Building My Adoption Support Team; Adele Rickerby

This article, which I wrote for the ”Adoption Today” magazine, appeared in thier July 2016 issue.

Within one year of adopting a baby girl from an orphanage in Romania, after the revolution, my husband was living elsewhere and I was a single mother of two beautiful girls. This was the inevitable result of a dysfunctional relationship. One in which I did not have the support of my husband when adopting.

I travelled alone to Romania and back home again via Germany and New Zealand, where I needed to finalise the adoption of my daughter as a New Zealand citizen. My ex-husband did not finally meet his adopted daughter until I returned home to Cairns, Australia, two months after I had left. There were many opportunities for him to be involved, but, apart from playing his part with the paperwork during the adoption approval process, which took three and a half years, that was all he did.

It is imperative that couples support each other and travel together throughout thier adoption journey. Meeting your adopted child for the first time in thier country of origin, is an essential part of the initial and ongoing bonding process for both parents.

Feeling isolated and with no support where I was living, I sold the family home, packed up what remained of our belongings after a garage sale, and moved to Brisbane with my two daughters. Natasha, my adopted daughter had just turned one year old and my biological daughter, Melannie, had just turned seven years old.

After settling in to a rented house, I actively went about building my adoption support team.                                                   International Adoptive Families Association of Queensland, was an essential part of my support team. I was already a member, having joined the organisation at the beginning of the adoption approval process. During that time, I spoke with other I.A.F.Q. members over the phone and looked forwards to receiving thier regular newsletters, but had never met a member in person. I started attending regular ”chat and plays” with Natasha. These were held in the homes of I.A.F.Q members or Parks and Gardens around Brisbane.

It wasn’t long before I was asked to take on a more active role. I was asked if I would co-ordinate the first seminar on Intercountry Adoption, to be held in Brisbane, and subsequently co-ordinated two more. Coordinating the seminars provided me with the opportunity to become more actively involved in the adoption community.

”Our Country is Poor But Our Hearts Are Rich”, said my fellow train passenger, an engineer on his way to an early morning meeting in Bucharest. The sun was rising on a day full of hope and promise, after a nightmare journey, alone, across Germany,  Austria, Hungary, and finally, Romania, on my way to adopt a baby girl. I had been thrown off the train at the border between Austria and Hungary by eight Hungarian soldiers with revolvers at their hips and one official. When, finally, I arrived at the Gara De Nord railway station, and after a lengthy wait, was met by Janet and Michaela, I was exhausted and relieved.

Janet and her husband were from Brisbane and were adopting a baby girl and a baby boy. We stayed together in Michaela’s house. When, eventually, I arrived in Brisbane, one of the first people whom I contacted was Janet. Another couple whom I had also met in Bucharest, Tina and Steve, were also from Brisbane and adopting a baby boy and thirteen months old girl. Tina and Steve arrived back in Brisbane after spending one year in thier original home country of England.

After the revolution, foreign journalists went into Romania and discovered approximately 100,000 abandoned babies and children living in horror institutions where they were neglected and abused. The New Zealand government established an adoption program with Romania and a group of New Zealand parents formed Intercountry Adoption New Zealand. New Zealand parents soon started arriving back from Romania with thier adopted children.

Narelle Walker, married to a New Zealand man whilst living in Brisbane and wanting to adopt, made enquiries and learnt that they could adopt from Romania as New Zealand citizens. Narelle and her husband were one of the first couples to travel to Romania. Narelle went to the media to tell her story. That’s how I learnt I could do the same.

Together, Narelle, Tina, Janet and myself formed the ”Eastern European Adoption Support Group”.                                                 Tina had a suitable home with a safe backyard with a fort-style cubby-house, a sandpit and a swing. There was a rumpus-room with lots of toys for rainy days. Soon, we were meeting every Thursday morning for playgroup. As a single mum with no family, this was another vital source of support for me. We still meet regularly, twenty-four years later.

In 2013, I wrote a short memoir; ” The Promise I Kept”, published by Memoirs Publishing in the U.K and available as a paperback from The Book Depository. It is also available to be downloaded as a kindle edition on Amazon.                      I followed this with my website; in which I publish articles about orphan advocacy and child welfare in Romania. I also have a community Facebook page of the same name.

Adele Rickerby



Alex Kuch; How International Adoption Changed My Life

Happy Birthday in the Family

Elgard Andreas, four years old.

Just a few years ago, Romania started a dirty and illegal business; they banned the adoption of the children abandoned by irresponsible people and put them in the hands of other irresponsible people!

At the age of four weeks after birth, I was abandoned at the No.4 Children’s House in Lugoj, Timis County. I was born on July 6, 1994, in the city of Jimbolia, Timis. My mother, Lili, wanted to get rid of me- she had postpartum. Mama, (Liliana’s mother), gave me to the children’s home.

At Lugoj, a Danish foundation annually organised a series of visits to families in Denmark, who wanted a child. I was one of the lucky ones in the project. I was admitted to a family in Copenhagen, the Elgard Jensen family, both employees of the Royal Danish House. The family had two sons, one of whom was a student in medicine. A very beautiful family who started my adoption. I was four years old. I knew that I was going to be theirs. I knew that I was going to be Danish. I wanted to get rid of the 120 kids in that ugly house, dirty and administered by bad people who beat me for no reason.

I was deluded. A family promised. I was sure that I would be adopted. I was in the courthouse or in the courtroom. I do not know exactly. I was asked if I wanted to be adopted by Eva and Flemming. I said my first ”da” and they took me out of the room. After a few minutes, I was told to return to Lugoj for a while. It was a short time because in December 1999 I was visited by the Herbold family from Germany who wanted to open a family home in Checea. They got me in their house. It was very nice. It was hot and I had food and I did not have to hurry when I ate. I could sleep without being touched by the older boys and I said for the first time, ”mother”. Unfortunately to a person not worth it.

At Checea, the Children’s Safety Foundation in Romania became my home. It became the place where I feel safe and appreciated for what I do.

I am twenty-four years of age. I graduated from the Social Assistance Faculty and I only have six months to complete the dissertation. I want to study more. I decided that after graduating the Mastership, I will enrolled in the PhD.

In 2017, helped by two friends, we set up an ong; YouHub Association, and in December 2017, I was elected President of the Institutionalised Youth Council, the national representation of children abandoned in Romania.

My mission is to promote and protect the rights of the child. Adoption is a fundamental right through the right to family. The Romanian government, encouraged by a Baroness, blocked International adoption on the grounds that it had become organ-trafficking. Checks, inquiries, and other inquiries and …nothing!!

I don’t understand Tiriac’s involvement in this story! But one thing is certain. Romania boasts about 57,000 abandoned children. 19,000 in children’s homes.

Are we a statistic or are we people who could change our story if we were supported towards an independent, dignified and better life.

In January, Adoption Law should be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, was voted unanimously in the Senate. I hope that the article on the reopening of International Adoption from Romania is voted for and so gives the chance of a family to all abandoned children.

La mulți ani, în familie!

La mulți ani, în familie!
În urmă cu doar câțiva ani, România a început o afacere jegoasă și ilegală!
A interzis adopția copiilor abandonați de niște oameni iresponsabili și ajunși pe mâna și la mila altor oameni iresponsabili!
Eu, la vârsta de 4 săptămâni după naștere, pe care o regret uneori, am fost abandonat la casa de copii nr 4 din Lugoj, județ Timiș. M-am născut la data de 6 iulie 1994, în orașul Jimbolia – Timiș, ea, Lili, a avut postpartum, a vrut să scape de mine. Măsa (mama Lilianei), m-a dat la casa de copii.
La Lugoj, o fundație daneză organiza anual o serie de vizite la familiile din Danemarca care își doreau un copil de sărbători.
Am fost unul dintre norocoșii acelui proiect. Am fost primit la o familie din Copenhaga, familia Elgard Jensen, ambii angajați ai Casei Regale Daneze.
Aveau doi băieți, unul student la medicină iar celălalt student la drept. O familie foarte frumoasă, care a dorit să mă înfieze.
Au început demersurile pentru adopție, aveam 4 ani, știam că voi fi al lor, știam că voi fi Danez, îmi doream să scap de cei 120 de copii din casa aia urâtă, murdară și administrată de oameni răi care mă /ne băteau fără motive serioase!
Am fost amăgit, mi s-a promis o familie, eram sigur că voi fi adoptat. Am fost în tribunal sau la judecătorie, nu știu exact, am fost întrebat dacă vreau să fiu adoptat de Eva și de Fleming, am spus primul meu DA hotărât, apoi m-au scos din sală.
După câteva minute mi s-a spus că mă întorc la Lugoj, pentru o perioadă.
Așa a fost, o perioadă scurtă pentru că în decembrie 1999 am fost vizitat de familia Herbold, din Germania, ei doreau să deschidă la Checea o casă de copii de tip familial. M-au primit în casa lor. A fost foarte frumos, a fost cald, aveam de mâncare și nu trebuia să mă grăbesc când mâncăm, puteam să dorm fără să fiu atins de băieții mai mari și am spus pentru prima data “mama”, din păcate unei persoane care nu merita!
La Checea, Fundația Siguranța pentru Copii în România, a devenit casa mea, a devenit locul unde mă simt în siguranță și apreciat pentru ceea ce fac.
Am 24 de ani, am absolvit facultatea de Asistență Socială și mai am doar 6 luni până la finalizarea disertației. Vreau să studiez mai mult, am decis ca după finalizarea masteratului să mă înscriu la doctorat.
În anul 2017, ajutat de 2 prieteni, am înființat un ong, YouHub Association, iar în luma decembrie 2017 am fost ales președinte al Consiliul Tinerilor Instituționalizați, structura națională de reprezentare a copiilor și a tinerilor abandonați din România.

Misiunea mea este promovarea și protecția drepturilor copilului, adopția este un drept fundamental prin dreptul la familie. Guvernul României, încurajat de o baroneasă, a blocat adopția internațională pe motiv că s-ar fi făcut trafic de organe. S-au făcut verificări, anchete și alte cele și… nimic!
Nu înțeleg implicarea lui Țiriac în povestea asta! Dar un lucru este sigur, România se laudă la această oră cu 57.000 de copii abandonați, 19.000 de copii în case de copii!
Suntem o statistică? Sau suntem oameni care am putea să ne schimbăm povestea dacă am fi sprijiniți în sensul acesta, către o viață independentă, demnă și mai bună!

În luna ianuarie, legea adopției ar trebui să fie discutată la camera deputaților, a fost votată unanim la Senat. Sper că articolul care privește redeschiderea adopției internaționale să fie votat și astfel să se ofere șansa la o familie tuturor copiilor abandonați!
#VreauAcasa #adopția
Veți înțelege mai multe din reportaj!

Deaths in Siret Horror Orphanage.

Valentin Naș shared a link.

Criminal complaint for the death of 340 children, in the Siret horror orphanage, during communism

BY FLAVIA DRĂGAN | Updated: June 25, 2018 – 5:21 PM

The Institute for the Study of Communist Crimes (IICMER) has filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office concerning the inhumane treatment of orphaned children confined in the Siret Hospital for Children with Chronic Neuropsychiatric Condition (HCCNC). 340 children died there between 1980 and 1989.

IICCMER has denounced the deaths which occurred in the last decade of the communist regime. The largest number of deaths, 81 children, was recorded in 1981.

According to IICCMER’s statement released to the editorial, most children died of illnesses that could be treated, and for most of them the deaths were caused by the inhumane way they were treated in the orphanage. A very large number of children have died during winter, most of them due to pneumonia, epilepsy, heart, kidney, and liver diseases.

Figure: Deaths in the Siret HCCNC, by age (Jan. 1980 through May 1991)

Most children died when they were between one and four years old. Many of the children admitted to the Siret orphanage were from Suceava County, but also from Bucharest, Bihor, Timiş, Dâmboviţa, Constanţa.

Figure: Evolution of deaths in the Siret HCCNC (1980-1991)

“Following the analysis of death documents and death certificates, carried out by IICCMER experts and by a team of forensic pathologists, we have found that, on the one hand, there were increased mortality rates in the case of easily preventable or early diagnosable and properly treatable pathologies, and, on the other hand, there were deaths that support, by their very nature, our conclusions regarding the existence of a regime characterized by inhumane treatments applied to minors in the hospital.”

309 employees at the hospital-orphanage in 1989

The HCCNC was operating under the Ministry of Health and was headed by a doctor/manager appointed by order of the minister. Since its inception in 1956 until 1991, the hospital has been administered by nine doctors, and the last of them has been running the hospital-orphanage for 24 years.

At the end of the 1980s, the orphanage included 14 specialist doctors, 109 nurses, 115 auxiliary staff, 12 administrative staff, 12 staff runing the school and 47 workers.

Legend: Children left to die in the field

Since the establishment of the hospital-orphanage in 1956 until 2001, 1,500 children have died of the total of 8,886 children who have been placed in the Siret institution.

After the death of 81 children in 1981, the number of deaths fell in 1982 and 1983 following the management’s decision to transfer out a very large number of children.

Figure: Main causes of death in the Siret HCCNC (1980-1991)
– Pulmonary affections 68%
– Epilepsy 13%
– Others 8%
– Heart conditions 3%
– Kidney problems 7%
– Liver problems 1%

Among the staff who worked at Siret HCCNC during the communist era there is a legend of an order coming from the Communist Party leadership regarding the fast release from hospital of a large number of patients, an order which was quickly executed at the end of November 1983. The hospital register has recorded the transfer of 750 children over just a few days at the end of November 1983. According to former employees, a large number of these children, especially those with unknown parents, have never reached their transfer destinations, being instead isolated on a field and left to die without being registered.

IICMER states that it could not confirm the information, but it continues the checks.

Criminal complaints to follow for the period 1956-1980

IICCMER said it would file criminal complaints for inhumane treatments for the period 1956-1980, but “given the high volume of work, we can not predict when the actions will materialize,” the Institute’s spokeswoman added.

Last summer, IICCMER has filed another criminal complaint with the Attorney General’s Office for the inhumane treatment of children hospitalized in the Cighid, Păstrăveni and Sighetu Marmaţiei home-hospitals. 771 children have died there from 1973 to 1990. In that case, the prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office have started in rem criminal investigations.

Image may contain: 1 person

Copii Abandonati- Memorialul Angel – Nu uităm

Plângere penală, pentru moartea a 340 de copii, în orfelinatul groazei din Siret, în comunism

DE FLAVIA DRĂGAN | Actualizat: 25.06.2018 – 20:21
Captură video înregistrare Youtube

Institutul pentru Studierea Crimelor Comunismului a făcut un denunț la Parchetul General pentru tratamente neomenoase aplicate copiilor orfani internați în Spitalul pentru copii neuropsihici cronici Siret. Între 1980 și 1989, acolo au murit 340 de copii.

IICCMER  a înaintat denunțul pentru copiii care au murit în ultima decadă a regimului comunist. Cel mai mare număr de morți, 81 de copii, s-a înregistrat în 1981.

Cei mai mulți copii au murit de boli care puteau fi tratate, iar la majoritatea decesul a fost cauzat de tratamentele neomenoase aplicate în orfelinat, arată IICCMER, într-un comunicat remis redacției. Foarte mulți copii au murit iarna, cei mai mulți din cauza pneumoniilor, epilepsiilor, afecțiunilor cardiace, renale și hepatice.


Cei mai mulți copii au murit când aveau între unu și patru ani. Mulți dintre copiii internați în orfelinatul din Siret erau din județul Suceava, dar și din Bucureşti, Bihor, Timiş, Dâmboviţa, Constanţa.

”În urma analizei actelor de deces și a certificatelor constatatoare de moarte, efectuată de experții IICCMER și de o echipă de specialişti în medicină legală, s-a constatat că, pe de o parte, au existat rate crescute de mortalitate în cazul unor patologii ușor de prevenit sau de diagnosticat precoce şi de tratat corespunzător, iar, pe de altă parte, au existat cauze de moarte care susțin, prin specificul lor, concluziile cu privire la existența unui regim caracterizat prin tratamente neomenoase aplicate minorilor din spital”.

309 angajați la spitalul-orfelinat, în 1989

Spitalul pentru copii neuropsihici funcționa în subordinea Ministerului Sănătății, era condus de un medic director, numit prin ordin de ministru. De la înființare, în 1956, până în 1991, spitalul a fost administrat de nouă medici, iar ultimul dintre ei a condus orfelinatul-spital timp de 24 de ani.

La sfârșitul anilor 1980, schema de personal cuprindea 14 medici de specialitate, 109 cadre sanitare medii, 115 persoane – personal auxiliar, 12 angajați pe partea administrativă, 12 persoane care se ocupau de școală și 47 de muncitori.

Legendă: copii lăsați să moară pe câmp

De la înființarea spitalului-orfelinat, în 1956, până în 2001, au fost internați la Siret 8.586 de copii, din care au murit 1.500.

După cei 81 de copii decedați în 1981, numărul deceselor a scăzut în 1982 și 1983, după ce conducerea a decis să transfere foarte mulți copii.


În rândul personalului care a lucrat la Siret în perioada comunistă circulă legenda unui ordin venit de la conducerea Partidului Comunist, privind eliberarea rapidă a spitalului de o mare parte a acelor internaţi, ordin executat rapid la finele lunii noiembrie 1983. Registrul spitalului consemnează transferul a peste 750 de copii în numai câteva zile de la finele lunii noiembrie 1983. Foştii angajaţi susţin că o mare parte dintre copii, în special cei cu părinţi necunoscuţi, nu au ajuns la destinaţiile de transfer, fiind izolaţi pe un câmp şi lăsaţi să moară fără a fi înregistraţi, arată IICCMER.

Institutul precizează că nu a putut confirma informația, însă continuă verificările.

Urmează plângeri penale și pentru perioada 1956-1980 

IICCMER a precizat că va depune plângeri penale pentru tratamente neomenoase și pentru perioada 1956-1980, însă, ”având în vedere volumul mare de muncă, nu putem anticipa momentul în care acțiunile se vor concretiza”, ne-a transmis purtătoarea de cuvânt a Institutului.

În vara anului trecut, IICCMER a depus o altă plângere penală la Parchetul General, pentru tratamente neomenoase suferite de copiii internați în căminele-spital Cighid, Păstrăveni și Sighetu Marmației. Acolo, din 1973 până în 1990, au murit 771 de copii.  În acel caz, procurorii Parchetului General au început urmărirea penală in rem (pentru fapte).

When Love Changes Everything

The love and care of his adoptive parents changed the world for Alex Kuch, but he also gives credit to the University of Auckland, which “opened up so many opportunities” to learn and then to apply the knowledge he has gathered.

Alex Kuch, aged 18 months, with his adoptive parents.

The story of Alex Kuch, a recent University of Auckland graduate in Politics and International Relations, begins half a world away in an orphanage in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Given the basics of life but deprived of any affection, warmth, stimulation or love, Alex suffered from a condition called hospitalisation.

He habitually rocked, had no language and could not make eye contact with another human being.

His life changed forever when his adoptive parents Heidi and Walter Kuch rescued the 18-month-old and gave him a second chance at life in Germany, later relocating to New Zealand when Alex was 11, attracted by our education system.

“When I met Alex he was very quiet,” Walter says, as he recalls the “basic and overcrowded” institution where some 200 children were housed.

“He had a black mark on his cheek. We were told it was from another child who bit him when he tried to pinch an apple. There was not enough for them to eat so they fought over food. Alex couldn’t walk. Nobody cared for him.”

Walter bundled Alex up and took him to Bucharest for three nights while paperwork was finalised, while his new mother Heidi waited anxiously in Germany for their arrival.

“On the first morning in our hotel he woke up and I dressed him and he started rocking. That was a scary moment, it was a symptom of hospitalisation. We didn’t know if he would recover, but regardless I thought ‘he is our child and I will take him home’.”

After a few weeks in a loving home with responsive parents, the rocking stopped and never came back. But the long-term outlook for Alex was grim. A psychologist advised that he would never lead a normal life, complete high school, or have the social skills to integrate into society.

With the help of intensive speech and fine motor therapy, Alex walked at 22 months and began to talk around the age of five.

This year Alex completed a Bachelor of Arts degree and is now an accomplished public speaker, researcher and adoption advocate.

My parents weren’t going to let a prediction determine who I was going to become.

Alex Kuch

“My family is really proud of me, especially as I’m the first person in my family to have gone to university. It has been challenging; however the University has been very supportive. I had a writer for exams as I still have some fine motor challenges such as not being able to write neatly and quickly. But coming to university has opened up so many opportunities for me.”

Alex’s full list of achievements is lengthy and constantly growing. Standouts are speaking twice in Romania’s parliament, the first time when only 18 years old, being named a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year, and completing research looking at the experiences of adoptees.

He is also an advocate for re-opening Romania’s borders to international adoptions. After the overthrow of the Ceau?escu government in 1989, thousands of abandoned children were adopted by overseas families, but corruption was rife and the world’s attention was drawn to the terrible conditions. Romania closed its borders to international adoptions in 2001.

“Just because there have been bad instances, entire countries have closed international adoptions as a result.

It’s like saying just because a small proportion of a population has inflicted violence towards children then everyone should be prevented from having children. What we need is to develop better policies to protect children during the adoption process.”

To this end, Alex is helping to establish a framework for global adoption policies at the third Asia-Europe Foundation Young Leaders Summit on ethical leadership, and will work with other global adoption experts at the International Conference on Adoption Research in 2020 in Milan.

Alex Kuch, photographed recently with Frank- Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany.

He will also share his joint research with Dr Rhoda Scherman from AUT, which compiles the experiences of other adoptees published on the New Zealand based ‘I’m Adopted’ website.

“I’m Adopted is a place where adoptees from around the world can connect and share their stories,” says Alex. “With the permission of the adoptees, we have gone through dozens of stories to pull together the common themes of what adopted children go through. It’s valuable knowledge for agencies and families, for example knowing when to intervene or what to expect, and to provide better support.”

In an unusual twist in Alex’s own story, he met his birth mother three years ago on a live Romanian talk show.

Alex has visited Romania twice to advocate for reopening international adoptions, but has never sought to connect with his birth parents. While he was speaking on television about his advocacy work, the show’s producers blindsided him by bringing his birth mother and half siblings onto the stage.

“It could have been done more professionally, but things are a bit different over there,” Alex says.

“After I visited some orphanages and was then surprised by my biological family, I began to recall some visual impressions of my time in my orphanage. It was very emotional.”

Alex has chosen not to stay in contact with his birth mother.

“Why would I? I have a mother and father in New Zealand,” he says.

Heidi, his adoptive mother, says there was never an expectation that Alex would attend university. His younger brother Colin, also adopted from Romania two years after Alex, is more hands-on and has started a building apprenticeship.

“Alex just loves to learn. Once he learnt to talk, whoosh, it was like a waterfall that never stopped. He was always asking questions,” Heidi says.

“But we never put pressure on him to go to university. We just supported him in whatever he wanted to do. We didn’t spoil the boys or give them lots of toys, but we spent lots of precious time with them playing games and doing activities as a family.”

But Heidi says Alex was a challenging student and the German schooling system held him back.

“The New Zealand school system has been very good for Alex. When they discovered he was good at maths they pushed him, and then he was away.”

Alex was a top student at KingsWay School, on the Hibiscus Coast where he grew up.

Now back living in Europe, he has begun an internship with children’s rights and development organisation, Aflatoun International, based in the Netherlands. He also plans to return to Romania to continue to advocate for the re-opening of international adoptions, and is writing an autobiography chronicling his journey from the orphanage to New Zealand.

“Alex’s background, interests and experience will help us to scale up our focus on children that are living in alternative care and will have to stand on their own feet as they reach the age of 18,” says Roeland Monasch, director of Aflatoun International. “We want to make sure this specific group of children are empowered with these essential social and financial skills in order for them to be resilient and successful in their adult life. Alex will be a great resource for us.”

By Danelle Clayton

Ingenio: Spring 2018

This article appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Ingenio, the print magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Auckland.