Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Gypsy adoption

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.


Liam said...

Thank you for your thoughts. As a roma living in the US, I am quite lucky to not have to deal with the same level of bigotry and racism that so many of my friends and family have to face each day in the EU.

I hope that your words help set at ease potential adoptive parents, and give these children a chance.

I know you say you prefer to call us gypsy, rather than the politically correct term, Roma. But we really do prefer roma. It's not just PC...

Nais tuke! (thank you)

sarah said...

I have two Romanian adopted boys, both special needs, one Gypsy. God has blessed me with caring for my sons. My Gypsy boy is profoundly retarded from neglect. This sadness is perennial and is motivating me to become a psychologist for adopted / foster children. God is turning my misery over their losses into ministry. Gaby does not suffer in vain, Sarah

Vintage Astrid said...

I loved your post. I'm in Canada and have been looking at my adoption options. Do you know of any groups that deal in Roma adoptions? I would love to adopt a rom child (Roma/Gypsy are my field of study and I have a passion for their history, culture and society).

Maya M said...

I don't know any groups especially for this purpose, but all adoption agencies are aware that Roma/Gypsy children predominate among those available for adoption. Bulgarian Ministry of Justice is responsible for the procedure. When you register, you'll have to submit a questionnaire about what child you want, including racial traits. Unfortunately, foreign citizens are allowed to adopt only children who have been refused by 3 prospective Bulgarian adoption parents. This means that the child will be likely to be older and behind in development because of the long institutionalization, even if he has had no inborn disabilities.

Anonymous said...

I am a roma and am looking to adopt a roma gypsy boy please pen monga ki sy lov yek

Roza said...

Why do YOU prefer to call US Gypsies, a term that has caused US nothing but abuse, rather than respect OUR voices when WE ask YOU not to?

It's not 'political correctness' it's simple human decency.

Maya M said...

If you think that it is the term that creates abuse, I am afraid you are in denial about the real problems.
"Roma" is used in formal language but sounds artificially in most instances of informal language, for the simple reason that it IS artificial. Not to mention that it is easy to confuse with Rome and Romania.

Andrew E. Mathis said...

Hello, Maya,

I looked for an e-mail address to which to write on your blog but did not find one. Would you please drop me a line? I'd like to discuss this topic with someone who seems to be knowledgeable.


Maya M said...

Hi Andrew,
I wouldn't say that I am really knowledgeable, but here is my e-mail: mayamarkov at gmail dot com.

Ashley said...

Your post is wonderful. I am a gypsy (Roma) living in the US as well. I know that this idea may be a little out of reach, but I am hoping I can find the right people to help me get this together. I would like to start an organization that places unwanted gypsy children with gypsy's in the United States. THis is going to be a hard task because of rules and regulations, but I think that it is worth attempting. I have literally over 300-400+ family members and I know that we are not the only family in the states. If any one is interested in talking about this idea please message me via Facebook.

Maya M said...


I do not use Facebook so I post here:

Under Bulgarian law, the institution responsible for international adoptions is the Ministry of Justice. Check these Web pages:

Prospective adoptive parents like you must be represented by an "accredited body", i.e. an organization licensed to mediate international adoption - "accredited entity for mediation in intercountry adoption". One such accredited body which works with US adoptive parents is the Association for International Adoption and Reintegration (AMOR):

Please keep in mind that Bulgarian children are allowed to be adopted internationally only after 3 prospective Bulgarian adoptive parents have been offered and refused to accept them, so the child, unfortunately, is likely to have disabilities even if this is not formally indicated.

Also, being left young in an orphanage, they are not expected to remember much from their parents' culture.

Here is a blog of a lady who has adopted a girl from Bulgaria:

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I know this is an older blog but WACAP out Renton WA works with Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. Many of the children matched are of Roma or Gypsy decent.
Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

I am also taken aback by your use of the term "Gypsy". The Roma refer to themselves as "Roma" (check their anthem "Djelem, djelem"). I find it disrespectful to insist on calling them by a name that they find offensive and that is etymologically incorrect (they don't come from Egypt). Do you also call African-Americans "Negroes"? After all, it only means "black"...

Why not respect their wishes?


Maya M said...

I sometimes do use "Roma", particularly in formal context. But I do not use it where it simply does not fit and makes the entire text ridiculous.
Correcting the way you talk because of wishes of other people carries the usual perils of substituting other people's judgement for your own.
It is true that "Gypsy" is inaccurate. "Rom", however, will be inaccurate in 50% of cases, because, if sources available to me are correct, it can be appropriately used only for males.
As far as I know, "Negroes" can still be used in some historical contexts. I am using it in a recent post:
I have not used it in my discussions with black Americans. Nevertheless, of all cultures that I have contacted, black Americans have been (so far) most difficult for me to communicate. If you are one of them, I'd be happy if you make an honorable exception.

Unknown said...

Ever wonder why the Roma are so very persecuted? I know why, few people do...because they lies, legends and myths surrounding them are numerous, even the falacies they listen to about themselves. I love the Roma people-with a heart only am achouti could have, because they are my tribe, a part of a larger family who was carried away and trampled under foot by Afgans, Kashmiri, Assyrians, forced to work as slave labor in India for hundreds of years-left in the Rajastani desert to rot and be assimliated into a belief they came from there-what nonsense. Roma Gypsies are Lost Yahudym (Jews) and the science, genetics, and secular writings of the anceint Kings who carried them away...they passed through the Kyber pass on thier travels to Europe. The racism experienced from Japhetic (white Europeans) will never subside-it will only get worse, as time winds down to an end. Roma will be back in aretz Yisrael-Yahowah {Gog] promises this to His people-hold fast Romani-there be but this...the last Yowbel before the shophars blast into Yom Kipporym in 2033. I can prove who all of them are...simply by thier code of Roma life which are Levitical rulings from Torah. Roma are under the curse...that if they turn from the teaching and guidance of Torah to worship other Elohym Acherym [other gods] they would not be under Yahowah's protection and the curse would befall them. Pauline Christianity is a lie-Paul is the false prophet and Jesus is a name that is fakethere is no J in Hebrew-this is what the Roman today accept and why they are still under the curses of Leviticus. The Torah was fulfilled not done away with...this is the mistake of all Sun-deity worship. Nothing in the Torah has changed, Yahowah does not change..thusly it is us who must change. Roma ...Shema...Yahowah Elohyneu -Yahowah Echad-there is no other, for none stand beside him. I can't wait for the day when the Romani are back in the land.There are many calling themself "Gypsy"but there is only one people who are hunted by the goyim: Yahud [Jews] If you need a detailed report on who [lost Israelites] the Romany are please look into my blog...
May the Romani fulfill the prophecy of Am Yisrael Chai. Yahowah Raáh [God is my Shepard] Ahava [Love] to the Romani and may the hand of Yahowah guide you always. Shalom Alychem Yisrael.
To the people who adopt these children; you have adopted the seed of Yisrael, and that is a big responsibility; and tzaddikah [good deed of charity] please teach them of their true heritage and origins, that they may decide rightly to return to Torah life and the covenant of Yahowah, that they may live abundantly. These children are more special than you know....they are the apple of Yahowah's eye.

Helena Bou said...

First of all, I thank you Maya for your brilliant initial exposition and for telling about gipsy/roma things so open-minded.
Helo everybody. We adopted three bulgarian brothers but did it one by one as we were informed that they were adoptable. So taht know they are not only biological brothers but also adoptive brothers.
I presume they come from a gypsy/roma family, though our lawyer never wanted to confirmm it despite our questions on that subject.
I presume it because of they brown skin that turns still more brown in summer, black glimpsy hair and eyes (except for one of our sons who has incredible green-yellow-blue eyes)... but also for their character... They adore open air live, are very phisycally active, have fiber-muscular beautiful bodies, adore music, have a high rythm sense, are not interested in books and studies, but highly interested in the stories of their friends and of the friends of their friends stories, they are also big fabulators with a quick and vivid imagination and, also, have a sort of tricky tendence in their personality which sometimes is accompanied by a tendence to lie or to hide what really happened.
I am a biologist but not at all convinced of the genetics-conditions-everithing-in-your -life theories. But... as a fruit of our family experience now (16 years after our first adoption) I do thing that some of the difficulties our sons have to face with their studies and with telling the truth of their "adventures" comes from their biological origin.
I might be wrong, but this is what I think about it now. I wanted to share it with all of you.

Anonymous said...

As a school teacher supporting Roma children, I have fallen in love with one particular family, who have proved to me what I have long suspected, it is the system and not the humans which are the problem, I see insane levels of racism and persecution agains the Roma are not only tolerated abut encouraged. I am doing all I can to help a Roma family in Switzerland who arrived as refugees but who are being treated as unwanted economic migrants, when their situation is CLEARLY an issue of asylum but where their ethnicity is blocking all thinking and understanding on the part of the federal authorities. Thank you for this article and let's keep fighting the stereotypes which endanger the lives of ALL Roma.

Maya M said...

Thank you for your comment and best wishes to that Roma family in Switzerland!

Bilal said...

AS an American Sinto, I would like to defend your use of the controversial term "Gypsy". Many of us prefer to use that term, because although we are Romanies, we are NOT Roma. Roma is only specific kind of Romany, although they are definitely the majority. The push to use the term Roma for all of us is rather recent and we don't like it because it's inaccurate. Django Reinhard was Sinti-Manouche, NOT Roma. That's why in Germany, they always use the phrase "Sinti AND Roma".
It's true that term came into use under the mistaken assumption that we were Egyptian, but in the same way that "Native American" is the politically correct term to use for American Indigenous groups, pretty much all the Native Americans I know refer to themselves as Indians. To continue with that metaphor, using the term "Roma" to refer to all Gypsies would be like referring to all Native Americans as Cherokee. It's simply not accurate. I do however feel that the word Gypsy should ALWAYS be capitalized.