One of the most passionate arguments against international adoption goes like this: large sums of money flowing from desperate, greedy Western parents drives a push to "harvest" children in developing countries, especially babies. This ugly scenario is in fact possible; in "Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis," journalist E.J. Graff examines US State Department documents concerning the adoption program in Vietnam that seem to prove that Vietnamese orphanages were "sourcing" and "producing" children to meet demand. Many critics claim that if you take Western cash off the table, the number of kids proposed for adoption will plummet. This assessment has always felt willfully simplistic to me; the child welfare issues driving the global orphan crisis are far more complex than that. Case in point: the ongoing persecution of the Romani people, the gypsies of Europe.
In the past month, France has deported more than 1,000 Roma, forcing them back to Romania and Bulgaria, where they also face horrific discrimination and exploitation, as I've written in the past. The expulsion has ignited a firestorm, with human rights activists and European politicians calling for France to be booted from the European Union, and certain bloggers even comparing the French to the Nazis. However, as this article shows, Holland, Italy, Germany and Sweden have similarly harassed the Romani people and sought to drive them out. There is truly no place in Europe the Roma can go to live in peace.
The fact is that Romani children are disproportionally represented in Bulgarian and Romanian orphanages; many Roma also end up institutionalized in Russia and other Eastern European locales. Some of these kids land in the international adoption pipeline, a tragedy driven clearly by discrimination and European politics vs. demand created by foreign adoption money.
At one time, my husband and I sought to adopt from Bulgaria; we hoped for a Romani child. Had our Bulgarian adoption succeeded, we would have seen ourselves as responding to a humanitarian need; adoption critics certainly would have seen us as exploiting the tragedy of the Roma. The bottom line is this: Americans are not lining up to adopt Romani children, and yet Europe's orphanages are overflowing with them. A grasp of the total human rights picture and an international outcry is needed to protect the Roma and keep more original families intact.
To learn more, visit the European Roma Rights Centre.