A disabled and orphaned Romanian child in his bed at the Targu Jiu orphanage
in southwestern Romania in 2009. Romania has, in general, improved
conditions in orphanages that provoked outrage when they were exposed
internationally nearly a quarter-century ago.
kids are still in the care of the state. *
Orphans, Adoption Is Still A Rarity
The 1989 overthrow and execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu provided
the first glimpse of a country that had been mostly closed to the outside world
— and many of the scenes were appalling.
Among the most disturbing were images of tens of thousands of abandoned children
suffering abuse and neglect in Romania's orphanages. Many were confined to
cribs, wallowing in their own filth and facing mental health issues.
There was outrage in the West. Foreign charities came in to help. Europeans and
Americans adopted thousands of children.
Nearly a quarter-century later, the fate of Romania's abandoned children is an
unresolved issue. While the orphanages, in general, have improved, the number
of children in state care — more than 70,000 — is nearly the same as it was in
1989. Many in the field say there are tens of thousands more on the streets who
are not being counted.
Romania remains a relatively poor country, and the legacy of Ceausescu's
policies has not been completely erased.
Romania's adoption laws are complex and are seen as one of several reasons there
are relatively few adoptions domestically. Annually, between 700 and 900
children are adopted of the 1,200 to 1,400 considered adoptable. Foreign
adoptions, which were common during the 1990s, were halted a decade ago.
A revision of Romania's adoption law, which went into effect in April, aims to
make more children eligible for adoption and more quickly. But many involved in
child protection doubt that the new law alone will significantly improve the
lives of these abandoned kids.
Bogdan Panait, head of Romania's Office for Adoptions, says he hopes the new law
can bump the number of children considered adoptable to 2,000. But this number
would still be less than 3 percent of the children in state care and less than 9
percent of those residing in non-family situations.
"It's not a system for children's rights. It's a system for parents' rights,"
says Bogdan Simion, executive director of SERA Romania, a nonprofit foundation
that is one of the