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The orphans of our discontent: Institutionalized teenagers dream of a life abroad

Bucharest Daily News - 02-feb-06 - Denisa Maruntoiu

Teenagers living in the Pinocchio placement center, a Bucharest state institution for abandoned children, hope the ban on international adoptions will soon be lifted as they believe that being adopted by a foreign family is the only chance to a better, happier life.

Daniela Radan, 18 years old: "I have been in a placement center for almost 13 years, but my life was O.K., as my family has always visited me. They did not abandon me because they didn't love me, but because they did not have enough money to take care of me. I never wished to be adopted because it would have meant that I would have had to give up my biological family. However, if I hadn't had a family, I would have liked to be adopted by a foreign family. I think that life in other countries is far better than it is in Romania and I don't think the law banning international adoptions is a good thing. As long as you have a family that loves you, it doesn't matter where the family is from.
The Romanian authorities said they stopped the international adoption process because many children were abused by their adoptive parents. But this is not a solid argument, as many children adopted by Romanian families were also abused."

Ana-Maria Petrache, 17 years old: "I truly think that by banning international adoptions the authorities are denying us a better, happier life. We, the children in institutions, do not stand a chance in Romania. After we finish the 12th grade, we have to leave the placement center and we have to face life without receiving any help from anyone. I have been here for about six years, during which I kept in touch with my family, but I would have preferred to be adopted by a family living in a country like the U.S. I care about my biological family, but my life with them would be very hard and hopeless, as my parents are very poor and my four brothers have been working since they were very young.
In the fall of 2001 I visited America and I saw how happy the children there were. I met with several families that wanted but couldn't adopt me because of the ban on international adoptions."

Catalin Szauter, 17 years old: "I am totally against the law banning international adoptions, as I was denied the chance to be with a wonderful American family that three years ago wanted to adopt me and my older brother. The Bradley family came to Romania to adopt a child, but when they met me and my brother, they decided they wanted us to become their sons. But the authorities did not approve their request, arguing that we were too old to be adopted, that we were not suited to having a family with a different culture. So we were left here and we now have no parents. However, my life has changed since the day I met the American family, because they never stopped helping me and my brother. For three years, they have been offering us both emotional and financial support and I might go to America to continue my studies. I might even visit them this spring, if the authorities will grant me the necessary visa. I hope someone will soon realize that this restrictive law only harms abandoned children, as there are not many Romanian families willing to adopt us."

Ana-Maria Craciun, 18 years-old: "I was brought here when I was nine years old and I can't complain about my life here, as it is better than in other institutions. However, I have always dreamed of being adopted by a foreign family as I also had the chance to visit America and life there seemed wonderful. Here, I will probably end up working in a restaurant as a waitress. But there, I might have had the chance to continue my studies, to do something beautiful with my life. I no longer have this opportunity, but there are thousands of abandoned children who still do, so the international adoptions should be resumed."

Sorin Palalai, 17 years old: "I am a special case, because I was brought here a few months ago. My parents split up and I was forced to come to a state institution as I had no other place to go. However, you don't need more than a few months to realize that a family is far better than a state institution. On the other hand, I think the authorities decided to stop the international adoption process because they did not want children to be abused or trafficked by families abroad. It is very hard to supervise a child that has been adopted in another country and you can never know what might happen to them. But I also believe that this law is too general, too radical. International adoptions should be allowed when the parents are good people and when the children wish to be adopted by a foreign couple. I think the law should include some selection criteria."

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