“20/20” INVESTIGATES THE BABY BUSINESS IN ROMANIA

7:46 pm Press Releases - ABC News

For Release: May 31, 2001

Correspondent Tom Jarriel Finds Alarming Conditions Persists,
Children in State-Run Institutions Still Suffer Deplorable Conditions
10 Years After”20/20″ Aired First Report

In a disturbing new report, “20/20” investigates the multi-million dollar “baby business” in Romania. They’re called the “Cadillac babies,” the cutest, youngest, most desirable of Romania’s abandoned children — and they can bring in big bucks for the agencies that handle the adoptions. Foreign couples pay an average of $25,000 to adopt Romanian children, but often have no idea where the money goes. “20/20” has learned that, according to a US Embassy survey, millions of dollars paid to Romania foundations that handle adoptions has vanished.

Adoptions in Romania have been halted because of concerns about corruption, but — using a hidden camera — “20/20” investigates how easy it is to find babies for sale on the streets of Romania. “20/20” found mothers who survived war and revolution willing to sell their babies for as little as $700. “20/20” airs FRIDAY, June 8, 10-11 p.m. E.T. on the ABC Television Network.

In this investigative follow-up, “20/20” returns to a subject Correspondent Tom Jarriel first examined in 1990, when “20/20” discovered Romania’s abandoned children — more than 150,000 children condemned to state-run warehouses. The children were the direct by-products of a bizarre plan by Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to force woman to have at least five children for the State. After “20/20” exposed Romania’s dark secret, the world responded by sending millions of dollars in aid. Thousands of children were adopted, many by Americans.

But hopes of a quick solution have faded, as “20/20” discovers tens of thousands of children – from newborns to teenagers – still living in state institutions throughout Romania. “20/20” finds that conditions at some institutions have improved since Jarriel’s first report in 1990, but also found many children still suffering in sub-standard orphanages and institutions.

Many children who “graduate” from the orphanages live in underground utility tunnels, akin to sewers, where they sleep among rats and beg on the streets. “20/20” interviewed former Irish actor Steven Doyle, a guardian angel who appeared in “Braveheart” and who now spends his time bringing food, clothing and medical attention to the street kids. “I couldn’t just go back and work for another film company and live with myself, or even sleep with myself, knowing there’s kids in sewers in Bucharest,” Doyle tells Jarriel. “Something was calling me to do it. I was like, ‘this is what your destiny is.’ ”

Ten years ago, “20/20” found a boy named Izador among youngsters living in a state-run institution, where many children were kept in a large cage. His only crime was contracting polio shortly after birth. His punishment: confinement for life to a hellish institution where his impoverished parents believed the State could take better care of him than they could.

Rescued through adoption at age 11 by Dan and Marlys Ruckels, Izador has grown up healthy in California. After five operations, he still wears a brace to help him walk, but he’s been attending a junior college and is writing a book on his life. Two months ago, “20/20” returned with Izador to Romania. Now 21, he was on a quest to find, and confront, his birth parents. “I have a lot of questions that I would like to find out. One of them is why was I put in the hospital?”

Izador spent almost a month in Romania, armed with a videocamera and an assignment from “20/20” to find out what life was really like in the institution where he spent 11 years. He videotaped children in straightjackets, children tied to chairs by their shirt sleeves, children without diapers sitting in urine, children with bruises and bedsores — 10 years after “20/20” first exposed what life was like for kids trapped in state institutions. “Looking back I’m just grateful to have been adopted,” Izador tells Jarriel.

Finally, “20/20” visits with the “angels” like American David Livianu, who returned to his homeland after watching earlier “20/20” reports. Livianu recently traveled across Romania, shooting videotapes that he hopes will spur Americans to adopt the least desirable of Romania’s children, those older or with physical problems. “There is no excuse in front of a 12 year old that could ask this question: ‘Why am I kept in this place and why can’t I get a mommy and daddy?’ There are families out there. No matter how much anyone tells me, officially or unofficially, that we’ve done our best, to me it’s not enough.”

Correspondent Tom Jarriel and producer Janice Tomlin first traveled to Romania in January 1990, the week after the revolution that overthrew Ceausescu. Their first report, “Nobody’s Children,” which aired in April 1990, spurred thousands of adoptions. Since then, Jarriel and Tomlin have reported a total of seven programs on the plight of Romania’s children, including “Shame of a Nation,” “Take Me to America” and “The Greatest Gift of All.” Their reports, spanning 10 years, have earned three Emmys, the Overseas Press Award and the Christopher Award.

ABCNEWS.com, the 24-hour news service of ABC News and part of the Walt Disney Internet Group, will provide companion programming to Friday’s broadcast.

Barbara Walters is the host of “20/20.” David Sloan is the executive producer.

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ABC News Media Relations:
Adam Pockriss: (212) 456-7243, adam.pockriss@abc.com
Todd Polkes: (212) 456-4586, todd.polkes@abc.com

 

 

 

 

 

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