Begining In Romania
The Story of Against Child Trafficking (ACT) Goes Back to Romania. In 1999, sixteen years after she started working for the European Commission, Roelie Post was assigned an unusual new job: Task Manager for Romanian Child’s Rights, Minorities and Social Affairs. Child rights was not an issue that the European Commission had any expertise in, as each member state was obliged to implement its own child protection system. Roelie soon became the Commission’s first expert on the issue.
Discover the full story of how ACT began.
A brief history of how ACT evolved
Poor Conditions In Romania
Romania was one of the 12 “accession states” that were in the process of joining the European Union. Several former Communist countries faced issues related to child institutionalisation, but Romania, especially following the "televised revolution" of 1989, gained frequent international media attention due to the deplorable conditions in its children's homes.
A 100,000 children
Ten years after Romania’s revolution, the child welfare problem did not seem to be any better; there were still an estimated 100,000 children in institutions and, despite the tens of millions of Euros the Commission had spent on emergency aid, the sector was in a financial crisis.
Rights of the Child
Roelie had to resolve the situation. She quickly realised that the most important document was the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that every government should provide support to families with children in distress and consider inter-country adoption only as an exception or as the very last option. By 1999, every country worldwide had ratified this convention, except for Somalia and the USA. As of today, the USA remains the only non-ratifying country.
Intercountry Adoption Lobby
To reform Romania's child welfare system, Roelie and her colleagues faced the powerful intercountry adoption lobby. Contrary to UNCRC’s child protection policies, thousands of Romanian children were sold in the 1990s.
It was evident that local alternatives like foster care were disregarded in the pursuit of financial gain from each intercountry adoption case, with claims that intercountry adoption was a "child protection measure" improving child welfare.
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The Hague Convention on Adoption was ratified by Romania in 1994 with the aim of regulating the inter-country adoption business. Like the UNCRC, it stated that inter-country adoption should be a last resort.
However, the perverse effect of the Hague Adoption Convention was that it encouraged more children to be abandoned and made available for local adoption. This was due to the powerful "pull factor" of rich western couples willing to pay up to $50,000 for a child.
In 2004 Roelie and her team invited an Independent Panel of EU family law experts, from 5 EU Member States, to provide legal guidance to clarify the difference between the UNCRC and the Hague Adoption Convention.This was their conclusion: “Intercountry adoption cannot be considered as a protection measure. Romania’s situation is in this regard exceptional, as no EU Member State expatriates its children. Other Member States protect their children and deal with the issues in-country. Out of home placement is available, guidance to parents given and family allocations provided. It is therefore not necessary to abandon children.“The objective of the new legislation is that Romania becomes like other Member States and does not export its children anymore. Intercountry adoptions lead to a vicious circle: too many intercountry adoptions will mean that Romania will not see the need for proper child protection. And as long as the child protection is not at European level, Romania risks continuing to use intercountry adoptions.“To resolve this paradox, intercountry adoptions need to become legally more difficult, exceptional and truly a measure of last resort.”
Adoption moratoriumIn 2001, the Romanian government applied a moratorium on inter-country adoptions, and by 2004, they passed a child rights law which upheld the ban on adoption. They also set up a child welfare service that came to be seen as a model in the region.
Fostering was encouraged, and small family-based centres were established. It became illegal to institutionalise children under two, and with no more demand for international adoption, the number of babies being abandoned fell sharply. Romanian families were now able to adopt without having to compete with inter-country adoption agencies offering large sums of money for each child.
ACT becomes NGOAlthough there were, and are, a lot of problems with child welfare in Romania, mainly due to poverty, the problems of the large children’s homes were resolved, as was the issue of selling children abroad.In 2008, (ACT) was registered as an NGO in the Netherlands. It was established at the behest of the European Commission by Roelie Post, a civil servant at the European Commission.
Meanwhile In BrusselsThe Intercountry Adoption Lobby in Brussels has been persistent in its efforts. Despite losing the battle in Romania, they maintained relentless diplomatic pressure on the Romanian government, the European Commission, and Roelie Post herself. They were particularly worried about a potential "domino effect," with other countries like Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia following Romania's lead in addressing the inter-country adoption problem and eventually discontinuing it.
CorruptionThe intercountry adoption system is plagued by corruption and amounts to nothing less than trafficking. It involves powerful criminal networks, and the desperation of childless Western couples makes them vulnerable to exploitation. This pressure will only escalate as more countries grant adoption rights to homosexual couples.Another issue with intercountry adoption is that parents in poor countries are often told lies about the fate of their child; in Romania, young pregnant women were offered a financial incentive; in Africa they are often told the child will be sent abroad for an education; and in Asia there are countless stories of kidnapped children who are then handed into an orphanage, declared abandoned and then sold into intercountry adoption. Each adoptee has his/her name and birth certificate changed on arrival in the country of destination; this is identity theft on a grand scale.
IntimidationLed by the French merchant banker Francois de Combret and the Italian Marco Griffini (both of whom are now under criminal investigation), the intercountry adoption lobby infiltrated the European Commission and the European Parliament at all levels.
By 2005, they had made Roelie Post's position at the Commission untenable, resorting to various tactics to intimidate her and force her to leave. While her superiors were pressured into dismissing her, her exemplary work record made it impossible for the Commission to officially terminate her. Instead, she was ostracised, ignored, and forced to leave her job.
Inter Country Adoption ReturnsRegrettably, as Romania reformed its legislation and adoption practices between 2000 and 2005, other EU candidate countries were coerced into signing the Hague Convention and opening up to the inter-country adoption industry.
This led to new member states, such as the Slovak Republic, Bulgaria, and even Romania, increasing inter-country adoptions. The adoption lobby persists in pressuring all EU Member States to relax regulations, aiming to establish a free market for children, similar to the existing free market for goods, capital, and people within the EU.Despite these setbacks, and Roelie’s difficulties at the Commission, some senior figures continued to support her. It was Catherine Day, the Secretary General of the Commission, who suggested to Roelie in 2008 that she should continue her work for child rights by setting up a new NGO.
The Fight Goes OnIn the meantime, Roelie, with her policy expertise, forged a valuable partnership with Arun Dohle, who brought his valuable field experience to the table. Together, they established ACT and have played a pivotal role in achieving a remarkable 90% reduction in intercountry adoptions across the globe.To read about ACT’s work around the world please click go to ACT’s achievement