following article gives the political background for
the decision made by the Romanian Government to ban
The Baroness Emma Nicholson of England was in charge
of determining Romania's readiness to enter the
European Union (EU). She made the permanent banning
of international adoptions a condition for their
acceptance into the EU. This position seems to have
been based on her personal opinion of the value of
international adoption (she adopted an Iraqi orphan
during the first Gulf War, who claimed later to have
been abandoned by her). Her position is not
supported by any individual or agency working for
the welfare of the abandoned children of Romania.
A One-Woman War Against Intercountry Adoption
By DIANE KUNZ and ANN REESE
February 4, 2005
Almost fifteen years ago the plight of Romania's
abandoned children shocked the world. The crazed
schemes of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had doomed
hundreds of thousands of children to a life in
orphanages which were little more than warehouses.
Spurred by televised images of caged children, and
tales of AIDS spread among children in state care
through forced blood transfusions, the world rallied
to help these smallest victims of totalitarian
excess. Financial aid and personal volunteers flowed
into the country. Thousands of children were given
permanent families by people who saw them as
citizens of the world in need of nurturing homes,
not as property of a sovereign state.
Time passed, and the world's attention turned to
new, more immediate crises. With the spotlight
removed, the children once again became pawns in a
Today an equally dire fate awaits Romanian children
whose birth families cannot care for them. It comes
not at the hands of an evil ruler but because of the
machinations of self-proclaimed human rights
advocates. The result is the same: children
condemned to a life without a family of their own.
The Romanian government has one major political aim,
to join the European Union. Romania is scheduled to
achieve this goal in 2007, but only if it meets the
conditions set forth by the European Union and by
the European Parliament's Committee on Romania.
Until recently, that committee was chaired by Emma
Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne.
Lady Nicholson has been conducting a one-woman war
against intercountry adoption (ICA), using Romania's
application to join the EU as her nuclear weapon.
Her view is that ICA is a cover for child
trafficking and is also beneath the dignity of
member states of the EU. She has yet to prove her
allegations, which does not stop her from
continually making inflammatory charges. These are
inherently suspect as Lady Nicholson has made it
clear that she believes that there is no such thing
as good ICA.
Lady Nicholson has stated: "It was a mistake from
the beginning to assume that for a child, a foreign
adoptive family is better than the family which can
not care for him. This is totally false."
Following her own logic, in 2001 Lady Nicholson
pressured the Romanian government into declaring a
moratorium on all ICA. Her justification was that
Unicef supported such a ban because it viewed that
ICA was not a preferred alternative under the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
In January 2004, Unicef clarified its position on
ICA, stating that ICA was preferable to home-country
institutionalization -- and undercutting Lady
Nicholson's anti-ICA platform. Those of us who
believe that every child should have a family of his
or her own rejoiced.
But Lady Nicholson struck back as soon as the Unicef
statement became public. Using the excuse that
Romania had made too many exceptions to the ICA
moratorium, she told the Romanians in no uncertain
terms that their application to the EU was in grave
trouble. She could no longer claim that Unicef
opposed ICA. Instead, Lady Nicholson stated that
Romania's corrupt judiciary and legal practices
legitimized her opposition to ICA.
Lady Nicholson's power in large part stemmed from
her position as chair of Romania's EU application
committee, a post she held until September 2004.
Although she was then replaced by Pierre Moscovici
as committee chair, she was promoted to vice
president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the
European Parliament, and Liberal Party adviser to
Her leverage in Bucharest remains enormous. She has
promised EU aid for the orphanages/foster homes that
will be needed to care for the tens of thousands of
children she intends to keep penned up in Romania.
Think of it: The Romanians get to make progress on
their EU application and she provides jobs as well.
On June 15 of last year, the Romanian Parliament,
caving in completely to Lady Nicholson, passed a
bill that totally banned ICA except in cases of
biological grandparents living abroad. This became
law on Jan. 1, 2005.
While the U.S. administration of President George W.
Bush has publicly and privately intervened to try to
keep ICA alive in Romania, there are no new carrots
to offer Romania to offset the blessing of EU
membership that Romania so clearly craves.
Unfortunately, the best interests of children are
easily subsumed to a larger agenda.
Institutionalized children have no seat on the
committees that negotiate treaties among nations.
Will the world stand silent while Romania's
abandoned children are sentenced to a life without
families of their own? Three weeks ago, a killer
wave abruptly ended the lives of thousands of
children in its wake. We have seen an enormous
outpouring of concern, generous grants of time and
money by the international community. The knowledge
that an early warning system could have saved many
lives has generated vows of "never again."
We are sounding the alarm for institutionalized
children, in Romania and elsewhere. Their numbers
exceed those killed in the recent tsunami tragedy.
Dooming them to lives without families is a
preventable tragedy, in plain sight of those who
have the will to keep looking when the media frenzy
has moved on.
ICA may not save every abandoned child the fate of
institutionalization, but it will save some
children. For those it is the same as receiving the
life-bestowing miracle of having ten extra minutes
to flee the tsunami to higher ground. It is our
obligation to ensure that the right to grow up in a
family is preserved for the most vulnerable members
Dr. Kunz and
Ms. Reese are co-directors of the New York-based
Center for Adoption Policy.