"I became a hell child."
January 31, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Growing up in a Romanian orphanage, Izidor Ruckel just wanted to get out. Now, he makes it his mission to raise awareness of the suffering of other orphans who remain institutionalized.

Izidor, adopted by a US family in the wake of a 20/20 exposé (here, here, and here), dreams of better for both himself and other adopted Romanian orphans, as well as those who didn't make it out of the institutions in which they were abandoned. He hopes to encourage awareness and adoptions of Romanian children through his recently-completed documentary, "Given Our Chance". Adoptions are especially important to children who have been abandoned from birth, like Izidor, as research shows that children who spend their early childhood (0-2 years) exclusively in orphanages have diminished growth and intellectual ability, compared to those who live within a family, and that those children placed in foster homes before the 2-year mark rapidly gained skills.
posted by chainsofreedom (10 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
See also, itv's doc, From Romania, With Love.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:57 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

What a heartbreak.

The article downplays some of the issues with the international adoption of neglected children; it mentions difficulty forming close relationships, but not reactive attachment disorder or fetal alcohol syndrome. It mentions that adoptive parents are often unprepared to care for a child with special needs, but not how some families find they're unable to house a child who may act out in violent ways and simultaneously protect their other children. It mentions the Russian ban on international adoption, but not Torry Hansen, the woman who precipitated the event by putting her child on a plane back to Russia with a note in his backpack.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:18 PM on January 31, 2014 [9 favorites]

Juliet Banana, that's why I chose the quote for the intro. I think being in the orphanage for 10+ years had a lot to do with why Izidor became a "hell child" as a teen.
posted by chainsofreedom at 1:15 PM on January 31, 2014

Here's a well-written article from the mother of a girl with Reactive Attachment Disorder who was adopted from a Siberian orphanage.

Please don't get me wrong; I think Izidor Ruckel is trying to do good, and that a home that can't possibly meet the needs of a severely disturbed child is still better than an orphanage. I just worry about the crusader, savior instinct in American adoptive parents; it so often ends in an adoption disruption or even death.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:54 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is adoption really the most effective way to help imperiled children in Romania? Especially considering the exchange rate and cost of living? The costs of adopting and raising a single child from Romania in the US could probably easily pay to fund Romanian families who want adopt the children or even help marginalized pregnant women access services that would help them be able to keep their children, with spare money left over to fund family planning services and economic development projects.

I am skeptical of the idea that Romanians don't want disabled children. There are numerous charities that have made inroads there in creating a more supportive environment for the disabled. There are also issues with domestic adoption that need to be reformed it seems.

Also there is a dark side to US adoption as well, which is that a lot of families adopting aren't just interested in helping the children have better lives, but converting them to their religion. A lot of these children are raised in mega-families where kids are homeschooled, often getting a sub-par education in the process and ending up in poverty once they leave home. I'm glad to see greater media coverage of this issue lately. But this essay glosses over the role of religion in his life.

The guy who made the original documentary and helped find Izidor his home, John Upton, was apparently an anti-abortion crusader. The Romanian orphan crisis was at least partially caused by the oppressive anti-family planning regime of Ceausescu, who banned all abortion and contraception.

I have an adopted E. European sibling and I'm not saying adoption is not a great thing for some people, but I also don't think it's necessarily the best way to help children.
posted by melissam at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

The juxtaposition of these two paragraphs in Upton's obituary is interesting
Romania in the early 1990s was reeling after the collapse of the regime of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, the husband and wife dictators known for their sadistic brutality. Contraception and abortion were forbidden, and poverty and food rationing made it nearly impossible to meet the robust demands of the state: procreate or pay a “celibacy tax.” As a result, an estimated 100,000 children were sent to state-run institutions.
And later:
Upton was an outspoken abortion opponent and made waves with his documentary footage of an actual abortion, using a fiber optic camera to show the procedure. He traveled around Europe with singer Pat Boone to promote one of his anti-abortion films, which premiered at the White House.
posted by melissam at 5:19 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

That was really hard to read, but I'm glad that I did. I have reservations about cross-cultural adoptions, and I'm very glad that melissam brought up the point that money given to the country might be a better way of helping these kids than shipping them out of the country, but I totally understand the "white knight" savior complex that seeing such stories can activate.
posted by jaguar at 10:02 PM on January 31, 2014

International adoption is one tiny part of the solution but it is and should be a tiny tiny part and never a first solution. Romania has made huge strides in domestic adoption and homes for children, although not touched on in the article are the racial divides with Roma and Hungarian children and families, making it possible in some limited cases that a Roma-Romanian child might be better placed with a family in Italy, but given the demand in Europe alone for children to be placed, there is absolutely no need for Romanian children to be adopted outside of Europe.

I wish the profile had been much more about Izidor Ruckel and the support and resources he's putting together for orphans and adoptees like him, not adulterated into yet another international-adoption-is-great piece.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:44 PM on January 31, 2014

@jaguar - that's where the article screws up, I think. Izidor Ruckel isn't being a white knight but a member of a community of Romanian orphans and international adoptees who is now an activist within that community. He's not saying international adoption to the rescue at all, although the article glides over his points about the wider Romanian public not being aware of local conditions, government support for adopting locally, help for disabled children and more - instead the writer seems to prioritise anything on international adoption by Americans, when Izidor is talking about Romanian orphans primarily.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:59 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

That makes sense (and I wasn't accusing Ruckel of being a white knight; I meant the Americans jumping up to "save" Romanian kids). I very much hope that he and others can increase awareness within the country to keep kids from being surrendered in the first place, and to help find local homes for those who are given up.
posted by jaguar at 11:03 PM on January 31, 2014

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