Advocate Adoption

"Susanna's" Story

Photo: The Archibald Project

Photo: The Archibald Project

Born deaf and blind, Susanna has a story that is opening people's eyes and ears. After God provided just the right family (her mother has specialized training in communicating with the deaf and blind), this little girl has been thriving in her parents' love and care. In fact, her parents have discovered she has more sight and hearing than previously thought. They've become an active voice encouraging other Romanians to consider taking in abandoned children. At the Romania Without Orphans summit in 2015, Susanna's mother spoke about the joy of mothering a child with special needs. We’re honored to be helping this family tell their story—and be a voice for the voiceless.

Hannah's Story

Our work with Romania Without Orphans could make all the difference in "Hannah's" life. Her older brother "Adam" was in the process of being adopted when we learned that she too had been abandoned. Adam's family immediately expressed a desire to adopt Hannah too. The law states that a family in the process of adopting cannot initiate a second adoption, but it does allow for exceptions. Unfortunately, local officials dragged their feet in making the exception and allowing these siblings to be united.

Thanks to RWO, we knew just whom to call next. An official from the central child welfare office in Bucharest has been working closely with RWO, even speaking at the annual conference. She has expressed delight in seeing our movement grow, and a willingness to help with difficult cases. We expect Hannah's case to be finalized soon.

Mina's Story

Photo: The Archibald Project

Photo: The Archibald Project

We drove and drove down a long, open street. I did not know yet what the drive was for, but I knew it had to be done to protect one of our foster children from being returned to her abusive biological family environment. I had met this child we were advocating for a few times, and I knew she still carried a deep fear of the place from which she had come. I also knew that our social workers were going to do everything in their power to protect her in ways she could never protect herself.

That is the thing about trying to make wrong things right, hard things easier, and dangerous things safe. It takes more than just a longing to do it: it takes action. Our team of social workers spend hours upon hours finding ways to make the government a more helpful partner in the desire to give every child a safe, loving family.

Meet the Dad Leading our Orphan Care Movement

At a time when much of the world is crumbling, Alex Ilie is working to build something new: an orphan care movement in post-communist Romania. As the executive director of the Romania Without Orphans Alliance (RWO), Alex wants to see his homeland become “a country where kids are cared for in families, and where every single child spends as little time in the system as possible.”

Alex and his wife, Nati, know a little something about the importance of a family in the life of an abandoned child: they are the parents of four children adopted through our ministry. Alex and Nati adopted their older children, seven-year-old twins, in 2009. Their younger children joined the family two years later, at the ages of 3 and 4.

But it turned out that adopting four children was just the beginning of the Ilies’ orphan care journey. Before long, the couple found themselves recruiting other adoptive families within their church and home village. More than one of our our adoption stories came about because Alex or Nati made a phone call and found a family for a child in need.

In 2014, when it came time to for our newly-founded Romania Without Orphans board to plan its first conference, Alex Ilie’s name came up as a potential speaker. We knew that his biblical view of adoption, along with his personal experience as an adoptive parent, would be invaluable. What we didn’t know is how God would use that speaking engagement to direct Alex’s own life.  

Nati and the older two kids at the 2015 Romania Without Orphans Summit in Cluj.

Nati and the older two kids at the 2015 Romania Without Orphans Summit in Cluj.

“I discovered that the need is much bigger than I could imagine,” Alex remembers of that first conference. “I remember speaking with [Romania Reborn’s] Christian Feavel about some of the things that RWO plans to do in Romania—I was speaking about helping offer support and training to caregivers.” But the RWO board had bigger plans in mind for Alex, and they soon asked him to consider the executive director position. “It was the most logical step forwhat God wants me to do with my life,” he recalls.


The Movement Grows

In March 2015, Alex began working for RWO full time. Today, the movement is gathering steam: expanding its outreach to families, picking up new partners and staff, and even beginning to forge a working relationship with the Romanian government.

In fact, one of the projects Alex is overseeing came about at the invitation of the child protection department in Bucharest. They’ve asked RWO to put together a publicity campaign called “Get to Know the Children Behind the Statistics,” to air on TV and in showings throughout Romania. The showings will be accompanied by panel discussions on adoption, facilitated by RWO. This is an excellent opportunity not only to promote adoption, but also to show the government that private charities can be good allies in helping children thrive.

RWO has also strengthened its lobbying efforts, working for reforms in the adoption and child welfare laws. Liviu Mihaileanu, an adoptive parent and NGO head based in Bucharest, recently joined the group as coordinator for lobbying and advocacy. While a new law made some needed changes this year,

RWO hopes to see even more movement in the future: streamlining the process to make children adoptable, allowing for private adoptions, and re-opening well-regulated international adoption.

Alex Ilie (left) with Liviu Mihaileanu (center left), discussing the Romania Without Orphans movement on Romanian television.

Alex Ilie (left) with Liviu Mihaileanu (center left), discussing the Romania Without Orphans movement on Romanian television.

The Church is Key

But Alex Ilie, and other movement leaders, don’t look to the government as the ultimate answer for abandoned children. Instead, they see the Christian church as central to an orphan care revival. Alex says he is working for a day when “Christians are known for being those who care for orphans, and adoption is so natural for them like prayer.”

To that end, RWO recently launched a project called “Romania 1:27,” named for the well-known verse on “true religion” in the book of James. The goal of Romania 1:27 is to challenge and equip local churches to care for the orphans in their communities. A pastor’s meeting this spring was a first step. “We spoke with hundreds of church leaders, and many of them reacted very well,” Alex says. “They confirmed that it is time for Romanian Christians to live the Gospel by adopting and caring for vulnerable children.” A more in-depth pastor’s conference is planned for this fall, should God provide the needed funds.
Another Gospel-centered aspect of RWO’s work is its trauma training for adoptive and foster parents. In a country with very few resources or support networks for caregivers, RWO is sending trained instructors to ten cities. There, they will put on “trauma training workshops” for parents, using curriculum developed by Christian therapists.

Alex says similar workshops have already been impacting people’s lives. “When I visit churches and speak, people come up to me and tell me, ‘Alex, we were praying about this, and RWO is God’s answer to our prayers. We decided to adopt a child.’ Or, ‘We adopted a few years ago, and we were so lonely in that, to the point that we even were not sure if it was the right thing to do. But now we have the confirmation we need.’

“So,” Alex concludes, “when I see people from different spheres of society answering our message, I see God’s hand starting a movement in Romania.”


A Picture of the Gospel

And for Alex Ilie, God is central to the work of Romania Without Orphans. He speaks powerfully about how his own experience as an adoptive parent deepened his understanding of the Gospel.

“I would say that adoption saved me and not the other way around,” he says. “I do not know how that sounds, but the first thing that comes to my mind is how much my life became richer, deeper in the Lord. How profoundly I undertood His love and the way He loves me. I think this is the reason that everything else is nothing.

“I would say it is about living the Gospel,” he concludes. “God adopted me, and I am doing what I am doing inspired by Him and through His power.”

For more information on Romania Without Orphans and how you can help this movement through Romania Reborn, click here.