(INFORMAL TRANSLATION) – published in Danish in Politiken
, Denmark, 27 December 2012
Adoption from poor to rich countries creates more orphans than it helps, thinks the NGO Against Child Trafficking.
by Dorrit SAIETZ
One can hardly imagine a more unlikely pair of activists.
Dutch Roelie Post’s former civil servant of the European Commission.
German Arun Dohle is unemployed as financial consultant and an adult adopted child from India.
Their common ‚workplace‘ is an unheated basement in a townhouse in Brussels, a few steps from the European Commission flashy glass and steel headquarters.
Here is the NGO Against Child Trafficking based, struggling against adoption. „I thought like everybody else that adoption was good,“ says Roelie Post. At least until she in 1999 was asked by her bosses in the EU Commission to take responsibility for solving the problem of Romania’s infamous orphanages.
„Romania could not get in the EU before they respected children and minority human rights,“ she says.
The first travel around visiting orphanages and hospitals was a shocking experience. The entire hospital unit was decorated as „baby farm“ with rooms where cradles stood in a row. The Romanian minister explained her, laughingly, that he had introduced a points system, so the countries and organisations that contributed the most money, earned points and were then awarded children for adoption. Romania, ten years after the fall of the Wall, had become a huge market for child trafficking. In just ten years, 30,000 children have been adopted by foreign parents who paid large sums of money.
Yet orphanages remained filled as Roelie Post began her cleanup work in 1999.
„We spent six years building a modern system to protect children, support families in foster families and small family-like homes, information on children’s rights and education for all professions. But we met with massive opposition from anyone who had an interest in adoption and in fact would want to maintain orphanages, „she says.
It was a tough fight, but she had the full support of its chief executive, Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen.
„We will not let a country in Europe that sells its children. We do not want a children market in Europe, „he said.
When Romania under pressure from the EU imposed a temporary moratorium on adoptions in 2001, it triggered a huge brawl. There was strong pressure from adoption agencies, politicians and governments. Even U.S. Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, pressuredd in the negotiations for Romania’s NATO membership, because there were thousands of American parents on the waiting list for a child in Romania.
Lobbyists bombarded the Commission with inquiries and Roelie Post was exposed to daily anonymous threats, there were people who followed her on the street, and her front door was repeatedly smashed. But she continued working with her managers support.
„I am not against adoption, I am for the rights of children. You cannot let private agencies sell children to foreigners.
In Romania, the market for adoption was driven by demand, and apparently the children were in orphanages because of adoption and not vice versa, „said Roelie Post.
Arun Dohle’s story is quite different, but is still about the same.
Only two months old, he was adopted by a German couple on honeymoon in India. They took him home and gave him a good and loving upbringing.
„I am a very happy adoptee. It were some good adoptive parents who bought me. I am not against adoption, because I’m unhappy, but because I have discovered all the child trafficking is going on ‚. The realization came when he tried to find his biological family in India. It was a long journey of over 17 years before it finally succeeded. He traveled to his hometown in India to look, and there he met many other families who sought in vain for their children.
„That’s how I found out about it, because I started helping other adoptees and female activists who fought adoption. My own mother never gave consent to give me away. A friend of mine remembers that her mother was a prostitute, and it was perhaps also her life. But it is still wrong; adoption is not the solution“, says Arun Dohle.
In 2003, Arun Dohle gave his good job as a financial consultant up and now spends all his time fighting against international adoption. He traveled to India and Ethiopia, he was in Malawi when Madonna came to adopt another child, he gathered evidence of hundreds of cases and make available on ACT’s website, he obtained voluntary legal help for adoptive and biological parents.
But what about the children who really have lost their parents? Children who are starving and sick, children who are refugees, drought victims, living on the streets. Should we not help them? „Exactly adoptions from areas of war and crisis are not allowed,“ said Roelie Post.
„Certainly international adoption started after the Korean War, but today all agree that from war and disaster areas we have to wait and give parents a chance to get back together, because otherwise there is too much risk of child trafficking ‚. Adoption is therefore from countries where at least there is a legal way with judges who can sign the papers.
And it are primarily the youngest and healthiest children who are ‚adoptable‘. For each child that will be picked out of an orphanage, just two new ones get in. Orphanages earn their living from adoption and need to be constantly seeking new children. Therefore you see in a country like Ethiopia, the last decade has seen a boom in international adoptions, the number of orphanages grows, while the opposite should be the case.
„As long as a country does not stop adoptions, there is no order brought into the situation and no proper systems in place to assist and protect children“, says Arun Dohle. His own native country, India, where adoption scandals are abound, sends about 1,000 children out of the country every year.
But it has not helped the many Indian children who are begging on the streets or sold into prostitution.
„India is a huge country and rich enough to take care of one thousand children a year,“ said Arun Doehlie. There are even long waiting lists of Indian parents who wish to adopt, and which on paper have a certain priority.
But there is less money in, so in practice they are behind in the queue or have to pay under the table.
Fired with salary
In 2004, Romania stopped completely adoption.
Roelie Post had carried out her mission in Romania to her superiors’ great satisfaction: „I had the honor to clean up Romania and was praised for having political flair and problem solving skills, but when there came a new Commission and I got new bosses, I was taken from the post with a day’s notice.“ Although Roelie Post was transferred to other duties, she was often asked for advice, because everyone knew that she was an expert in children’s rights. So, as many lobbyists saw a fresh chance to restart adoptions from Romania, they still came to her. „There was this woman who remembered everything and slowed re-opening.
In 2007, I was told that I was no longer allowed to work on children’s rights and child trafficking.
So I thought they would fire me, but they would not, „says Roelie Post.
When she refused to bow down, her former boss said she could create her own NGO, which she now works for while formally still employed and receive full pay from the EU.
„It’s a completely ludicrous solution, which only served to save the Commission from losing face. Here I sit from taxpayers‘ money, while the EU is spending massive amounts of money on support for adoption, „said Roelie Post. „My salary is enough to live on, but not enough to run an organisation, and there is absolutely no one who will support us because they believe we have an overly negative agenda”. The Romanian adoption stop is still in force. The number of abandoned children has steadily decreased and reached in 2010 19.000, the lowest since the ban.