The baby cheats: some couples wanting to adopt by-pass the system

By Jean Christou

CYPRIOT couples considered unsuitable to adopt children from abroad are cheating the system, the Welfare Department said yesterday.

Welfare official Anita Konis said yesterday there have been a number of cases of Cypriot couples flouting procedure and bringing in children from Romania illegally.

Konis said the couples then create conditions where the courts are forced to grant adoptions even in cases where the Welfare Department has specifically stated that the family environment is unsuitable.

“After bringing the child in as a guest a de facto situation is created,” Konis said.

She said these couples keep the children for months before making an application for adoption, by which time the children are settled in Cyprus and the courts eventually have no option but to allow them to be adopted.

“The situation is created even though the Department’s report may say that the couple is unsuitable,” Konis said. She said the Department is only an advisory body to the courts and its advice is not legally binding.

She said that in the end it is up to the courts: “They take into account all the factors, including how long the child has already been in Cyprus.”

The normal procedure involves couples applying to the Welfare Department to adopt a Romanian child. The Department then compiles a report on the couple with the recommendation, which is sent to Romania.

Authorities there then send the history and medical reports on the child to Cyprus and the papers are signed.

The process takes around six months, Konis said.

In the case of couples who try to cheat the system and already have the child in Cyprus, the procedure is speeded up, Konis said. “When the child is in Cyprus we consider it a more urgent case.”

Cypriots have been turning to Romania for children to adopt since 1990. The two countries signed an agreement in 1994 providing for post-adoption checks in the first two years and a report back to the country of origin.

In 1990 27 Romanian children were adopted by Cypriots and in 1991, 79. The figure was 171 in 1992, 80 in 1993, and 69 in 1994; in 1995 it was 63, in 1996 it reached 77, and in 1997 it climbed again to 85.

Around 100 couples a year apply to adopt a child.

Konis said there are very few opportunities to adopt Cypriot children so Cypriot couples are turning more and more to Greece and Eastern European countries such as Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.