Romania Reborn; 8 Things You Should Know About Romania’s Child Welfare System

8 Things You Should Know about Romania’s Child Welfare System

ARFOreportcover.jpg

In November 2017, the Romania Without Orphans Alliance (ARFO) published its annual report on the condition of children living in Romania’s child welfare system. An English-language version came out in January.

The 24-page report—beautifully designed with photos, charts, data, and analysis—provides a devastating look at the state’s care for parentless children. We’re quite proud of this body of work as a reflection on ARFO, which we helped found, and which our supporters have helped fund.

Here are eight quick takeaways from the report;

1. Child abandonment is an ongoing and serious problem.

Although Romania’s population is declining, the number of children entering its child welfare system has stayed steady at around 10,000 per year. ARFO uses government data to show that it’s not just poor areas driving this problem. The capital counties of Bucharest-Ilfov made the top-10 list for both numbers of children in the system and for percentage of children in institutions. One sector of Bucharest had an alarming 59% of children in its system housed in institutions.

2. Most children who enter the system remain there until adulthood.

Of the 10,000 children abandoned each year, around 6,000 will stay in state care. “On paper, Romania’s Child Protection System offers a child temporary intervention until they are reintegrated into their biological family, or placed in an adoptive family,” ARFO president Liviu Mihaileanu writes. “In reality, this ‘temporary intervention’ usually lasts until they become an adult.”

3. Adoptions are all too rare.

A chart from the ARFO report shows the decline in adoption.

In 2016, only 788 children were adopted in Romania—a mere 1.3% of children in the system. This was the second-lowest number on record since at least 2000, but numbers are abysmal across the board. ARFO cites an anti-adoption bias from many state workers, who look askance at the practice of putting children in legal placement with families who want to adopt them.

A chart from the ARFO report shows the decline in adoption.

4. Even when families are available, the state keeps children in orphanages.

State workers often view children in orphanages as “solved cases,” with no further intervention or family placement needed. Sometimes they actively fight the removal of children from institutions. The ARFO report contains a firsthand account from one NGO worker who requested to take a child from an orphanage into placement. Not only was she denied, but her NGO’s work at the orphanage was threatened.

A 2016 law requires the government to declare abandoned children legally adoptable after 6-12 months, depending on circumstances. Yet this law is simply being ignored by case managers. Over a year later, only 1.5% of the children in Romania’s institutions have been declared adoptable.

Adoptability stats from the ARFO report. The number of adoptable children in institutions is especially troubling, given how clearly institutionalization is proven to harm children.

Adoptability stats from the ARFO report. The number of adoptable children in institutions is especially troubling, given how clearly institutionalization is proven to harm children.

“Case managers usually work for the same local government agency that is receiving funds to house the children,” ARFO notes. “Therefore, one may conclude that such a practice is intentional to secure staff and funding.” ARFO calls for legal sanctions against workers who fail to carry out the law, and who misinform and intimidate families seeking to remove children from institutions.

5. Children suffer from moves within the system.

ARFO decries the trauma of moving children in state care from place to place. They are especially concerned about the practice of placing children in foster families until age 3, then moving them to orphanages. Under Romanian law, no child under 3 may be placed in an institution, so the government often “rotates out” children when they get older. ARFO recommends a ban on moving a child from family care to an institution, except in exceptional circumstances.

ARFO5years.jpg

6. The state has no minimum standards governing family placement.

The government was supposed to publish standards in 2012 for family placement, the practice where children are placed with an unpaid foster family or birth relatives. Five years later, there are still no standards. Failing to evaluate and oversee children placed with birth relatives is dangerously negligent. ARFO recommends that the state create minimum standards as quickly as possible.

7. The state holds charities to strict standards its own agencies don’t meet.

The report notes: “While NGOs are not permitted to function in Romania without a license, only 17% of public social services are licensed. The rest function without meeting the minimum standards that all NGOs must meet to provide the same services.” ARFO decries the state’s monopoly over child welfare, where NGOs’ contracts can be canceled at will. The report calls for greater cooperation between the state and charities.

8. A number of positive developments have laid the groundwork for change.

ARFOadopterschart.jpg

It’s not all bad news. First, the number of families certified to adopt is rising (currently over 2,600 families), indicating a growing interest in adoption. Second, the state has developed a list of “hard-to-place” children, allowing prospective families to view their profiles, which humanizes the process and encourages adoption of hard-to-place children. Third, the growing number of adoptions to Romanians abroad could provide the foundation for re-opening intercountry adoption. With real reforms, Romania could do much better for its children.

Support the work of ARFO by giving to our “Romania Without Orphans” fund.

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; http://www.thepromisekept.co 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

Asociatia Catharsis Brasov- Registered Adoption Agency. Preparing Parents to Adopt

Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Brasov, Romania.

From 15 to 29 July this year, together with the Directorate-General for social assistance and the protection of the rights of the child, we organised the third course of this year, to prepare families who want to adopt a child. We are glad that other 13 families of brașoveans are prepared to receive a baby from romanians in their lives.

For three weeks, the participants received detailed information about abandoned children, about abandonment issues, about the biological family, and in particular about the role of foster foster family. This time, I put the emphasis on children with hard profiles and their needs.

The theme, well-structured in three sessions, was supported by an interdisciplinary team composed of Alina Bedelean, Cathy Ross and ioana lepădatu, clementina trofin and silvia tișcă – social workers, Eva Pirvan-Szekely, lawyer. I also invited the adoptive parents, who opened their soul and shared the learners aspects of their experience.

At the same time as the theoretical knowledge of the role of a parent, which lasts three weeks, the psychological and social evaluation is also done. All these procedures take 90 days, after which the cursanții will receive the family attestation fit to adopt one or more children.
Currently in brasov, more than 100 families want to adopt a child and their number is increasing. We hope so that our efforts to provide a family of their own and permanent to an eligible child will contribute to the higher interest of abandoned children, to say mommy… Daddy… Home…

The training, and development of parental capacities this year are financially supported by our traditional partner, onlus Oikos Italia, President, Don Eugenio Battaglia.

Asociatia Catharsis Brasov

Asociatia Catharsis Brasov

As of January 2005, when the current adoption law came into force, the number of national adoptions dropped sharply from 1.422 in 2004 to 313 in 2016, and the number of international adoptions dropped from 251 in 2004 to 2 in 2006, one in 2007, 8,, 10, 11, 12, 12 At the same time, it increased the number of abandoned children from 44.000 in 2004 to 70.000 in 2010. Irony. Although it increased the number of families qualified to adopt one or more children, there were very few national adoptions. It also increased the interest of romanians established abroad for adoption of a child. But adoption law allowed international adoption only to grandparents residing abroad. That’s just so they don’t make international adoptions! No grandfather has ever adopted an abandoned nephew, not even in Romania. In addition, adoption sets between the child and the foster family, an affectionate connection, while between grandpa and child there is already a blood link. We’ve managed, hard, very hard to replace grandparents with third-degree relatives, then four and the result of adoption was still zero. Hard, unimaginably hard to obtain the right of romanians abroad for adoption. We had to fight the legislature, because the number of romanians residing abroad was always growing. And I did. Children’s drama harassed by foster homes after growing up in foster families and the statistical data provided by the Romanian media gave us the courage to start the adoption crusade. And we’ve managed with other ngos to amend three times the articles that have made the national adoption difficult, but we haven’t yet here the international adoption-only chance for sick children in an adoption family. Still no international adoptions. The Romanian state still prefers institutionalisation instead of the foster family. The adoption law still humiliates romanians who make extraordinary efforts to adopt a child. Of the total 57.581 children, only 3250 are adoption. And 5 children were adopted international last year, although it was adoption 534. The adoption law humiliates families of romanians in the country and abroad who want to adopt, destroy dreams and kill hope. For impossible reasons, adoption law makes the lives of romanians who want to adopt the future of abandoned children. Romanian abroad are required by law, article 3, to leave her husband alone at home, to give up work and income and a comfortable life with her husband, whether it is all romanian or foreign .. The future mothers were bound by the law of adoption to live effectively and continuously 12 months in Romania, before submitting the adoption request. Many ladies got sick, depressed and gave up. The loser was the kid, and the family, and the state, but nobody cares! I asked for the repeal of article 3 that provides such nonsense. Instead of being repealed, this article has been amended, reduce to 6 months in the territory of Romania… Crazy… and a lot of other bullshit calls for adoption law three times in the last 8 years. For example: Romanians are obliged to make a statement that they have lived effectively and continuously in Romania, before submitting their adoption application!!! Another 90 days, three months, must stay in the country to Participate in the parenting class, the evaluation procedures. After, he has to stay a while to sign the psycho-Social Evaluation Report, the last document required to get the statement. Then get the certificate. And there goes the year. After obtaining the statement, families are registered in the national adoption registry, after which, there is a very long wait, which sometimes leads to even quitting. What sadness, such disappointment, only the Romans know. And all that while tens of thousands of abandoned children want a family.

U.N.I.C.E.F in Romania-Adoption Procedures

Increased chances of new family for ‘hard to place’ children

The number of forms to be processed was halved, some of which were simplified
Today, 17 August 2016, the National Authority for the Protection of Child Rights and Adoption (NAPCRA), with the support of UNICEF in Romania, held a media briefing on the recent changes and additions to Law 273/2004 regarding adoption procedures and related methodological norms.
The event was attended by: Ms. Oana Țoiu, Secretary of State/Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and the Elderly, Ms. Gabriela Coman, President of the National Authority for the Protection of Child Rights and Adoption, and Ms. Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF Representative in Romania, as well as representatives of local and central authorities involved in the adoption process.
Any child’s place is with a family and it is our duty to do everything we can to speed up and simplify the process through which more and more children in state care are placed with a loving and protecting family. This is what we have been aiming to accomplish through the recent regulations – eliminating any red tape that could hinder the adoption process for children and any forms that could challenge a family’s hopes for a quick onset of the adoption procedure. I would like to thank all those who contributed throughout the law amendment process and I believe that it is worth all our efforts to provide children who have no home with the chance to enjoy parental love”, said Gabriela COMAN, NAPCRA President.
During the meeting, participants tackled the main revisions to the law, such as: the number of forms used in the adoption procedure was reduced by half (whether by taking them out completely or combining them) while some of the forms retained were simplified, the mandatory requirement to submit workplace references was dropped, the mandatory requirement for adopting parents to submit the full documentation when lodging their adoption request was also dropped, and a profile of the ‘hard to place’ child was introduced in order to increase the chances of finding these children a home.
We commend Romania for improving its legislation on child adoption, including through innovative measures like introducing the profile of ‘hard to place’ children. UNICEF will continue to support NAPCRA in its development of services at local level to prevent child-family separation, such as the Minimum Package of Services”, said Sandie BLANCHET, UNICEF Representative in Romania.
To date, in our country, there are around 58,000 children in child care, of which 3,250 are adoptable. 46% of the adoptable children are aged between 7 and 13, and more than 21% have some form of disability.

The New Zealander Who Went Through Hell To Adopt

http://www.romania-insider.com/new-zealander-adoption-comunism-romania-adele-rickerby-promise/158933/

By Diana Mesesan.

The New Zealander who went through post-communism hell twenty-five years ago to adopt a Romanian baby.

Adele wrote in her memoir, ”The Promise I Kept”; You wake up one morning to the sound of history knocking loudly, impatiently, persistently at your door. To answer it is to take a leap of faith into your future.

 

Adele Rickerby went through the hell of early post-communism to adopt a girl from Romania.

As the plane was flying over Brisbane, an Australian city set on a wide, beautiful river, one of the mothers gathered at the playgroup pointed out to the plane and told her little daughter: “We came on a plane like this one when we returned from Romania.”

The woman was one of Australians who adopted a kid from Romania in the early 90s. Several people living in Brisbane, whose kids were born in Romania, started a playgroup, so that the children would get together regularly. They’ve never kept it a secret from them that they were adopted.

Adele Rickerby, a New Zealander who moved to Australia after she got married, would also bring her daughter to these playgroups. She felt like she had a special bond with the couples that went through the same experience. They were an extended family for each other. For Adele, adopting a child from Romania was not an event from the past that simply went forgotten as years went by. Instead she would think every single day about her six weeks in Bucharest in the early spring of 1991, as she was struggling to adopt a baby girl. After she semi-retired, due to a surgery on her back, she found the peace and time to sit at a table and write down her thoughts. This is how “The Promise I Kept”, her book on adopting a baby girl from Romania, was born.

Romania allowed international adoptions until 2001, when it placed a moratorium on the practice. It officially banned these adoptions four years later. But even domestic adoptions go through only with great difficulty. Last year, only 840 children were adopted in Romania, despite that fact that the country had over 58,100 children in the special protection system at the end of March this year. The big problem lies in the complicated laws which define when a child is “adoptable.”

Adele Rickerby herself had to overcome a number of limitations to adopt the baby, she tells me during our first Skype discussion. Her voice is very warm and a bit nervous. It is the end of summer here in Bucharest, but the beginning of spring in Australia. Her Romanian-born daughter, who is now in her 20s, helped her install Skype. Adele laughed about it. “I have a reputation for being bad with technology.”

When Adele came to Romania to adopt the baby, after she had seen the terrible images of Romanians kids in orphanages, it was late winter. Bucharest, which had just come out of the Communism era, was gray and felt unsafe. Many kids were sold illegally in those early days of freedom, and the rumours about a moratorium were everywhere. Adele was afraid that she would not be able to get through with the adoption. But spring was slowly making its way.

April 1991: The winter train ride between Budapest and Bucharest

In April 1991, Adele Rickerby took the plane from Australia to Frankfurt. She had a luggage full of documents, which were necessary for the adoption. Back in Brisbane, she left her 6-year old daughter, which she hugely missed, and her husband. Their marriage was kind of falling apart. She was planning to take the plane from Frankfurt to Romania, but when she arrived in Germany, there were no free seats for that weekend. Instead of waiting a few days for the next flight, she booked a train from Germany, which passed through Austria, Hungary and then reached Romania. She had this strong sense of urgency, that she needed to get faster to Bucharest.

Everything went well through Germany and Austria. However, soon after the border with Hungary, Hungarian soldiers got on the train and asked for her passport. Then they ordered her off the train and threw her luggage out of the window. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and she didn’t wasn’t sure where she was.

Adele had no choice but to get off the train, and the train left without her. “I was just standing there in the afternoon, not knowing what was going on.” She went to the wooden train station and waited. Then a man who spoke English and was well-dressed approached her and told her that he was the local taxi driver. He could help her get a visa for Hungary, then take her to the train station in Budapest so she’d catch the same train. “We will get to the border and we will get a visa for you. The same train leaves Hungary at nine o’clock at night. I will make sure you are there on time,” the man told her. She then paid 350 dollars to this stranger to drive her across Hungary. She had the feeling that the man and the soldiers which got her off the train knew each other and were part of a scheme. But what could she do about it?

“I got in the taxi. It was getting dark and we started to drive through the back streets of this village. Where are we going, I asked him. I need to get petrol, he replied, which was fair enough. I had no choice but to trust him.” She sat in the back of the car. The man started talking about his wife and family, while Adele was looking out of the window. The Hungarian villages and town they were driving through looked particularly disheartening in the dim winter light. After she finished her nursing training in Australia, Adele did a lot of travelling around the continent with her husband. “I was like, I’ve done a lot of travelling, I can cope, but nothing could prepare me for the shock of Hungary and Romania.”

It was just getting darker and colder, but they made it and arrived at the railway station at Budapest. They found an empty carriage, the man threw her suitcases and her sleeping bag, and then he left. Within 15 minutes the train left too.

She spent all night just travelling the rest of the way into Bucharest. It was very dark, and every time the train passed through a little town, officials would get on the train, come to her carriage, look at her passport, at her visa, then go through her luggage, searching for contraband.

“We’d go through villages that were very poor; a light bulb in this village, a soldier with a rifle just walking on the platform. It was still a lot of snow on the ground, the end of winter; a peasant man’s jacket made out of of sheep’s skin.”

At about 8 o’clock, when the train was getting closer to Bucharest and Adele was tidying up her belongings, taking her sleeping bag off, three well-dressed man came into her carriage. One of them was an engineer for the railway station and was on his way to a meeting. He could speak English and asked her was what she doing there. “I said I was adopting a baby girl.”

She remembers the main saying: “Our country is poor, but our hearts are rich.” Then the train finally arrived at the Gara de Nord railway station. It was early in the morning.

May 1991: The promise
The only person Adele knew in Bucharest was a Catholic woman called Mihaela, who had hosted other couples from the US, New Zealand and Australia willing to adopt babies from Romania. Adele knew that going through the whole process would take about six weeks. The law gave the adoptive mother the opportunity to change her mind within this period. She was planning to do the adoption as a New Zealander, because the Australian Department of Immigration had rejected her request to adopt from Romania.

She phoned Mihaela, who was in holiday, but luckily hadn’t left Bucharest, so she picked Adele up from the railway station. After so many hours of uncertainty and fear, Adele felt desperate for a shower, a hot meal and conversation with English-speaking people. She found another couple from Australia in Mihaela’s house. Adele wrote in a diary during her six-week stay in Bucharest, describing her experiences. It later became the source of her book “The Promise I Kept.”

In those speculative days after the fall of communism, Romania had several people who worked as intermediaries between foreigners wanting to adopt kids and state institutions. Some were willing to intermediate sales of children. With 20,000 dollars one could buy a baby on the black market. Some were decent people, who spoke English and grabbed the opportunity to make some money. The man who helped Adele get through all the process was a doctor, who was well-educated and spoke English. She paid him a small fee. But these go-between persons weren’t the only ones asking for cash. Sometimes even the birth mothers would demand money, even if they had given up their children. However, Adele didn’t go through that. The mother of the girl she adopted was a very young girl herself, living in a small apartment in Ramnicu Valcea, with her parents, a brother and a sister. They had no money and no way of supporting the newly-born kid. It was also the stigma attached to being a single mother. Poverty and the blame passed on to single mothers forced many women to abandon their children during communism and afterwards.

Adele met the mother and her family in their apartment, where they had a meal. It was very emotional for both parts. Adele thinks that maybe the grandparents were even more distressed about the whole thing, because they understood the enormity of it, while the mother was still very young. But the girl did tell Adele that she wanted her daughter to have a future, so Adele promised her she’d give her daughter a future. “And that’s the promise I kept,” she said. “25 years later, the daughter is very beautiful, has a wonderful partner. She is a pharmacy assistant, and she has a lovely family and home.”

Then she met her future daughter, who was in an orphanage. A nurse held the baby up to the window. “She was four-month old and she was really cute,” Adele said. The judge, who had the final word on the adoption, said yes, and Adele finally had the little girl in her arms.

The Mother
One year after returning to Australia, Adele divorced and had to raise her two daughters by herself. “I had whole sentences that I wanted to write down, but I was really busy and I didn’t have the opportunity.” But two years ago, she had to give up work, due to a surgery on her back. She rented a little unit and went away by herself for several months to write her book. It was really difficult revisiting the whole experience, she said. “It was one stage where I couldn’t finish it. And I had to leave it for about 6 weeks before I ended it.”

After she finished the book, Adele was approached during book launches by Romanian adoptees, who didn’t understand why they were left and abandoned.

Several Romanian kids who were given for adoption are now trying to find their families. There are even Facebook groups, where they share their experiences. The media has immediately picked up the topic, searching for emotional stories. But for some of the adoptees, this can be a traumatic experience. They discover all sorts of terrible situations and they are tormented by the question of why they were given up for adoption. “They are trying to pull their lives together but in the meantime they also feel this burden of responsibility towards their birth families,” Adele said. Her own daughter was once approached by a newspaper interested in her experience. But she said no. “I’m not gonna do that so that they’re gonna have a story.”

Adele lives with her Romanian-born daughter, so she still gets to hear “Mom, can you do my washing?” or “What’s for dinner tonight, mom?”. The girl works a lot, but she has Fridays off and they go out and have coffee together. Her older daughter now lives in another city, but not too far away.

Adele shares a very close bond with the other adoptive couples from Brisbane. They’ve organized trainings about adoption, they’ve set up this playgroups for kids, they’ve spent Christmas together over the years. Adele was once talking with a couple from England, who also lived in Brisbane. “When do you get over Romania?” they asked themselves. “But you can’t get over Romania. You can’t have an experience like that and not change your life. You can’t live superficially,” Adele said.

Adele has now been living in Australia for 30 years. She is not very close to her family in New Zealand. “My mother died when I was not even 13. I don’t think we were close when we were growing up. I like to say that mothers have a glue that bind us together and when my mother died, the family fell apart. I think that’s the truth,” Adele says. Then she pauses for a while, and adds: “Maybe that’s why it meant so much to me to adopt a child. I know what it’s like not to have a mother.”

 

” The Promise I Kept” is available as a kindle edition from your Amazon.com store. https://www.amazon.com

 

Also available as a paperback from the Book Depository. https://www.bookdepository.com

 

 

Current concepts of Identity Outdated- by Alex Kuch

Current Concepts of Identity Outdated, by Alex Kuch

Adoption is a complex process and one of the most complex challenges around adoptions is the identity of an individual. Ideas around identity in adoptions have a variety of views, even international recognized institutions such a UNICEF and The United Nations  have taken on views in which they suggest that especially identity is limited to the geographical place of birth of an individual, hence in the (Declaration of the Rights of the Child,1959). Hence those organizations as a whole chose to interpret all 10 articles, those children needing to stay in their country of birth. They view identity as a static concept, whereas identity is socially constructed and is formed by the individual and the interactions with others over time.

This socio – autobiography will analyse how concepts of identity especially the looking glass self, the Me and I and racializing  and how social forces have shaped me to be the person I am now and it will investigate the sociological importance of the concepts.

Charles Horton came up in his paper (Cooley, 1902) with the concept of the self-looking  glass. It contains three key concepts; one imagines how one appears to another person.  I on a personal level can definitely relate to that, especially due to my Roma or informally known as Gypsy ethnicity, which gives me a darker skin tone. As a result of this I imagine that most people who see me the first time that due to my appearance will think that I am  from one of the following countries, the Middle East, India, Mexico or Spain or other countries which are considered to be ofmy skin tone. This is supported in various latest researchers such as (Perkins, K, 2014) how first and second immigrants felt in the United States.

Also one imagines how others judge ones  appearance.  Everyone does this and especially people who are marginalised in society. This happens across cultures and times.

I personally have experienced how I imagined others would judge me, after having been on Romanian national TV and talking about my life’s story and forgiving my biological mother for abandoning me. I expected them to be shocked about my behaviour because I behaved in a way that was counter-culture. Studies (Tice, D, 1992) have shown that behaviour in public had greater- effect on how one imagines the self and the anticipation of further public encounters  increased the internalization. This certainly was the case for me.

But I didn’t imagine that people would instead also find some form of comfort in my actions, especially those who had abandoned their children and given them to the orphanages, there were numerous instances where older people in the public expressed this to me. In research, it has been shown that how others are viewed and judged effects how they feel about that perceived judgment (Shrauger, J, 1979) & (Aken, M, 1996).

Also as a result of the perceived judgment it affects the way one feels about themselves, I certainly can say that I felt really overwhelmed at how the people of Romania judged me in such a positive way and to some degree even gave me celebrity/ saint status, such as people asking to speak to me in public and having a photograph taken with me. As mentioned above research confirms  that the more public interaction and the anticipation of this increases the internalization hence it also increases the way one would feel about the perceived judgment (Tice, D, 1992)

These kinds of events don’t just happen to me as an individual but happen to other people as well that have been in similar situations, despite being influenced by different social forces and across different time periods.

The concept of the looking glass self-has enormous sociological importance, especially in my example how adoptees feel about themselves as a result of the perceived judgment of others, hence a very basic argument can be made that society should be informed about adoptions and how people especially should be spoken to for all parties involved and how it can affect and make the people feel. A very recent study (Eriksson, P, 2015) shows that adoptive parents are really satisfied with pre-adoption education and while adoption occurred and it is a very vital process.

George Herbert Mead in (Mead, G, 1982) came up with concepts of the Me and the I, The ‘I’ is a person’s independent part that operates before an individual is aware that there is the world outside of their own self. The ‘me’ is as a result of the influence of other people in society.

For me personally I started to be aware that there is the  world outside my own self at the age of 4 years.  Research (Bloch, H, 1990) shows that the age this happens at is 2 years but starts from the age the person is born until they are 5 years old.  However (Cooley, 1902) argues that individuals imagine how their self-appearance is judged by others, but this clearly is not the case for children under the age of 2 but varys of course and they don’t imagine how their appearance is judged and hence don’t have a perceived feeling of this judgment. This can be clearly seen by young children because in general on their own they don’t judge one another and don’t feel judged. I personally can say that at the age before one is aware of the world outside their self. However after the age of 2 the Me in an individual as (Mead, G, 1982) states is a result of the influences of other people in society. I personally definitely can say that for myself I was more influenced by family and close friends the older I got. This is also  confirmed by (Cooley, 1902) that, we imagine how others view, judge one’s appearance and, as a result have a perceived feeling about the judgment made on a person.

Racialization is a common practice and we all have experienced it and done it ourselves.  (Matthewman, S, 2013) defines racialization as ‘The process through which ideas and beliefs about race, together with class and gender, shape social relationships; in other words the social construction of race.” Or (Matthewman, S, 2013) defines racialisation as, “A social process by which ‘a group is classified as a race and defined as a problem”

I have many times experienced racialization especially that people often judge where I am from on my physical appearance and people are really shocked when I tell them that I am from Europe and adopted from Romania by German parents. There are these differences in terms of race and ethnicity.

.

Race Ethnicity
Inherited – Physical Learned – Social
Scientific Subjective
Seen Felt
Projected Chosen
Classification Identity
Fixed Fluid
Colonialism Post-colonialism

The above table shows some key differences between Race and Ethnicity.

An overall key feature is that ethnicity is fluid and dynamic; however a lot of international organisations argue that an international adoption (inter-country adoptions) damages the adoptee’s identity. However, a person’s identity doesn’t depend on the country of birth but one factor such as what he has learned growing up and a person’s identity keeps changing and developing during their life.

Even people can have multiple or even mix ethnicities hence I can call myself a Romanian, German, New Zealander (Kiwi) and until recently this year I wouldn’t consider Romania one of my ethnicities but dramatic events such as being confronted with my biological family but even more inspecting orphanages and mental institutions gave me  greater insights into Romanian’s past and present and shaped my personal identity.

The concept of racializing has vast sociological importance because we all judge others on numerous factors, such as ethnicity, religious beliefs and appearance. As a result of this certain perceptions take prominence and give rise to power of people asserting themselves over others. An example of this for me was that when I was adopted, one uncle said “You are adopting Alex, how don’t you know that he will not become a thief/ criminal” that was racialization because I was from Romania and would be adopted, which had and still has a bad stigma in regards to crime. Despite having been myself to Romania numerous times in various parts, I have never experienced any crimes and been treated with the utmost respect.

Hence in summary identity is a complex concept especially in Adoptions.  However the arguments from institutions like the United Nations and especially UNICEF that inter-country adoptions causes’ damage to identity due to a person leaving their country of birth is a very racially based point of view and views identity as fixed. However identity consist of so much more such as discussed earlier the Me and I, the individual self and the influence of the self by society. The looking glass self concept where the views, perception and judgments of others affects the ways an individual feels about him or herself.

Something that would be good to investigate would be for those organizations to do more qualitative and Quantitative research into how actually institutions in my case orphanages, effects children or to look at existing research because they are not permanent solutions for children in the long term.

As well that racialization is very critical and these institutions often argue that certain ethnicities are more problematic than others however it is not the ethnicities, but the way individuals were treated; hence their personal experiences which form their identity, which often were of a psychological and physical nature.

Hence overall for me my identity has been affected by adoption but it has expanded my personal experiences and actually allows me to interact better with people of different ethnicities, due to my range of experiences.

Word count: 1619 

References 

Aken, M., Lieshout, A., & Haselager, G. (1996). Adolescents’ competence and the mutuality of their self-descriptions and descriptions of them provided by others. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 25(3), 285-306.

Bloch, H., & Bertenthal, B. I. (1990). Sensory-Motor Organizations and Development in Infancy and Early Childhood Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Sensory-Motor Organizations and Development in Infancy and Early Childhood Chateu de Rosey, France (NATO ASI series. Series D, Behavioural and social sciences; 56). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Cooley, & Aut. (1922). Human Nature and the Social Order.

Eriksson, P., Elovainio, M., Mäkipää, S., Raaska, H., Sinkkonen, J., & Lapinleimu, H. (2015). The satisfaction of Finnish adoptive parents with statutory pre-adoption counselling in inter-country adoptions. European Journal of Social Work, 18(3), 412-429.

Matthewman, S., West-Newman, Catherine Lane, & Curtis, Bruce. (2013). Being sociological (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mead, G., & Miller, David L. (1982). The individual and the social self : Unpublished work of George Herbert Mead. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Perkins, K., Wiley, S., Deaux, K., & Zárate, Michael A. (2014). Through Which Looking Glass? Distinct Sources of Public Regard and Self-Esteem Among First- and Second-Generation Immigrants of Color. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20(2), 213-219

Shrauger, J., Schoeneman, T., & Hernstein, R .j. (1979). Symbolic interactionist view of self-concept: Through the looking glass darkly. Psychological Bulletin,86(3), 549-573.

Tice, D., & Miller, Norman. (1992). Self-Concept Change and Self-Presentation: The Looking Glass Self Is Also a Magnifying Glass. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(3), 435-451.

United Nations General Assembly Session 14 Resolution 1386Declaration of the Rights of the Child A/RES/1386(XIV) 20 November 1959. Retrieved 2015-10-29.