New Romanian laws facilitate child adoption by Irish families
The adoption of Romanian children by Irish families has been made easier by a series of new laws facilitating international communication between agencies.
The Romanian system eliminates the need for intermediaries, mainly lawyers, for whom adoption was a lucrative business, and limits corruption and bribery.
Reflecting the urgency of the situation, the Romanian National Adoption Committee moved to new premises during the last few days which should help it cope better with its workload.
Following media reports of impoverished children languishing in state institutions, more than 20,000 Romanian children have been adopted during the last few years, including a large number by Irish families.
But heavy bureaucracy and inter-ministerial confusion meant that many children ended up in unsuitable homes.
Black marketeers also thrived, selling children illegally to foreigners by bribing parents, too poor to resist. One British couple received a 28-month prison sentence for buying a child and trying to smuggle it out of the country. They later received a presidential pardon.
Ms Smaranda Popa, director of the UNICEF child protection programme in Romania, said: "There have been many strong advances. The situation has definitely improved with the introduction of a comprehensive child welfare policy and adoption regulations in line with the Hague Convention. We are pleased with efforts made by the government to implement necessary reforms."
Among the changes, she said, was the replacement of the maze of ministerial departments with one overriding Agency for the Protection of Children, which is decentralised, having offices in every county.
Irish people now wishing to adopt must have their social and financial backgrounds investigated by an adoption agency authorised in Ireland with the agreement of the Romanian Adoption Committee.
The new system allows non-governmental organisations to collect an adoption fee ranging from £100 to £10,000, part of which goes to the state for child welfare. A system has also been introduced in Romania for local people who wish to adopt children.
The latest figures from the Romanian agency show that the number of children in institutions, which include orphanages and camin spital for children with disabilities, has decreased from 100,000 two years ago to around 65,000 this year.
Corruption is still a temptation, and at least one local adoption commissioner has been charged with accepting payments to approve the adoption of three children, two of them in Cyprus.