Colin Cadier at The Hague Special Commission

by Colin Cadier, adopted from Brazil to France, President of La Voix des Adoptés
Presentation at Session 1, Day 1: Voices of Adoptees Panel

Mesdames et messieurs les représentants des Etats signataires, les délégués et représentants d’associations, d’autorités nationales ou internationales,

Je salue cette espace d’expression ouvert aux acteurs de la société civile, et notamment nous Personnes Adoptées, concernés directement par le sujet qui nous mobilise aujourd’hui et les jours à venir. Je tiens à remercie particulièrement Lynelle LONG (InterCountry Adoptees Voices) pour avoir invité La Voix des Adoptés à se joindre à sa délégation, et également le Bureau Permanent, en la personne de Laura MARTINEZ avec qui j’ai eu l’occasion d’échanger de nombreuses fois, notamment ces dernières semaines pour nous aider à préparer ce panel.

Je m’appelle Colin CADIER, je suis né en 1980 à Recife (Brésil), adopté à 15 jours par un couple Français dits “expatriés”, je réside aujourd’hui à Marseille (France) où je travaille dans l’administration territoriale en lien avec l’international… Je suis binational (franco-brésilien), tricullturel (franco-sudamericain) et quadrilingue (si je me permets de compter l’anglais). 

Depuis 2019, je suis le Président de La Voix Des Adoptés, une association de droit français, existante depuis 2005 qui agit sur tout le territoire (avec des antennes à Paris, Lille, Lyon, Tour, Marseille) en lien avec de nombreux pays (Brésil, Colombie, Guatemala, Roumanie, Vietnam, Bulgarie ) qui participe aux réunions collégiales d’un organe consultatif traitant particulièrement des sujets liés à l’adoption internationale (aux côtés d’autres associations) et intervient par les témoignages de ses bénévoles auprès d’associations partenaires qui accompagnent notamment les parents/familles candidates à l’adoption. Outre les Groupes de Paroles, et les événements culturels ou conviviaux organisés par la quarantaine de bénévoles investis, nous animons une WebRadio, développons un Jeu pédagogique sur l’adoption et nous travaillons conjointement avec notre Autorité Centrale qui a participé à notre récent séminaire annuel de formation de nos bénévoles, l’Association Racines Coréennes (de 10 ans notre aînée), le SSI France, l’AFA, la Fédération EFA et bien d’autres associations nationales ou locales, en France ou à l’étranger.

Au regard des nombreuses demandes que nous recevons des personnes adoptées faisant des recherches sur leurs origines, force est de constater qu’en l’absence d’un référentiel mondial reconnu par les autorités des Etats concernés, un certain nombre de personnes nées dans certains pays puis recueillies dans des foyers d’un autre pays – au cours des dernières décennies du siècle passé, rencontrent des difficultés à accéder aux informations sur leur famille de naissance, ou sur les circonstances de leur naissance jusqu’à leur arrivée dans leur nouveau foyer… Rédiger et adopter ce nouveau texte en 1994 qui a été ratifié progressivement par un très grand nombre d’Etats soucieux d’établir un cadre structuré sur les conditions spécifiques pour “donner une famille à un enfant” (tout en veillant à respecter le meilleur intérêt de l’enfant), a constitué une avancée majeure. Quant aux modalités d’application dudit texte, chaque Etat signataire en la responsabilité au regard de sa législation et de ses politiques publiques en matière de protection de l’enfance… La diversité des situations socio-politico-économiques des Etats, du rôle des différents acteurs publics ou privés, impliqués, démontrent qu’il demeure encore des points à améliorer.

La convention de La Haye prévoit bien des dispositions concernant les informations détenues par les autorités sur les origines de l’enfant et leur accès avec des conseils appropriés (articles 30 et 31), mais un certain nombre de personnes adoptées devenues adultes recherchent des informations sur leur origine et se heurtent à des fins de non recevoir. Les motifs peuvent être très variés, selon la date, le lieu de naissance et les conditions dans lesquelles la procédure d’adoption s’est déroulée, il existe souvent un écart voire un fossé entre les informations disponibles et celles recherchées par les personnes adoptées dans leur enfance.

C’est pour cette raison que nous, association d’adoptés et EFA (association de parents adoptants/adoptifs), avons adressé un courrier aux trois ministres de tutelle de l’autorité centrale française pour demander la mise en place d’une commission d’experts indépendants dans le but d’éclairer sur des pratiques qui malheureusement laissent AUJOURD’HUI des personnes sans réponses à leurs questionnements. Et pourtant, ces adoptés n’ont d’autre choix que de se tourner vers les autorités compétentes (les autorités centrales et celles intervenant dans la protection de l’enfance) pour tenter d’obtenir des clarifications ou des explications.

Il est vrai que dans le cadre de la récente réforme engagée par le gouvernement français concernant les structures en charge des politiques publiques de protection de l’enfance, notre association a été invitée à prendre part aux instances de gouvernance de la nouvelle entité en cours d’installation. Nous sommes très reconnaissants de cette place qui nous est accordée d’autant plus que nous comptons apporter notre savoir “expérienciel” sur les questions liées à la Recherche des Origines et la mise en place de dispositifs d’accompagnement (administratif, socio-psychologique) ou d’assistance juridique pour les personnes adoptées, et idéalement avec des mécanismes (ou instruments) de coopération avec les autorités compétentes (centrales) des pays dits de naissance.

Nous espérons voir la nouvelle structure se doter des moyens nécessaires pour pouvoir répondre à la demande des personnes adoptées. Il est à noter que de nombreuses personnes adoptées (aujourd’hui adultes, majeures révolues) correspondent à des adoptions qui ont eu lieu avant 1993, comme en témoignent les statistiques (puisque le nombre d’enfants nées et adoptées à l’étranger a diminué de façon progressive mais plutôt significative au fil des années jusqu’à nos jours – passant de plusieurs milliers par an à quelques centaines). Même si pour la plupart des adoptions qui ont eu lieu à partir des années 2000, les données sont disponibles et accessibles, il n’en demeure pas moins un besoin d’accompagnement au moment notamment où la personne adoptées exprime son souhait éventuel de retrouver les membres de sa famille de naissance… Certaines autorités centrales se proposent de faire le nécessaire, d’autres sont démunies ou ne disposent pas des moyens légaux, humains, matériels ou financiers nécessaires… Enfin le paysage des structures privées lucratives ou non lucratives n’en n’est pas moins varié : des personnes peu scrupuleuses ou malveillantes, aux bénévoles dévoués mais pas forcément “préparées” ou outillées pour faire face à des situations humaines complexes voire dramatiques, sans oublier la barrière de la langue… Tout cela nous conduit aujourd’hui à attirer votre attention Mesdames et Messieurs sur cette réalité: Comment orientons nous les personnes adoptées qui sont notamment plus âgées que vos respectifs organismes (créés à partir des années 2000), ou celles qui rencontrent encore, dans certains cas, des difficultés à trouver les informations sur leurs origines ? 
Dialoguer, coopérer et proposer des actions conjointes, constituent un moyen possible et positif pour permettre d’avancer, de répondre aux besoins des personnes adoptées ou des associations qui comptent sur le pouvoir d’intervention des autorités compétentes.

Je Vous remercie pour votre écoute et vous souhaite des échanges riches au cours au cours des prochains jours.

English Translation

Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the signatory States, delegates and representatives of associations, national or international authorities,

I welcome this space of expression open to the actors of civil society, and in particular to us Adopted Persons, directly concerned by the subject that mobilizes us today and in the days to come. I would like to thank in particular Lynelle Long (InterCountry Adoptees Voices) for inviting La Voix des Adoptes to join her delegation, and also the Permanent Bureau, in the person of Laura Martinez with whom I have had the opportunity to exchange many times, especially in the last few weeks to help us prepare this panel.

My name is Colin CADIER, I was born in 1980 in Recife (Brazil), adopted at 15 days by a French couple called “expatriates”, I now reside in Marseille (France) where I work in the international territorial administration. I am bi-national (Franco-Brazilian), tri-cultural (Franco-South American) and quad-lingual (if I allow myself to count English).

Since 2019, I am the President of La Voix Des Adoptés, an association under French law, existing since 2005, which acts on the whole territory (with branches in Paris, Lille, Lyon, Tour, Marseille) in connection with many countries (Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Romania, Vietnam, Bulgaria ), which participates in the collegial meetings of a consultative body dealing particularly with topics related to international adoption (alongside other associations) and intervenes through the testimonies of its volunteers with partner associations that accompany in particular parents/families applying for adoption. In addition to the discussion groups and the cultural or social events organised by the forty or so volunteers involved, we run a WebRadio, develop an educational game on adoption and work jointly with our Central Authority, which took part in our recent annual training seminar for our volunteers, the Korean Roots Association (10 years older than us), ISS France, AFA, the EFA Federation and many other national or local associations, in France and abroad.

In view of the numerous requests we receive from adopted persons researching their origins, it is clear that in the absence of a worldwide reference system recognised by the authorities of the States concerned, a certain number of persons born in certain countries and then taken into homes in another country – during the last decades of the last century – encounter difficulties in accessing information on their birth family, or on the circumstances of their birth until their arrival in their new home. The drafting and adoption of this new text in 1994, which has been progressively ratified by a very large number of States anxious to establish a structured framework on the specific conditions for “giving a family to a child” (while taking care to respect the best interests of the child), constituted a major advance. As for the modalities of application of the said text, each signatory State is responsible for its own legislation and public policies in terms of child protection. The diversity of the socio-political and economic situations of the States, and of the role of the different public or private actors involved, show that there are still points to be improved.
The Hague Convention does provide for provisions concerning information held by the authorities on the child’s origins and their access with appropriate advice (articles 30 and 31), but a certain number of adopted persons who have become adults seek information on their origins and are refused. The reasons may be very varied, depending on the date and place of birth and the conditions in which the adoption procedure took place, there is often a gap or even a gulf between the information available and that sought by the adopted persons in their childhood.

It is for this reason that we, the adoptees’ association and EFA (adoptive parents’ association), have sent a letter to the three ministers in charge of the French central authority to ask for the setting up of a commission of independent experts with the aim of shedding light on practices which unfortunately leave people without answers to their questions. And yet, these adoptees have no choice but to turn to the competent authorities (the central authorities and those involved in child protection) to try to obtain clarifications or explanations.

It is true that within the framework of the recent reform undertaken by the French government concerning the structures in charge of public policies for the protection of children, our association has been invited to take part in the governance bodies of the new entity currently being set up. We are very grateful for this place that has been granted to us, especially since we intend to contribute our “experiential” knowledge on issues related to the Search for Origins and the setting up of support mechanisms (administrative, socio-psychological) or legal assistance for adopted persons, and ideally with mechanisms (or instruments) of cooperation with the competent (central) authorities of the so-called countries of birth.

We hope that the new structure will be equipped with the necessary means to be able to respond to the demand of the adopted persons. It should be noted that many adopted persons (now adults, past the age of majority) correspond to adoptions that took place before 1993, as the statistics show (since the number of children born and adopted abroad has decreased gradually but rather significantly over the years until today – from several thousand per year to a few hundred). Even if for most of the adoptions that took place from the 2000s onwards, the data are available and accessible, there is still a need for support, especially when the adopted person expresses his or her possible wish to be reunited with the members of his or her birth family. Some central authorities propose to do what is necessary, others are deprived or do not have the necessary legal, human, material or financial means. Finally, the landscape of private profit-making or non-profit-making structures is no less varied: from unscrupulous or malicious people, to dedicated volunteers but not necessarily “prepared” or equipped to deal with complex or even dramatic human situations, without forgetting the language barrier. All this leads us today to draw your attention Ladies and Gentlemen to this reality: How do we guide adopted persons who are notably older than your respective organisations (created from the 2000s onwards), or those who are still encountering, in some cases, difficulties in finding information on their origins?

Dialogue, cooperation and proposing joint actions are a possible and positive way to move forward, to respond to the needs of adopted persons or associations who rely on the power of intervention of the competent authorities.

I thank you for listening and wish you rich exchanges during the next few days.

Read our earlier post: Adoptees at the Hague Special Commission

Restore Haitian Adoptee Connection to their Biological Parents

by Sabine Isabelle adopted from Haiti to Canada.

Restore the links between adoptees from Haiti born as unknown parents and their biological parents.

The dark side

Before April 1, 2014: date of the signing of the Hague Convention in Haiti. Thousands adopted without identity were adopted internationally with a mention born of an unknown mother and father or sometimes the first name of ‘only one parent. Among her children, several were unfortunately entrusted to non-full adoption through human trafficking of all kinds. Some children simply want to find their biological family because they feel they do not have access to their medical history, their legitimate identity.

Studies have shown that many children from adoptions live with traumas with psychological impacts ranging from suicide to neurodevelopmental effects that are due to their adoption. Several have been entrusted to benevolent adoptive families but ill prepared to welcome a child weakened by the injury of abandonment, moreover many of these have experienced a double abandonment of their adoptive parents by being placed in a reception center or a second adoptive family.

A tiny fraction of biological parents are slowly starting to find their biological children. Some testify that they did not knowingly give their children for adoption, but may rather have confided the assets temporarily and that on their return to the orphanage the child had been given up for adoption without their consent and without any possibility of information to find contact with this children in other cases of biological parents were told that the biological parent was dead when it is false and so many other situations not to all named. This is a child who was adopted said without real identities and / or without identities of their 2 biological parents was not beyond a reasonable doubt, adoptable. Surveys, theses, and numerous testimonies also show that only 10% of these children were in fact really orphans. Since some of us are now old enough to take steps to find our biological families, we are amazed to witness all these hidden defects.

Another problem is on the horizon: failures to be helped by the various establishments such as: orphanage, hospital that asks us to donate sums of money to obtain our legitimate information … So here we are newly confronted with so-called Good Samaritans who offer us to carry out our research for them also a sum of money, a unstructured and corrupt circle that continues. It’s a call to villainy. How do you distinguish the good from the bad foreign Samaritan? We have and will leave an empty legacy of identity that we will leave to our children and our future generations. As the pioneers of this experimental generation on international adoption in Haiti we ask for your support in all its forms in order to restore the balance.

Original submission in French

Rétablissont les liens entre les adoptés d’Haïti nés sous l’appellation de parents inconnus et leurs parents biologiques.

Le côté sombre 

Avant le 1er avril 2014 : date de la signature de la convention de La Haye en Haïti .Des milliers adoptés sans identité ont été adoptés à l’international avec une mention nées d’une mère et d’un père inconnu ou parfois le prénom d’un seul parent . Parmi ses enfants, plusieurs ont été confié malheureusement à l’adoption non plénière à travers un trafic d’humain de tout genre. Certains enfants veulent tout simplement retrouver leur famille biologique puisqu’ils estiment ne pas avoir accès à leur antécédents médicaux, leur identité légitime. 

Les études ont démontrés que plusieurs enfants issues de c’est adoptions vivent avec des traumatismes  ayant des impacts psychologique allant du suicide aux effets neuro développementaux qui sont due à leur adoption. Plusieurs ont été confiés à des familles adoptives bienveillantes mais mal préparées à accueillir un enfant fragilisé par la blessure d’abandon, d’ailleurs nombreux de ceux-ci ont vécu un double abandon de leur parents adoptif en étant placé dans un centre accueille ou une deuxième famille adoptive. 

Une infime partie de  parents biologiques commencent tranquillement à retrouver leur enfants biologique. Certain témoignent ne pas avoir données leur enfants à l’adoption en tout connaissance de cause mai plutôt les avoirs confiés temporairement et qu’à leur retour à l’orphelinat l’enfant avait été donné en adoption sans leur consentement et sans aucune possibilité d’information pour retrouver le contact avec cette enfants dans d’autres cas des parents biologiques se sont fait dires que le parent biologique était mort alors que c’est faux et tant d’autres situation pour ne pas tous les nommés. C’est enfant qui ont été adoptés dit sans réel identités et/ou sans identités de leurs 2 parents biologiques n’était pas hors de doute raisonnable, adoptable. Des enquêtes, thèse, et nombreux témoignages présentent également que seulement 10 % de ces enfants étaient en fait réellement orphelins. Puisque certain de nous sommes maintenant assez âgés pour entreprendre des démarches de recherche pour retrouver leur famille biologique, nous assistons avec stupéfaction à tous ces vices cachés. 

Un autre problème est à horizon ; fautes de se faire aider par les diverses établissement tel que ; orphelinat, hôpital qui nous demande de donné des des sommes d’argent pour obtenir nos renseignements légitime… Nous voilà donc nouvellement confronté à de soi-disant bon samaritains qui nous offre d`effectuer nos recherche moyennant eux aussi une somme d’argent, un cercle sans structure et corrompus  qui se perpétue. C’est un appel à la villigence .Comment distinguer le bon du mauvais samaritain étrangé ? Nous avons et nous laisseront un héritage identitaire vide que nous laisserons à nos enfants et nos futures générations. En tant que pionniers de cette génération expérimentale sur l’adoption internationale sur Haïti nous demandons votre soutien sous toutes ses formes afin de rétablir l’équilibre.

Letter to Adoption Agency

by Clara, born in Romania and adopted to France.

“In very cynical terms, an American told me: “But don’t you understand, buddy, that this is the last reservoir of Caucasian children in the world?”[1]

Dear Carol,

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 didn’t show up. That evening, you wrote an e-mail that you were “sorry” you “forgot” my appointment. Your colleague Amelia took care of it. Amelia was nice, she was young, she had never worked with my birth country. Amelia didn’t 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. There’s one paper I didn’t ask for and I wish I had. Amelia was unable to tell me what was a “judicial abandonment” nor how the living conditions were at the orphanage, how long I stayed, or why I was put 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. She also pointed out that my adoptive father was, “Tolerant and open-minded, he liked meditating, it’s written right here”. From my previous life, there was nothing. “You should ask your adoptive parents”, she said. “At the time, we weren’t as thorough when we were filing the papers”. How many children are affected by filing methods that weren’t as “thorough” as they are now? When I left, I was bitter, frustrated and angry. I thought, “Those people are responsible for the process that changed my life forever and they know nothing”.

I arrived to France via a plane

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 possible brothers or sisters, you said. I thought your beautiful agency helped adoptees “find their roots”. Wasn’t it a “central theme” for adoption agencies? You “invest[ed] more and more on […] the quest for one’s origins” and “your competence in this particular regard [was] well-known”… right? I even found an article about this with beautiful, colourful graphs in one of your magazines. The adoptee 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 give me a copy of my file – which is the bare minimum. In some cases, you gave adoptees a file that had nothing or almost nothing in it, or with pictures of another child. As we saw last year (not you, since you didn’t show up), the psychologist who was supposed to give me “support” simply read out loud the papers that I was able to read myself, gave a compliment about my adoptive father without knowing him and told me, “Sorry, there’s nothing more we can tell you.”

Thank you for introducing me to the Romanian adoptee association though because their website truly is a gem. You should go check it out. I selected a few sections for you[2]. “Since 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.” “Between 1990 and 2000: over 30 000 Romanian children are adopted abroad.” “The “casa de copii” (literally “children’s homes”) were State institutions were day-care, housing, food and medical treatments were offered to children whose mothers or parents weren’t financially and/or psychologically capable of doing so, for the amount of time necessary for the parents to get better and take them back.” Interesting. Did you know that a “casa de copii” (the institution I went through) wasn’t an orphanage? “The “Romanian orphans” weren’t 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.” In 1993, the Romanian government passes a law that says a child who hasn’t been visited by his or her parents for six months can be declared “abandoned” by the court and thus become adoptable. Mothers usually didn’t 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. 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 authorised to process adoptions by the French, as well as the Romanian authorities[3]. In 1993, the US Congress was discussing Romania’s right to get the Most Favoured Nation Clause (a trade agreement). “The 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 “abandonment law”. […] 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 children’s homes and orphanages. But the children’s homes’ directors would not give those children because they were not legally adoptable, more often, the children’s 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 institutionalised and disabled children, the US congress pushed for an abandonment law, a law that rendered children adoptable.”[4]

These two laws, “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 – 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.”[5]

When a child was abandoned, which was not as systematic that you would like me to believe, under which circumstances did the parents give their consent? When you’re living in extreme poverty, when you’re fragile, isolated, when you’re 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 you’ll never see your child again, when you are asked to sign a paper you can’t 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 you’ve just given birth to a baby and you have no idea how you’ll make it until tomorrow, can you make an informed decision?

In 2007, Roelie Post described how Holt, an American agency, 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: “We 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]”.[6] 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 children’s rights, of women’s 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.[7] For how many decades was this the one and only reason that was used to remove a child from his/her family? I’m one of those children who were told, “Your parents were too poor to raise you, that’s why you were adopted.”

I read your nice magazine, Carol, the one from your website. I noticed you wrote an article about the search for one’s origins. I was excited to read what you had to say on the subject. It turns out you actually have 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.  “What 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.” Is this what you see in front of you, Carol? Children? People who are still the age they were when they “went through” your agency? You think I came all the way to Paris to “allow myself to be the little girl who was left on the side of the road”?

Your problem Carol, and the problem of all those people who want us to believe that adoption is a fairy tale (adopters, psychologists, “adoption specialists”, or even the old uncle you meet at your best friend’s wedding), is that you refuse to see 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 else’s 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, lose our identity. Since we were the object of the transaction at the time (a passive object, which didn’t at any moment agree to it), we understand better than anyone else how it feels, to lose all those things and how it feels to be adopted. 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. “It’s not us, we know nothing”, you claimed. How could an agency who seems to never know anything get the French authorities’ blessing to bring children from all over the world into the country for over 40 years? This encouraged me to keep digging. Remember there’s 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 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 excuse. “You know, we don’t know in what conditions the files were created in the birth countries.” “Maybe the birth countries didn’t ask the parents anything, maybe nobody asked anything when the child was left at the orphanage, maybe they weren’t very thorough”. There it is again, Carol, your motto: “It’s not us, we know nothing.” With a new little addition: “It’s the birth country’s fault.”

If you didn’t know, if you weren’t really sure, why 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 malpractices. And you think this happened because the adoption system in Romania wasn’t fraudulent? You think Carol, that Romania was referred to as a “baby bazaar”[8] or an “ex-supermarket for adoptions”[9] for no reason? Theodora Bertzi, former director of the Romania Committee for Adoptions used this term to refer to adoptions in Romania, adding: “Children 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 adults’ emotional needs.[10]” According to Yves Denechères, a French professor of contemporary history, and Béatrice Scutaru, “Between January 1990 and July 1991, […] 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 “tr[ied] their luck in
Romania”. “Thus, the rules of a post-war paucity market set in: everything was
for sale and everything could be bought” (Trillat, 1993, p.20).
[11]

The report addressed in March 2002 to Prime Minister Adrian Năstase when the moratorium on adoptions was decided (quoted previously), clearly states that adoptions up to that date were a market. The words “adoption market” are used 6 times in this report.[12] And you’re 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 didn’t know more about the adoptions you processed in Romania. You were feeling helpless, you told me. “Try to understand”. “The intermediary isn’t answering”. If he was the only one who knew what was going on, isn’t it a bit concerning? “The people working on Romania at the time are dead, or are old ladies now.” And, “If I knew more, I’d tell you but I can’t. Try to understand how helpless I feel”. You weren’t transported into another country, you weren’t told “those people are now to be called “mom” and “dad”, you didn’t have to re-learn your native language to understand what a bunch of undecipherable papers are saying, you didn’t 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 don’t claim to be a psychologist but weren’t you reversing roles there?

You then asked me in an irritated voice what I wanted to talk about exactly: my abandonment? I know you’re really attached to the concept of “abandonment” because it gives a legal base 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 “abandonment” itself is placing the entire responsibility for what happened on the natural mothers who aren’t there to defend themselves. Like they had a choice. That way, their children don’t want to look for them later because they think they were “abandoned” by a mother who didn’t love them and didn’t want them in her life. But we don’t know that. There’s no way to prove it. It just happens to be really convenient to justify adoptions. If we were a bit more honest, we’d talk about “separation” because there were one or several separations, chosen, or not.

The importance of extended family thru out one’s childhood.

There weren’t 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. I’ve already told you all this. Adoption agencies that held office directly in maternities[13], 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[14], directors of orphanages – or children’s homes- who refused to let the families see their children[15] (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: “The effect of foreign adoptions was “extremely negative” and encouraged officials to keep the institutions full of children.” 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 intercountry adoption. It’s like a business, a $100 million business”.[16]

Blaming Romania only would be too easy. Without such a high demand, there wouldn’t have been such a high artificially-created offer of “orphans” to “rescue”. 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 they’d be forced to grant them. When negotiations for Romania’s integration into NATO started, “US officials […] warned the Romanian government that a continuing ban could jeopardise acceptance of Romania for NATO membership.”[17] 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 visitors’ identity controlled? Where are those papers Carol? I want clear explanations on that “abandonment” because right now, I have nothing that proves it. And you’ll understand I don’t 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 didn’t get the first time. By e-mail. Finally. Welcome to the 21st century. I found more inconsistencies that once again, you couldn’t explain. “It’s not us, we don’t know.” In the meantime, I kept working on the file sent to me by the French authorities (which contains papers you claimed you didn’t have) and I realised there were abandonment papers from the court of my birth region. I managed to read my natural parents’ address at the time. I found a few dates. Maybe these details aren’t true, or maybe I’m not interpreting them well. 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 didn’t 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 it’s like for people who don’t have enough support, time, energy, or mental space to do all this. I can’t 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 agency’s magazine you write that you have a “symbolically important role as the intermediary between the original and adoptive families, as the guardian of the adoptee’s pre-adoptive and adoptive histories.” This sums up beautifully all the lies your agency has been writing about of its “help” in adoptees’ search for their roots. You are indeed the intermediary. But the original family isn’t even named. It is erased, made invisible, as if they 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 didn’t bother to check what was going on and in every case, it’s extremely alarming. You don’t investigate on the pre-adoption history before the adoption, and certainly not afterwards once the adoptee is an adult. You make promises that you can’t and won’t keep to give legitimacy to your actions and polish your reputation as an agency that is respectful of law as well as people. What I learnt from this experience is that you respect everyone except those you claim to be saving.

Clara


[1] Bogdan Baltazar, spokesman for the Romanian government, in an interview with the TV channel CBS.

https://selectnews.ro/cristian-burci-patronul-prima-tv-adevarul-intermediat-vanzari-de-copii-din-orfelinate/?fbclid=IwAR3f4CJBtzfHoFFZfUBJ2l34gIfy0ZGKXAU42ndhBWFoJqhfLbUsUniotxg

[2] http://orphelinsderoumanie.org/ladoption-en-roumanie-dans-le-contexte-international-des-annees-1980-1990/

[3] Law on adoptions 11/1990 modified July 8th, 1991.

[4] Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian “orphans”, p. 66

[5] Re-organising the International Adoption and Child Protection System, March 2002, IGIAA (Independent Group for International Adoption Analysis).

[6] Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian “orphans”,  p. 200

[7] “The 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.” Intervention by Nigel Cantwell, during an MAI conference, 16th October 2018

[8] New York Times article from March, 24th 1991, by Kathleen Hunt:

https://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/24/magazine/the-romanian-baby-bazaar.html

« 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. “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.””

[9] 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

[10] 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  “La Roumanie était devenue le supermarché des adoptions, s’insurge Theodora Bertzi. Les enfants étaient envoyés comme des colis à l’étranger avec beaucoup d’argent à la clé. Ils étaient blancs et en bonne santé et l’adoption allait très vite. L’enfant était devenu un objet destiné à satisfaire les besoins émotionnels des adultes.

[11] International adoption of Romanian children and
Romania’s admission to the European Union
(1990-2007), Yves Denechere, Béatrice Scutaru, Eastern Journal of European Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, June 2010

[12] Re-Organising the International Adoption and Child Protection System
March 2002, IGIAA (Independent Group for International Adoption Analysis)

[13] Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian “orphans”, p. 200 « After the maternity tour, Unicef Romania guided Mariela to Holt, one of the biggest US adoption agencies, which held office in the maternity clinic”.

[14] « 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 later”.  Emma Nicholson, MEP and rapporteur spécial for the European Parliament (1999-2004) http://orphelinsderoumanie.org/ladoption-en-roumanie-dans-le-contexte-international-des-annees-1980-1990/

[15] Roelie Post, Romania For Export Only: the untold story of the Romanian “orphans”, p. 130.

[16]Cashing in on the “baby rescue », article from the Irish Times published on 24 may 2002

[17] Article from the Irish Times from 2002.

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