The permanent ban on adoption from Romania highlights the political nature of international adoption. Romania is a country from which many Canadians adopted throughout the 90s to 2001, when the government brought a moratorium into effect.

The Romanian government has faced pressure from all sides, from countries whose citizens are eager to adopt, and from the European Union (EU), which appears to have political biases against international adoption.

Tragically, it appears that the response of the country stems from those whom they need to please most, rather than from a desire to do what is best for their children. This is not meant as a harsh criticism of Romania—the country and its children may benefit greatly from joining the EU—however, in the short term, this means thousands of children will continue to live without families. It provides an example of how countries are prevented from finding a solution that works for their country and their children because of political pressure.

To give some background, terrible conditions in Romanian orphanages after the overthrow of the Ceaucescu government in 1989, prompted parents from many countries to adopt thousands of abandoned children; it also spawned a lucrative adoption industry within the country. With little infrastructure, the system was vulnerable to unethical practices. As a response to criticism, Romania closed its doors to international adoption in 2001. Since then, Romania has tried to place children in foster care and improve standards of institutional care, but the child welfare system remains overwhelmed with over 50,000 children, a substantial percentage of their child population, in care. Romania will now only allow grandparents living outside the country to adopt. This is a disappointment to BC families—almost 600 children were adopted by Canadians in the period from 1995 to 2001, and many came to BC.

As mentioned earlier, Romania is eager to join the EU and hopes to accede by 2007. The country has been facing pressure from the EU, most notably from British MEP Lady Emma Nicholson, who has campaigned to end Romanian adoption for many years. The United States and other countries, including Canada, have been lobbying for Romania to develop a new adoption system more in line with the Hague Convention. The Guardian states, “Yesterday’s vote [to ban adoption] was an unusual victory for Brussels over Washington in a poor East-European country usually keen to do Washington’s bidding.” The same article also states that child welfare organizations within the country agree that “the new law is too extreme and will not prevent organized criminal rackets from making millions by sending Romanian children abroad.”

Romania provides an example of why inter-country adoption is illegal in many countries. Countries are sensitive about the perception that they are “exporting” their children and participating in an adoption ‘industry.” Poor countries, because of a lack of infrastructure and money to monitor adoption practices, face the possibility of corruption within government and through private agencies and lawyers. They also face pressure from lobby groups for and against international adoption. There are many losers in this. Children either remain in foster or institutional care. Families find their options to adopt limited and the country also loses, facing the huge burden of generations of children reaching adulthood without parental guidance and support.