Last year, I decided make an appointment with your agency to read my adoption file. I arrived on the day of the appointment, and everybody seemed surprised to see me. When I explained why I was there, they called you, Carol, because you didnât show up. That evening, you wrote in an e-mail that you were âsorryâ you âforgotâ my appointment. Your colleague Amelia took care of it. Amelia was nice, she was young, she had never worked with my birth country. Amelia didnât explain how adoptions work for the adopters, for the children. Or for your beautiful agency. Like I was supposed to know. She read out loud the few documents that she saw in my file. She made a copy of those I wanted to take with me. Thereâs one paper I didnât ask for, and I wish I had.
Amelia was unable to tell me what a âjudicial abandonmentâ was. She was unable to tell me how the living conditions were at the orphanage, how long I stayed, why I ended up there in the first place. Amelia decided to read me the social investigation your agency did on my adoptive parents, probably because she felt sorry for me. But she also pointed out that my adoptive father was âtolerant and open-minded, he liked meditating, itâs written right hereâ. From my previous life, there was nothing. âYou should ask your adoptive parentsâ, she said. âAt the time, we werenât as thorough when we were filing the papersâ. How many childrenâs lives were affected by filing methods that werenât as âthoroughâ as they are now? When I left, I was bitter, frustrated and angry. I thought: âThose people are responsible for the process that changed my life forever, and they know nothingâ.
This year, I contacted you again, Carol, to ask you how to get in touch with the intermediary who brought the children from Romania to France. I had clear memories of him, since he went on vacations with my family in France for several years. You gave me two e-mail addresses, and you sent me the link of an association of Romanian adoptees. They could help me find potential brothers or sisters, you said. I thought your beautiful agency helped adoptees âfind their rootsâ. Wasnât it a âcentral themeâ for adoption agencies? You âinvest[ed] more and more on [âŠ] the quest for oneâs originsâ and âyour competence in this particular regard [was] well-knownââŠ right? I even found an article about this with beautiful, colorful graphs in one of your magazines. The adoptees association you introduced me to later told me you called them to enquire on the searching process in my birth country, because you had no idea how to proceed yourself. The only thing your beautiful agency did, was to give me a copy of my file -which is the bare minimum-. In some cases, you gave adoptees a file that had nothing or close to nothing in it, or with pictures of another child. And as we saw last year (not you, since you didnât show up), the psychologist who was supposed to give me âsupportâ simply read out loud papers that I was able to read myself, gave a compliment about my adoptive father without knowing him and told me âsorry, thereâs nothing more we can tell you.â
Thank you for introducing me to the Romanian adopteesâ association, though, because their website truly is a gem. You should go check it out. I selected a few sections for you. âSince the 1980s, the number of people from rich countries who want to adopt a child has been ten times higher than the number of children adoptable in poor countries.â âBetween 1990 and 2000: over 30Â 000 Romanian children are adopted abroad.â
âThe âcasa de copiiâ (literally âchildrenâs homesâ) were State institutions were day-care, housing, food and medical care were offered to children whose mothers or parents werenât financially and/or psychologically capable of doing so, for the amount of time necessary for the parents to get better and take them back.â Interesting. Did you know that a âcasa de copiiâ (the institution I went through) wasnât an orphanage? âThe âRomanian orphansâ werenât all orphans, far from it! It might have been convenient to think so, but 97% of children had a mother who was very much alive and whose identity was known, and some children also had a father. More than 50% of mothers came to see their children. Some on a regular basis, others, less @frequently, and others only on religious holidays.ââ
In 1993, the Romanian government passe[d] a law according to which a child who ha[d]nât been visited by his or her parents for six months [could] be declared âabandonedâ by the court and thus, become adoptable. Mothers usually didnât have any means of transportation, and the trick was to move the child to an orphanage which was over 50 km away (30 miles), and there you had it.â This is the law that was used in my case. I was curious about this law from 1993, so I looked it up. I found out that in order to regulate the adoption chaos after the fall of the communist regime, a law demanded that adopters work with an agency authorized to process adoptions by the French, as well as the Romanian authorities. In 1993, the US Congress was discussing Romaniaâs right to get the Most Favored Nation Clause (a trade agreement). âThe US had made improvement of the situation of the Romanian children a condition for this trade agreement, and it was in that context that Romania adopted the so-called âabandonment lawâ. [âŠ] In 1991, an incredible number of intercountry adoptions took place, estimates were more than 10,000. Many children were not adopted from orphanages, but directly bought from poor families. In 1991, a new law was adopted limiting intercountry adoptions to children in childrenâs homes and orphanages. But the childrenâs homesâ directors would not give those children, because they were not legally adoptable, more often, the childrenâs parents would be known and visit their children. As a result of this limitation adoptions dropped enormously in 1992. And thus, under the disguise of wanting to improve the living condition of institutionalized and disabled children, the US congress pushed for an abandonment law, a law that rendered children adoptable.â These two laws,â Law 11/1990 and Law 47/1993 on child abandonment set up the legal framework for the emergence of a Romanian international adoption market after 1994. These two laws create[d] the offer â children legally declared as abandoned and prepared for adoption. In order to have an operating market, the demand need[ed] to be created and the prices established.â
When a child was abandoned, which was not as systematic as you would like me to believe, under which circumstances did the parents give their consent? When youâre living in extreme poverty, when youâre fragile, isolated, when youâre facing social and familial pressures that are sometimes overwhelming, can you really make an informed decision ? When everybody wants you to believe that the only way to make sure your child survives, is to give him or her away forever, can you really make an informed decision? When nobody tells you that youâll never see your child again, when you are asked to sign a paper you canât even read, when nobody tells you how new laws might affect you and your child, when nobody, not even the authorities of your own country, offers you any support, even temporarily, can you make an informed decision? When youâve just given birth to a baby and you have no idea how youâll make it until tomorrow, can you make an informed decision?
In 2007, Roelie Post described how Holt, an American agency -you work with them for the adoptions of children born in South Korea-, was mandated by Unicef Romania to help prevent abandonments. Here is how those charming people were pressuring young mothers from poor backgrounds to give up their baby: âWe discuss with the mother the possibility to consent to adoption right after birth. We wait for the obligatory 45 days to pass and then she signs. We wait another 30 days, during which she may change her mind, and then, the adoption file goes to the DCP [Department of Child Protection]â. What a lovely way to prevent abandonments, indeed. If the tactics used in poor countries to get children for adoption were used in richer countries, people would be outraged. We would all be denouncing the violation of basic human rights, of childrenâs rights, of womenâs rights. When you know that the vast majority of children used to be sent for adoption for economic reasons, it makes you wonder, Carol. With just a little bit of help, how many parents would have been able to keep their children? It was only in 2009, that poverty was no longer deemed a legitimate reason to remove a child from his/her family. For how many decades was this the one and only reason that was used to do precisely that? Iâm one of those children who were told: âYour parents were too poor to raise you, thatâs why you were adopted.â
I read your nice magazine, Carol, the one from your website. I noticed you wrote an article about the search for oneâs origins. I was excited to read what you had to say on the subject. It turns out you actually have a very short experience working on that side of adoptions, and up to now, you have mostly been helping adopters. But there was one section I found particularly appalling.Â âWhat do they want? What are they looking for? They allow themselves, in our offices, which is a symbolic place, to go back to being the little boy or girl they once were and who was left on the side of the road.â Is this what you see in front of you, Carol? Children? People who are still the age they were when they âwent throughâ your agency? You think I came all the way to Paris to âallow myself to be the little girl who was left on the side of the roadâ?
Your problem, Carol, and the problem of all those people who want us to believe that adoption is a fairy tale (adopters, psychologists, âadoption specialistsâ, or even the old uncle you meet at your best friendâs wedding), is that you refuse to see that the people most affected by adoption are no longer children, and that they have the intellectual capacities to demand explanations, to question the processes, the practices, and the whole system. You also refuse to see that we are absolutely legitimate in doing so, because in order to become someone elseâs child (for international adoptions), we have to lose our natural family (parents, brothers, sisters, and the whole extended family), we have to lose our country, our language, our culture, our religion, and most of all, to lose our identity. Since we were the object of the transaction at the time (a passive object, which didnât, at any moment, agree to any of it), we understand better than anyone else how it feels, to lose all those things, and how it feels, to be adopted. So you can keep your sympathy.
This year, your beautiful agency made headlines because adoptees from another country, very far from mine, accused you of having deceived their natural families in order to get them adopted in France. âItâs not us, we know nothingâ, you claimed. How could an agency who seems to never know anything get the French authoritiesâ blessing to bring children from all over the world into the country for over 40 years? This encouraged me to keep digging. Remember thereâs a paper I forgot to ask for last year? Big mistake, but I had no idea what kind of people I was dealing with at the time.
You were hard to reach, Carol, I had to wait over two months for you to get my file. You scheduled a phone appointment. When I asked you if you thought it was normal that my file had so little information about the Romanian part of the process, you came up with pretty shitty excuses. âYou know, we donât know in what conditions the files were created in the birth countries.â âMaybe the birth countries didnât ask the parents anythingâ, âmaybe nobody asked anything when the child was left at the orphanage,â âmaybe they werenât very thoroughâ. There it is again, Carol, your motto: âitâs not us, we not nothing.â With a new little addition: âItâs the birth countriesâ fault.âIf you didnât know, if you werenât really sure, why did you process adoptions from Romania? The European Union asked Romania to halt adoptions long enough to create a child protection system because of all the past malpracticesâŠ And you think this happened because the adoption system in Romania wasnât fraudulent? You think, Carol, that Romania was referred to as a âbaby bazaarâ or an âex-supermarket for adoptionsâ for no reason? Theodora Bertzi, former director of the Romania Committee for Adoptions, used this term to refer to adoptions in Romania, adding: âChildren were sent abroad like packages. There was a lot of money involved. They were white and healthy, and adoptions were processed very quickly. Children had become objects used to address adultsâ emotional needs.â According to Yves DenechĂšres, a French professor of contemporary history, and BĂ©atrice Scutaru, âBetween January 1990 and July 1991, [âŠ] orphanages open[ed] their door but the number of adoptable children prove[d] insufficient in front of the exploding demand in rich countries. Many candidates to adoption âtr[ied] their luck in Romaniaâ. âThus, the rules of a post-war paucity market set in: everything was
for sale and everything could be boughtâ (Trillat, 1993, p.20).
The report addressed in March 2002 to Romanian Prime Minister Adrian NÄstase when the moratorium on adoptions was decided (quoted previously), clearly states that adoptions up to that date were a market. The words Â«Â adoption marketÂ Â» are used 6 times in this report. And youâre going to tell me, Carol, that your beautiful agency had no idea? Well, one thing is sure, you guys kept shopping there for over ten years. Back to the phone call. I asked you how come your agency didnât know more about the adoptions you processed in Romania. You were feeling helpless, you told me. âTry to understandâ. âThe intermediary isnât answeringâ. If he was the only one who knew what was going on, isnât it a bit concerning? âThe people working on Romania at the time are dead, or are old ladies now.â And âIf I knew more, Iâd tell you, but I canât, try to understand how helpless I feelâ. You werenât transported into another country, you werenât told âthose people are now to be called âmomâ and âdadâ, you didnât have to re-learn your native language to understand what a bunch of undecipherable papers are saying, you didnât have to look up laws about family, child protection and abandonment to figure out what happened to you, and yet, from your comfortable little office, you were telling me to understand how helpless you felt. I donât claim to be a psychologist, but werenât you reversing roles there?
You then asked me in an irritated voice what I wanted to talk about exactly: my abandonment? I know youâre really attached to the concept of âabandonmentâ, because it gives a legal basis and a moral justification to the removal of children from their birth countries, and to the irrevocable legal and emotional severing of the family ties with their natural parents (in the case of closed adoptions, which are the majority in France). Your beautiful agency makes a living thanks to abandonments, after all. The word âabandonmentâ itself is placing the entire responsibility for what happened on the natural mothers, who arenât there to defend themselves. Like they had a choice. That way, their children donât want to look for them later, because they think they were âabandonedâ by a mother who didnât love them and didnât want them in her life. But we donât know that. Thereâs no way to prove it. It just happens to be really convenient to justify adoptions. If we were a bit more honest, weâd talk about âseparationâ, because there were one or several separations, chosen, or not. There werenât actually that many truly abandoned children. When there was an abandonment, coercion, manipulation, lies, blackmail and other appalling tactics were often used to get the desired commodity: a child, as young as possible. Iâve already told you all this. Adoption agencies that held office directly in maternities, nurses that refused to let the young mother leave with her child or to give her her child back after birth, children who were declared dead right after birth to be then exported for adoption, directors of orphanages â or rather, childrenâs homes- who refused to let the families see their children (who were placed there, not abandoned), social services that moved children to prevent their families from seeing them, and the authorities which kept orphanages open and filled with children specifically for international adoption were all realities, Carol. In an article published in the Irish Times in 2002, Serban Mihailescu, the Romanian minister for children, said: âthe effect of foreign adoptions was Â«Â extremely negativeÂ Â» and encouraged officials to keep the institutions full of children. Â«Â The number of children in institutions increased because more and more foreigners wanted to adopt Romanian children and more and more of the personnel in the institutions worked as dealers and they pushed the children for the inter-country adoption. It’s like a business, a $100 million businessâ.
Blaming Romania only would be too easy. Without such a high demand, there wouldnât have been such a high artificially-created offer of âorphansâ to ârescueâ. The pressure faced by Romanian authorities from the biggest importing countries (the US, France, Spain, Italy, Israel) was huge, and the lobbying response to any attempt at regulating adoptions was ferocious. In 2002, after the moratorium on international adoptions was decided, adoption agencies from those countries still accepted files from potential adopters and requests were still being sent to the Romanian Committee for Adoptions, hoping theyâd be forced to grant them. When negotiations for Romaniaâs integration into NATO started, âUS officials [âŠ] warned the Romanian government that a continuing ban could jeopardize acceptance of Romania for NATO membership.â You know what I call that? Adoption blackmail.
You see, Carol, during the almost three months that you asked me to wait in order get my file back, I educated myself on adoptions from Romania in the 1990s. And I only have more questions now. I want to know how the six months without a visit from the family of a child were counted. Who counted the days? Was there a register? Was there a written trace of those visits? Did somebody sign a paper to prove the visit had taken place? Was the visitorsâ identity controlled? Where are those papers, Carol? I want clear explanations on that âabandonmentâ, because right now, I have nothing that proves it. And youâll understand I donât really trust you or your agency, given how much you had and still have to gain from all those so-called abandonments.
A few weeks later, after another useless phone call, another e-mail, you ended up agreeing to send me the papers I didnât get the first time. By e-mail. Finally. Welcome to the 21st century. I found more inconsistencies, that once again, you couldnât explain. âItâs not us, we donât know.â I get it. In the meantime, I kept working on the file sent to me by the French authorities (which contains papers you claimed you didnât have) and I realized there were abandonment papers from the court of my birth region. I managed to read my natural parentsâ address at the time. I found a few dates. Maybe these details arenât true, or maybe Iâm not interpreting them accurately. But they were right there from the beginning, in a document that neither your agency nor my parents ever bothered to decipher and have translated. Because, the truth is, you didnât care. What mattered to your beautiful agency, and to my parents, was to get a child, to erase his/her identity, to bury his/her past. And they lived happily ever after, with the poor, abandoned orphan that they saved from a life of misery.
You see, Carol, nobody told me that having to deal with you would be the most challenging and nerve-racking part of the whole process. Imagine what itâs like for people who donât have enough support, time, energy, or mental space, to do all this. I canât help but think that you and your agency are treating adoptees that way on purpose, because if it was easier, maybe more people would start asking questions. In your agencyâs magazine, you write that you have a âsymbolically important role as the intermediary between the original and adoptive families, as the guardian of the adopteeâs pre-adoptive and adoptive histories.â This sums up beautifully all the lies your agency has been writing about its âhelpâ in adopteesâ search for their roots. You are, indeed, the intermediary. But the original family isnât even named. Itâs erased, made invisible, as if it had never existed. You claim you know nothing, which either proves that you were incompetent, that you were looking the other way, or that you didnât bother to check what was going on, and in every case, itâs extremely alarming. You donât investigate on the pre-adoption history before the adoption, and certainly not afterwards, once the adoptee is an adult. You make promises that you canât and wonât keep to give legitimacy to your actions and polish your reputation as an agency that is respectful of laws as well as people. What I learnt from this experience is that you respect everyone but those you claim to be saving.
 Law on adoptions 11/1990 modified July 8th, 1991.
 Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian âorphansâ, p. 66
 RE-ORGANISING THE INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION AND CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM
MARCH 2002, IGIAA (INDEPENDENT GROUP FOR INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION ANALYSIS)
 Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian âorphansâ, Â p. 200
 âThe directives on alternative child protection measures, which were approved by the UN in 2009, forbid to place a child in care simply because his/her parents are poor. It is preferable to offer appropriate support to the family instead.â Intervention by Nigel Cantwell, during an MAI conference, 16th October 2018
 New York Times article from March, 24th 1991, by Kathleen Hunt:
Â«Â One young gynecologist in a major hospital in Bucharest says he was approached by three separate lawyers to keep them informed of any babies abandoned at birth. Â«Â They offered me $100 for every baby I could produce, and $200 if I presented it already with the mother’s consent to put it up for adoption.Â Â»â
 Le Monde article from October 20th, 2006, by Mirel Bran: https://www.lemonde.fr/a-la-une/article/2006/10/20/roumanie-ex-supermarche-de-l-adoption_825807_3208.html
 Le Monde article from October 20th, 2006, by Mirel Bran: https://www.lemonde.fr/a-la-une/article/2006/10/20/roumanie-ex-supermarche-de-l-adoption_825807_3208.htmlÂ Â«Â La Roumanie Ă©tait devenue le supermarchĂ© des adoptions, s’insurge Theodora Bertzi. Les enfants Ă©taient envoyĂ©s comme des colis Ă l’Ă©tranger avec beaucoup d’argent Ă la clĂ©. Ils Ă©taient blancs et en bonne santĂ© et l’adoption allait trĂšs vite. L’enfant Ă©tait devenu un objet destinĂ© Ă satisfaire les besoins Ă©motionnels des adultes.
 International adoption of Romanian children and Romaniaâs admission to the European Union
(1990-2007), Yves DENECHERE, BĂ©atrice SCUTARU, EASTERN JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES Volume 1, Issue 1, June 2010
 RE-ORGANISING THE INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION AND CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM
MARCH 2002, IGIAA (INDEPENDENT GROUP FOR INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION ANALYSIS)
 Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian âorphansâ, p. 200 Â«Â After the maternity tour, Unicef Romania guided Mariela to Holt, one of the biggest US adoption agencies, which held office in the maternity clinicâ.
 Â« Over the course of a year, at the hospital in Ploiesti, nurses and doctors had told 23 mothers whose babies had been born prematurely that their babies had died, when in fact, they were put in incubators, well-fed and exported six months laterâ. Â Emma Nicholson, MEP and rapporteur spĂ©cial for the European Parliament (1999-2004) http://orphelinsderoumanie.org/ladoption-en-roumanie-dans-le-contexte-international-des-annees-1980-1990/
 Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian âorphansâ, p. 130.
 â Cashing in on the âbaby rescueÂ Â», article from the Irish Times published on 24 may 2002
 Article from the Irish Times from 2002.