- Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chairman of the US Helsinki Commission, today introduced legislation urging Romania to reform its adoption policies which have prevented thousands of children from being placed in permanent loving families in the United States and Western Europe. The measure (H.Res. 578
) is cosponsored by Commission Ranking Member Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Commissioners Rep. Mike Pence (R-ID) and Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA).
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
More than 200 Americans had pending adoption applications when Romania's law prohibiting inter-country adoptions took affect. UNICEF reports that more than 9,000 children a year are abandoned in Romania’s maternity wards or pediatric hospitals. According to the European Union, 37,000 children remain in institutions. Nearly 49,000 more live in non-permanent settings in “foster care” or with extended families. An unknown number of children live on the streets. Smith has conducted a hearing on the effect of the law and the dire situation for Romania’s abandoned children.
“The current Romanian law is based upon the misguided belief that an institution of the state or foster family is preferable to an adoptive family from outside the child’s country of origin,” said Smith, who has championed human rights causes since being elected to Congress. “In each of the thousands of instances that Romania denies a child a loving home and a caring family, they commit another human rights abuse.”
Following the execution of Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, it was discovered that more than 100,000 underfed, neglected children were living in hundreds of squalid and inhumane institutions throughout that country. Smith, who visited Romania six weeks after the fall of the Ceausescu regime, witnessed first hand the misery and suffering of children.
“For years, Americans have opened their hearts and checkbooks and worked to help Romania improve living conditions for children in these institutions,” said Smith. “Many families also opened their homes to Romanian children through adoption.”
Between 1990 and 2004, 8,213 Romanian children found permanent families in the United States; thousands of others joined families in Western Europe. In June, 2004, the Romanian government enacted a law that prohibits inter-country adoption except by a child’s biological grandparent(s). Prior to enactment of the 2004 anti-adoption law, approximately 1,700 adoption cases remained pending with the Romanian government. Of these, 200 children have been matched with adoptive parents in the United States, and the remainder with parents in Western Europe. Earlier this week it was revealed that the Romanian government had delivered to the State Department a list containing final decisions in 101 of the Americans cases.
During Romania’s accession to the European Union, allegations were made about the fate of children adopted from Romania and about the qualifications and motives of those who adopt internationally. Sadly, no one within the European Union successfully countered these efforts and, as a result, Romania adopted the law against inter-country adoption in order to secure its EU accession.
Smith’s bill recognizes the need and desire of the Romanian government to improve the care and well being of their children, but urges that they amend child welfare and adoption laws to decrease obstacles to both domestic and international adoption. In addition, it requests that the European Union and its member states not intercede in Romania’s efforts to place orphaned or abandoned children in permanent homes.
“We can not sit by and allow petty politics to ruin the lives of thousands of children in need of a loving home,” said Smith. “My bill urges the Romanian government to remove the restrictive laws that are prohibiting their own children access to loving families."
Media Contact: James E. Geoffrey, II