Adoption from Romania :
An Interview with Victor Groza, Ph.D.
Author of "A Peacock Or A Crow"

A Peacock Or A Crow by Victor Groza, Daniela Ileana, and Ivor Irwin provides a informed look at adoption in Romania. Dr. Victor Groza is an Associate Professor and the Interim Associate Dean for Reseach and Training at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He is a prolific author and editor in the field of adoption studies; four books and over 40 professional articles are in publication.

How did you come to be interested and involved with adoption in Romania?

Dr. Victor Groza: My fatherís parents immigrated from Romania in the early 1900ís, separately. They met and were married in the U. S, finally settling in a village of about 3000 people in New Jersey named Roebling.  I was raised in this little town with many others who had similar backgroundschildren and grandchildren of immigrants from Eastern Europe. From growing up in this community and being so close to my Dadís family, I always had somewhat of an identity as a Romanian-American -- an identity which has developed more strongly since my first experience in Romania in 1991.

In the fall of 1990, I saw the images of Romanian children in fall on a national news program.  I can still remember those images so clearly - children herded into cages, sitting naked on little toilets, splashing urine which was all around their feet, and eating some type of mashed food from bowls and from remnants that were splashed on each otherís head and bodies.  I wanted to go to help. 

I called the National Resource Center for Special Needs Adoption and talked to the Director, telling her I was willing to go to Romania if anyone called her and wanted to know of any professionals were willing to help. I told the Director that I could conduct child assessments, give advice on programming, conduct training - whatever was needed to help. The next week I got a call from the Rocky Mountain Adoption Exchange, who was trying to provide technical assistance to the Ministry for the Handicapped. (They were not an adoption agency trying to place children from Romania into American families. They were, and continue to be, a resource and information agency.) 

I went to Romania for the first time in the summer of 1991. When adoption ceased (July 1991), I continued to work in child welfare in Romania, concentrating my efforts during the summer when I was free from my nine month academic job.

What lead you to write "A Peacock Or A Crow"?

Dr. Victor Groza: Back in the United States, around 1993, I began to hear reports that the children from Romania were not doing well and that some families had given up their children to the U. S. public child welfare system.   Having seen the conditions from which children were adopted, it was believable that there would be problems.  On the other hand, I know about both the healing power of adoptive families and the parallel powers of the media, rumors and exaggerations of problems.  I also had previous work and research experience with older and special needs children in the U. S.  These experiences led me to believe that most of the Romanian adoptions were probably progressing well. To try to understand what, if anything, was happening, I initiated the study which resulted in the foundation for this book.

I was joined in this endeavor by one of my graduate students at that time, Daniela Ileana. As a Romanian-American, immigrating at the age of 14 and having the advantage of speaking Romanian, her assistance was extremely valuable. In 1996 Ivor Irwina joined us and began the process of rewriting and adding to the study by conducting interviews with families and with Romanians who knew about child welfare.

You mentioned that your experiences in Romania and writing "A Peacock Or A Crow" have changed you. In what way?

Dr. Victor Groza: . I have searched for the villages of my grandparents and for family members who are still there.  I havenít had much luck, but I continue looking.   I took back the original spelling of my name Groza (youíll read references with the old spelling, Groze).  I have taken language lessons since 1992.  When I have time, I try to write to my friends in Romanian.  I have read most of the books published in English about Romania and Romanian figures.  I have surrounded my office with Romanian artifacts and books. 

My desire to help led to a personal transformation.  It was more than just wanting to help, which is a transforming experience in and of itself.  Something spiritual, almost mystical happened to me.  It is hard to describe, but in some ways I feel that I have found another place to call home.  Maybe it is the same for any person - all of us want to belong and Romania for me has made me feel that I am part of a community.

Traveling to Romania has made me understand better the concept of male privilege.  It has made me deal with my strengths and deficits.  Going to Romania every year for a few weeks renews me.  So, it is as my grandmother said I have gone back to the motherland.  And it is here that I am refreshed and challenged to think differently about my life and the lives of others, particularly the children.

What major ideas would you like readers to learn from "A Peacock or a Crow"?

Dr. Victor Groza: .The metaphor we try to use is the one of beauty and bland, good and bad -- a peacock and a crow. It is obvious that children adopted internationally are at high risk for developmental, health and behavior difficulties.  About 20% of children are resilient and show no obvious negative effects from early deprivation, 60% recover, and another 20% have many challenges.  This information can be interpreted 2 ways -- 80% of children do well or 80% of children have problems -- the glass is half full or half empy.  Given that these kids already have a rocky start, we want parents to have a balanced view of the
risks and rewards and be optimistic rather than pessimistic about these children.

In addition, there are many health and mental health professionals offering "cures" for children.  I think some of the treatments recommended are extreme and would urge caution.  Also, they are based on experience and not on well developed research. I am worried that people are making money off of these kids -- who can be confusing and don't fit our molds or models of health or dysfunction.  Parent are desparate and sometimes, out of desparation, will make decisions that are not well informed.  So, the book and the parody in particular, tries to heighten awareness and provoke families to think more critically about what they are told.  The service filed is also full of peacocks and crows. We hope that the person reading this book will have a better understanding of the many complicated issues in international adoption in general, and about Romanian adoptions in particular.

Do you have any updates you would like to add since your book's publication?

Dr. Victor Groza: . In the last 5 years there also have been many innovations in Romania.  In particular, there has been an increase in the number of children placed for adoption in-country.  According to the Department of Child Protection, there were 1092 national adoptions in 1998 .  Non-governmental agencies (similar to the private, non-profit sector in the United States) have taken the lead in placing Romanian children in Romanian families.  Children continue to be available for international adoption and families who are interested should contact an agency licensed to place Romanian children.

What books for cultural information do your recommend for parents adopting from Romania?

Ghosts, Vampires, and Werewolves: Eerie Tales from TransylvaniaWritten by Mihai I. Spariosu and Dezso Benedek, Illustrated by Laszlo Kubinyi. New York: Orchard Books, 1994.
Noahís Cats and the Devilís Fire. Written by Arielle North Olson, Illustrated by Barry Moser.  New York: Orchard Books, 1992.
The Enchanted Pig, A Rumanian Fairy Tale.  Illustrated by Jacques Tardi. Mankato, Minnesota: Creative Education Inc., 1984.
The Gift of the Traveler.  Written by Wendy Matthews, Pictures by Robert Van Nutt.  Bridgewater Books, 1996. 


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Adoption from Romania. An Interview with Victor Groza, Ph.D. Author/Editor of A Peacock Or A Crow. Http://www.comeunity.com/adoption/Groza-romania.html