Greece: Attorney for Romani couple says they adopted girl with her mother's consent
The BBC reports that in Greece the authorities have become involved in the case of a blonde girl living in a Romani camp not far from the small town of Farsala. DNA tests have confirmed that the girl is not biologically related to the family taking care of her.
Authorities have placed the girl in the custody of an organization called "To chamogelo tu paidiu" (Children's Smile) which cares for abandoned children and have launched a hunt for the girl's biological parents through humanitarian organizations and Interpol. The organization has received 8 000 phone calls so far from people claiming to be her relatives.
Greek Police took the child away from a Romani couple who were claiming to be her parents and who had falsified documents for 10 children. The Greek media have speculated that the couple used the documents to unjustifiably collect parental welfare.
The Greek justice system has charged the couple with kidnapping and placed them in custody awaiting trial. The 40-year-old woman and her 39-year-old husband claimed to the court that the girl's biological mother had been unable to care for her and that she had been given to them shortly after being born.
"This adoption was not legal, but it took place with the consent of the mother," said Konstantinos Katsavos, one of the lawyers representing the Romani man. Katsavos said the Romani couple love the child, have raised her as their own, and do not intend to sell her, as some reports have claimed.
The BBC reports that members of the local Romani community are claiming that the child's adopted parents have taken better care of her than her biological ones did. The Romani family has also granted the Reuters news agency access to film the home in which they have been living with little Maria.
The video footage shows the girl's bedroom with a bed full of dolls and stuffed animals. That footage and a link to CNN's coverage of the case is available at: http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/zahranicni/recko-kvuli-holcicce-nalezene-v-romskem-tabore-volalo-nekolik-tisic-lidi
The Greek children's organization now caring for Maria has stated that even though she is a bit shy, she is doing well. Media reports first reported her age as four, but experts who examined the child's teeth estimate she is perhaps five or six.
The case has drawn attention to the unsuitability of Greek official practice when it comes to registering newborn children. Until recently there was no central birth registry and parents were able to register their children with different local authorities more than once.
Officials required only a declaration by the parents and two witnesses to register a newborn. Some families took advantage of this to officially multiply the number of their offspring in order to aid their welfare applications.
"We are in shock at how easily people can register a child as their own. There are many reasons for a further investigation here. In the [Romani] settlement, for example, the registry listed other children who were supposedly living there, but they have not been found and, in my opinion, police will find clues that will relate to more than just this little girl," the head of the children's organization said last Friday.
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