Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Adoption, Foster Care, Orphanage

As a final installment on the situation of orphans in Romania I want to answer a few questions I've been getting. I've had a lot people ask me about Bridge of Love, the charity foundation I'm working with. What do they do? What is their purpose?

Courtesy of:
Well on the Bridge of Love website it says, "Bridge of Love’s mission is to provide comfort and hope to Romania’s abandoned children by assisting them on a path toward lifelong happiness and success. Since 2001, Bridge of Love has been instrumental in rescuing Romanian children abandoned in orphanages and hospitals and placing them with caring foster families in their own country.
          Bridge of Love has spent the past ten years saving these abandoned and orphaned children. The foundation began its mission by working to find loving homes for the children and helping to place them, one child at a time, in foster care with Romanian families.

         Currently, there are nearly 40 children in foster care who receive support from Bridge of Love, plus a group of six older teens and young adults who were abandoned as children." People then ask me why foster care? Why not adoption? Isn't foster care still hard and unstable for the children?

Well that may be true. Foster care is still difficult for kids, but it is the best we can do. Adoption in Romania is incredibly difficult. Domestic Adoption is allowed but is is prohibitively expensive. There really isn't much in the way of adoption there, only about 700 to 900 children are adopted each year; a very small percentage of the abandoned children overall. 

Another problem with Domestic Adoption is that there are lots of difficult laws making it very tricky. One article shares that, "In Romania, to be considered "adoptable," a child's biological parents must be deceased or indicate that they have no interest in having a relationship with the child. But beyond this, all relatives as distant as siblings of grandparents also must sign away rights to the child."

Denisa, Alin's little girl
I remember one man I knew. His name was Alin and he was of Roma decent. He and his wife, Anka, were very poor and lived in this little field in a small shack they had constructed. I went to visit them in their "home" one day and I met their children. There was Denisa, a darling toddler girl, and little Alin Jr., who was running around the dirty field barefoot and naked. Every so often Alin would confide in me one of his biggest fears; that he wasn't providing well enough for his children and couldn't provide for them any more. He wondered about giving them to an orphanage where their lives may be secure but it frightened him. He kept his children with him and did everything he could to provide, which often wasn't good enough. I don't know if what he was doing was the best thing or the right thing. I do know, however, that there are lots of people in very similar situations, who cannot provide for or support their children and have to give them up.

An article I read mentions infants who have been abandoned in the hospital and says, "These days babies abandoned at hospitals are likely to stay there until their second birthday. New laws banning the institutionalization of children under two have backfired for them. Only when they turn two will they be legally allowed to go to a children's home. Not that that would be much better." The babies just stay there and the hospitals have too many children to give them sufficient comfort or stimulation. The infants give up on crying because nothing happens and nobody listens when they do. They just lay there silently, and the ones who are big enough to sit up just sit there rocking back and forth, showing that they severely lack stimulation.*

Foreign adoption used to be very common in the 1990's. However in 2001 and 2002 Romania enacted legislation to ban international adoptions. The main reason they stated for doing so was to eliminate black market trade in children (another problem Bridge of Love is trying to address). Romania was heavily pressured by the European Union of ban international adoptions as a condition to enter the EU. One English representative in the EU in particular made it her personal cause to eliminate foreign adoptions for Romania. 

One of the boys who came to the yearly activity
day** I had the chance to help out at in 2011.
When I asked the Lundbergs, who founded Bridge of Love, about the adoption situation they said, "Laurie Lundberg started efforts to facilitate foster care because of her belief that children were better off in foster care (in a family) than in an institution - a feeling that we share along with a lot of others. It was a solution better than the alternative - even though we would have loved to have seen the children formally adopted."

This is why Longboard For Love is trying to help. We're doing all we can do personally for these kids. I really like the project of getting a tutor for all of these kids. Lots of them come from difficult situations and circumstances and they are a little disadvantaged. Myself, I'm a college student right now and I've really gained an appreciation for the importance and power of education. Helping them with their education will help them to better their lives and make something more for themselves.

What a wonderful work.

*For more insights on why children need stimulation or care in orphanages click here

**To see more pictures from the Yearly activity days Bridge of Love does click here or here.

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