Denying Lives: Romania's ban on adoption

As the Romanian government reconvenes to decide whether to lift a ban on the international adoption of its orphans, Daniela Tuchel investigates the likely effects on a future generation.

I met three-year-old Alexandru one afternoon in the back yard of a large orphanage in Bucharest.

The moment he saw me, he stopped running around with the other children and raced over. We had never met, but he hugged me long and hard, staring up at me with his big, brown eyes.

"He is hoping you will take him home with you," said one of the careworkers. "He has no chance of being adopted. You see, he is of Roma origin."

Alexandru is one of the 48,000 children, who according to last year's figures, live in institutions across Romania. His mother abandoned him in the maternity ward and his father is unknown. After some months, he was moved to the orphanage where he now lives with 256 other children.

In the past, a child like Alexandru might have expected to have been adopted by a foreigner - over 30,000 international adoptions have taken place since the fall of Nicolai Ceausescu: the hardline communist dictator who ran Romania into the ground from 1965 until his execution in 1989.