Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gypsies and Adoption in Eastern Europa

Right now I'm in a small town called Levice, Slovakia, with my friend M who is originally from here and her American husband. We are traveling to different small towns, as well as the capital city Bratislava and Budapest, Hungary, but mostly we are visiting with her family. They are Gypsies, which--before meeting M--I had no idea was an ethnic group. Roma people (link might be funky from a Slovenska keyboard--go to Romani.org), originally descended Northern India and some say from early Egyptians (hence "Gyp" of "Gypsy"). Traditionally they are known as musicians, fortune tellers, bright-colored-clothing-clad travelers--literally "roamers"--and they have migrated all over E. Europe. Partly this migration is due to culture, but also because they are oppressed and shunned all over E. Europe. They are seen as dirty, uneducated thieves who will snatch your baby in the night and carry it away to the forest to be eaten. (That last part is folkloric, of course, but you can see the root of racism in there!)

Another problem is that the Roma people have no national identity, and no land to call their own. M often compares this to the plight of Palestinians. And because they are seen as lower than lower class and have no claim to national identity, they are very poor and have a hard time getting access to social services such as education, etc. Which just perpetuates the problem.

M and I have had several conversations about the continuing discrimination of Gypsies over here, how their oppression is related to the way blacks in the U.S. were treated until only a few decades ago.

Gypsy adoption
M and her husband want to adopt a Gypsy child from here, as you can guess there are many of them in orphanages all over Europe. (Someone once said that the problems of our societies are on display in our orphanages!) photo: waii.org

When my father was on a mission trip building an orphanage in Russia years ago, the children would flock to them at the end of the workday, wanting to play. One of the nuns approached Dad and said, "That one is Gypsy, so you don't need to play with him! Just ignore him."

Countries that have implemented the Hague Convention Treaty in their international adoption programs recognize the need for Gypsy children to find good homes. But it gets complicated to actually make it happen. You have to live in the country a certain amount of time before you can take a child, the paperwork process and screening can take years--the things we hear about all the time with adoption. It appears Bulgaria has tried to make the Gypsy adoption process easier, but that's several hundred miles from here. M and her husband haven't found an agency willing to work with them here or nearby in Hungary. It's a strange and distressing mystery. Does anyone know of an agency here? We know there are many Gypsy children waiting...

Thanks for any tips.


Adri said...

After I read your blog post, I came across this Shakira video. A different take on the whole thing, no?

Miss you. Hope you're having fun.



Anonymous said...

contact http://www.fod.cz/
its czech agency 4 adoption, but they probably have a contacts in slovakia

Adria said...

I have been reading article after article about people not wanting to adopt Roma children. Plus the horrible discrimination faced by pregnant Romani women, in the health care setting.

I am a student midwife, in the US, and recently I have begun researching the Romani culture. However, unbiased information seems hard to find. If you have any accurate resources, I would greatly appreciate them.

Also, do you by any chance know if there are any Romani midwives in Slovakia, Hungary, and surrounding countries?

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

my husband and i are interested in adopting a roma child and i am wondering how things turned out for your friends. were they successful in their attempts to adopt?

(and as someone who has studied race and gender as an undergrad and is in an interracial relationship i really appreciate your blog and its focus on intersectionality involving hair :)