said: “I’m sorry but I cannot comment as we are still trying to resolve the situation with Mihaela.”
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