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The orphans of our discontent: Romanian adopted children express the joy of belonging to a family

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

The lives of two Romanian little girls changed forever the day they were adopted by two families living in the U.S. Former lonely and neglected orphan babies, Laura and Simona are now to happy and vivid seven-year old girls who believe every child is entitled to a "forever family," no matter the nationality.

Linda Robak, a single mother living in Connecticut, U.S., adopted her daughter Laura in May 2001, just two weeks before the moratorium banning all inter-country adoptions had been enforced in Romania.
Laura, who at that time was almost three years old, had been abandoned at birth by an impoverished 19-year-old Roma mother who had already given birth to three other children, including a daughter a year older than Laura who was born deaf, neurologically impaired, and who was in foster care in Romania.
Laura was placed in an orphanage at the age of one month and then moved into a foster home. However, Laura's life changed completely when Linda's request to adopt her was approved.
"A week after we arrived home, I had Laura tested by a group of specialists for developmental delays. She was found to be anywhere between 12 - 26 months retarded in every area of her development. However, they felt that she would be able to catch up quickly as they could tell during the testing that she was able to learn new things rapidly," recounts Linda.
But all the specialists proved to be wrong. Although Laura had entered preschool full-time at the age of three, she was held back one year from starting kindergarten as she was found to need special services for fine motor skill issues.
Laura was also diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder, a disease professionals consider is due to her early institutionalization and lack of stimulation, attention and malnourishment.
"Laura has an above average IQ but has difficulty processing information and then retrieving it quickly enough. She is now receiving special therapy in school for four hours each week," says Robak.
In addition, at the age of four Laura had her adenoids removed due to breathing problems, and at five she was found to need glasses due to vision problems.
Nevertheless, due to love, attention and proper treatment, Laura's condition started to improve. "Her extremely bowed legs have now straightened out due to vitamin D therapy. She is becoming quite an athlete and plays on a soccer team with Romanian coaches, can swim underwater for 23 seconds, do flips off the diving board, ride a two-wheel bicycle, and is taking karate lessons to help her with muscle and balance issues on her right side," says Robak.
At the age of seven she has already met a Romanian president, a foreign minister and a prime minister, two ambassadors and six senators. "She is kind and compassionate and has a bank marked 'kids' written in magic marker where she saves money 'to send to the children in the orphanages'. She is wise beyond her years and doesn't understand why there are children who are still waiting for their adoptions to be finalized. 'That's just silly. Don't they (the government) know that every child wants a family that will be forever?' she often asks me", Robak recounts.

Laura's story is very similar to that of seven-year-old Simona Forsyth, another Romanian adoptee who has had a perfect childhood since June 20, 2001, the day when her adoptive parents, U.S. citizens Elliot and Whitney Forsyth, brought her home to Connecticut.
"Simona's story is testimony to the miracle that inter-country adoption can bring to a child who needs a loving family. She was abandoned aged three months in a Romanian state hospital. She then spent two years in state institutions where she was largely neglected. Fortunately, she was then placed with a loving foster care family for nine months, which in many ways saved her life. But had inter-country adoption not been an option for Simona, she would likely never have been adopted domestically due to her age and Roma heritage," say the Forsyths, who decided to adopt a Romania child after several summers spent in Romania, helping institutionalized children.
When the Forsyths adopted Simona, she had just learned to walk and could speak less than ten words although she was three years old.
But now, after four years of tenderness and attention, Simona is a beautiful, healthy, and thriving seven year old who loves to run, jump, play, and laugh.
"Simona has added immeasurable joy to our family and we thank God for her life. We celebrate her Romanian heritage though there are days when we look at her and wonder what would have become of this beautiful child had inter-country adoption not been an option for her," says Simona's father.
After adopting Simona, the Forsyths continued their volunteer work in Romania, and in 2003 they met another little girl who had just been abandoned at birth.
Although the moratorium was in place, the Forsyth family was given formal assignment of the little girl in the fall of 2003. But Simona's new sister never arrived home.
"We are still waiting. Our little girl is currently living in a children's home, receiving loving care, but may not ever be adopted into a Romanian family because she is older and is Roma. Though we've seen her on our frequent trips to Romania, we pray daily that someday soon Romania will allow the pending cases to be processed as originally assigned," says Forsyth.

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