Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Sam Brownback
Chairman - Helsinki Commission


The Helsinki Commission today examines the effect of Romania’s ban on intercountry adoption on the lives of the children of Romania.  Some 37,000 children live in institutions in Romania today, tens of thousands of others are in foster care.  Romania does not to date have the capability to adequately cope with this humanitarian crisis nor does it have a robust practice of domestic adoptions. Yet the Romanian Government was led to believe that banning intercountry adoptions was an appropriate price for membership to the European Union.  The Romanians under the leadership of then-President Iliescu capitulated.  That the EU, which has traditionally stood with the United States in defense of human rights, should demand such a policy is appalling.  That the Romanians should accept it is equally troubling.  By adopting a law prohibiting intercountry adoption, except in the exceedingly rare case of a biological grandparent living abroad, Romania has denied thousands of children a loving home and a caring family.


I am particularly concerned about the fate of the Roma children who have been abandoned.  Unfortunately, there is still a common stereotype, even among well-educated Romanians, that Romani children are genetically predisposed to lying, stealing and other criminal behavior.  There is also a considerable amount of discrimination against those born with any type of disability.  Faced with prejudice by prospective adoptive parents in Romania, and cut off from international adoptions, these children will most certainly not find homes. 


Romania’s primary antagonist pressing for a ban on intercountry adoptions has been the former rapporteur for Romania’s accession to the EU.  She asserts that individuals who adopt internationally are those who are turned down to adopt in their own countries and are likely pedophiles and child traffickers.  She alleges that children adopted internationally suffer dismal fates.  She has no facts to support her allegations.  She espouses a view that places biological, cultural and linguistic origin as a source of a person's identity above the importance of children having a family.  This view sees it as a primary, fundamental right of every child to retain a connection, even if only the faint hope of a connection, to a biological mother.  According to this view, international adoption violates the child's identity by placing him or her in a culture and family that does not correspond to his or her true identity.  Those who have driven this issue within the EU emphasize the corruption problem because they know that is the best argument to win people over to their side, but their real motivation is sinister, one that emphasizes ethnic identity over basic humanity, and sentences children to a life of loneliness without parents to love and care for them.

Prior to enactment of the anti-adoption law, approximately 200 Romanian children had been matched with adoptive parents in the United States.  These families have committed their hearts to these children.  Dozens have written to the Helsinki Commission pleading for our help.  Does anyone really believe that they are motivated by anything other than compassion?  Congressman Smith, who has been at the forefront of efforts to combat human trafficking, and I, can say with absolute certainty that this is not child trafficking. 


I’d like to share with you the story of one family – in this room today – whose adoption got stuck in the pipeline.  Becky Hubbell and David Clark are from Leawood, Kansas.  If the Romanian Government would allow this couple to proceed with the adoption of Vasile Leica, who is now 7 years old, he would be joining a family of 5 children, with parents who have been married for 32 years.  Both parents are accomplished professionals who have adopted children from China, India and Romania.  Every year for the past five years, Becky Hubbell has traveled to Botosani, Romania with a team of doctors and surgeons providing free care to children and adults.  Becky has also helped establish children's homes in Romania and Moldova and a home for unwed mothers in India.  Are Vasile’s interests really best served by growing up in a group home for children rather than joining this loving family?  Absolutely not.  


You can be sympathetic with Romania’s need to join the European Union and still recognize that the adoption law is deeply damaging to the lives of thousands of children.  There has to be a better and more humane way to deal with this problem and I urge the EU and Romania to sit down and take seriously the fate of thousands of innocent children and the loving families that await them.