A review by Rupert Wolfe-Murray
Romania – for export only, the untold story of the Romanian ‘orphans’ by Roelie Post
There are several unusual things about Roelie Post and her important new book on international adoptions. An employee of the European Commission, between 1999 and 2005 Post handled one of its most controversial dossiers: Romania’s institutionalised children. She is one of very few EC insiders who has risked her career by publishing her experiences, in diary format. Whether one agrees with her or not, one has to admire this courage.
The book itself is not particularly fancy looking: it has a plain white cover and a title some would call clunky. Although such a cover may look out of place in a modern bookshop where cover designs are becoming increasingly sophisticated, I appreciate the clean and simple look as a sign of its seriousness. Despite these superficial drawbacks the book is very readable and engaging.
Post’s story is compelling. In 1999 she was given the Romanian children dossier and as she gradually learnt about the issue she came to be one of the champions of the remarkable reform process that has resulted in the closure of Romania’s large children’s homes. To better appreciate this achievement it is essential to understand that Romania is the only country in Central and Eastern Europe that has managed to stop the practice of institutionalising children in need, and has set up alternatives such as foster care, daycare centres and family-type homes. The basis of the reforms are that families are the building block of society.
However, her job and the reform process are but a backdrop against which the real drama is played out; the relentless lobby for international adoptions from Romania. Much has been written about this shadowy and unaccountable lobby, but never before has so many details been revealed about their actions in the heart of Brussels, and their access to some of the world’s top politicians.
During the 1990s the adoption of babies from Romania was a free-for-all. During the early 1990s a child could be adopted with a simple receipt from a local judge and before 1997 the records of how many were sent abroad are scant. The 1997 reforms were formulated by those in the pay of the lobby, and a free market in children was set up. The results were that the so-called â€˜orphanages’ became processing centres for the export of children, and corruption became rampant. By 2001 the practice was banned and since then the lobby has been desperately trying to prove that Romanian women are unable to look after their own children and international adoption is the only answer.
Not only did the Romanian government come under tremendous pressure from politicians in the US politicians and in some EU member states (namely, Italy and France) but Roelie Post was continually harassed in her job at the Commission. Her book is a blow by blow account of the main lobbyists in Brussels, with scandalous walk on parts from the likes of Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi. For anyone interested in the intriguing international adoption story this book is essential reading.
2007; pp 272; 22.90 euros, available from www.romania-forexportonly.blogspot.com