I have been planning for a long time to write a post about adoption of abandoned Bulgarian Gypsy children by non-Gypsy Bulgarians and foreigners. (I prefer to call them Gypsy, not the politically correct Roma.) Gypsies in Bulgaria, as in other European countries, have always occupied the low end of the socio-economic ladder. They still have a high birth rate, many of the babies are unplanned and some of them are left in orphanages. And because the abandoned "white" non-disabled babies are fewer than the families seeking to adopt a child, the overwhelming majority of non-disabled children in Bulgarian orphanages are of Gypsy origin.
You can ask why the prospective "white" adoptive parents don't take these children as well. Essentially, the answer can be summarized by a confession that we white Bulgarians are damn racists. The former Communist government in the 1980s tried to integrate (as we would call it today) the Gypsies by denying their existence as an ethnic and cultural minority. The success of this pretence was zero, and from that time is the saddest story about racism I have ever heard. A childless couple from my city adopted a baby, allegedly without knowing that he was of Gypsy origin. In the beginning, everything was wonderful. The local diagnostic and medical center had a special wall to show photos of children best cared for, and the adopted boy had his image put on this parents' wall of fame. However, as he grew, his Gypsy appearance became apparent. For that reason, the adoptive parents decided they wanted him no more and left him back at the orphanage.
Traditionally, Bulgarian couples wishing to adopt tend to have unrealistically high requirements to the child being adopted. An employee at a child protection agency ironically described children wanted for adoption as "5-6 months old, healthy, beautiful, white, blonde, intelligent, having a university student as biological mother and, if possible, her professor as biological father".
Happily, things are changing and the same employee added that more and more white families not only take the chance to adopt a Gypsy child but later call to say how happy they are and offer their services to encourage other couples to adopt a Gypsy. Couples from other countries have less racial prejudice, but there is so much bureaucracy and obstacles to international adoption that too few children can benefit by it.
Recently, a family "indirectly known" to me adopted a Gypsy toddler. A friend was a bit worried and asked whether the child was predisposed to become a thief after growing up. I was happy to assure him that this has nothing to do with the biological ethnic origin. (I mentioned the case also in my Bulgarian blog.)
Another concern of prospective adoptive parents is that their child may never grow up to be close to their level of intelligence. This reason to worry is more legitimate. I do not believe that there are significant differences in IQ between different ethnic groups, but there are other possible factors affecting the intelligence of children available for adoption. These children may have had suboptimal prenatal development (a malnourished or even substance-abusing mother), they may have had a difficult birth, and they may be already damaged by their stay in an orphanage prior to the adoption. Anybody adopting any child, especially a child coming from a disadvantaged group such as the Gypsies, must prepare himself well for the possibility that he may never brag about the academic achievements of the child.
Of course, anybody deciding to become a parent must be ready for this possibility. People become parents for selfish reasons, for their own happiness, and always have an idealized image of the future child which must gradually be adjusted to reality. So, if a parent of a younger child tells me that his child, biological or adopted, has disappointed him, I could only say - welcome to the club!
However, there is a difference between birth and adoptive parents, and let's not trivialize it. Whatever our biological children bring to us, we still see "our blood" in them. In adoption, spirit triumphs over biology. And when a white person adopts a child, he needs a bigger heart if the child is Gypsy. He has to come to terms with the fact that his baby is so much unlike him. He has to face his own prejudice, conscious and subconscious. And if he lives in Bulgaria or another East-European country, he knows that he must also confront the racist society, stand up for his child and teach the child to stand up for himself. Therefore, I admire those white people who adopt abandoned Gypsy children. They and their children are trailblazers who, I hope, will in the coming years catalyze the integration of the entire Gypsy community.