by Ashleigh Elson
Click here to listen to the report.
So, what rights do children caught up in crisis situations have? We asked Roelie Post. She worked for the European Commission on the reform of Romania’s child protection for many years and is the author of Romania: For Export Only.
Roelie Post holds a baby in a Romanian baby home that housed 300 infants. The home has scince been closed down with EU funding and the children were re-integrated into their own families, placed in foster care, or adopted by Romanian families.
Ms Port wasn’t surprised to hear about the Zoe’s Ark situation and compared it with the international adoptions that happened during the tsunami crisis in 2005. She says “Children should be helped in their own country.”
Many people believe that Zoe’s Ark has the best of intentions, but Roelie Post says she’s heard this argument before:
“NGOs create this wrong image of children in poor countries, saying that they are abandoned orphans and that they need to be rescued. Most of the children – including in Darfur – have at least one parent, have extended family, and are part of a community. They are not orphans, they are not abandoned and therefore they should not be rescued.”
According to Ms Post, there aren’t actually many true orphans. In cases where war and HIV/AIDS have left children without parents, the children are usually looked after by relatives and by their community.
Roelie Post (right) speaking during a conference on children’s rights in Bucharest.
“This is where the support should go – to helping local communities look after the real orphans. And not what a lot of NGOs are doing, setting up orphanages and taking children out of their communities and villages. That makes children vulnerable, it isn’t a good way to live.”
“And from there often comes the suggestion that children would be better off in another country in a nice family. But experience worldwide has shown – and the international community has always agreed – that children are best off in their own surroundings.”
Roelie Post says, based on her experience in Romania with people who were involved with international adoption, she’s not optimistic that the Zoe’s Ark people are as naive as they might seem.
“One must not forget that there is an enormous demand for children in the western world by people who want to adopt. And this market is demand-driven… One should really wonder if this is the right way to go and how far people are innocent.”