The adoption of Roma children in Hungary

Principal investigator: Nóra Kovács

Period: 2018 -

Research questions and objectives:

Adoption research, with a focus on transnational adoption and the adoption of culturally, socially and visibly different children, has developed into an important area of international family research during the past two decades. The project is based on an anthropological study about the recently increased wave of adoption of Roma children by non-Roma urban middle class families in Hungary. The Roma in Hungary represent ten percent of the total population and their majority is affected by poverty, deprivation, and racial and ethnic prejudice. Do these adoptions represent acts of social solidarity aiming at children’s empowerment? Are they acts of compromise for adoptive parents? The research project explores this phenomenon and its background. It aims to tackle the social perception of Roma adoptees that reflects a specific majority attitude towards minorities. It explores and discusses the viewpoints, considerations and ideologies underlying and serving as a drive for the adoption of Roma children in the present day social context of Hungary. It is particularly concerned with the ethno-political visions of adoptive parents, amongst whom highly educated Budapest intellectuals are over-represented.

Research history:

The researcher participating in the project on child related solidarities had empirically researched the workings of the informal fostering arrangement established between Chinese migrant entrepreneurs in Hungary and members of local society. Within this framework Hungarian individuals took care of Chinese children in their own homes for several years. Besides mapping out the intimate bonds that formed between migrants and members of the host society, this research focused on socioculturally conditioned notions of good childcare, good parenthood, and good childhood in relation of cultural otherness.

Research methods:

The research project initiated in 2018 applies mixed qualitative methods and combines virtual fieldwork in the online galaxy of adoption in Hungary (adoptive parents’ online community, parents’ blogs) with traditional fieldwork in the community of adoptive families that is in an intense process of formation. It makes use of interviews made with adoptive parents, foster families, former Roma adoptees grown adults, and frontline professionals working in state and NGO-maintained institutions of adoption.

Research results:

The adoption of Roma children in Hungary is not a new phenomenon. During the preliminary enquiry and fieldwork of this research narratives of third parties were encountered that gave a negative account of the adoption cases of Roma children. These narratives, depicting more frequently cases of adoption in villages or small towns, focused on how the relationship between adoptive parents and their child went irreparably wrong when the child reached her teens. Although the proportions of Roma adoptions has increased ever since the 1970s and 1980s, with the advent of the internet and the social media their visibility – and it is argued that their prospects of success, too - have increased. The online visibility of cases of adoption of Roma children help other adoptive parents with similar cases to face the challenges posed by the social consequences of the ethnic origin of their children. Adoptive parents’ blogs and the related chat forums offer ways to elaborate similar experiences and to handle every day challenges.  There has been an intense interplay going on between the online and the real worlds of adoptive families with children of Roma origin. Online visibility and transparency, exchange of information combined with real-world community building resulted in mutual empowerment intensified by blogger adoptive parents’ spontaneous yet conscious attempt to bring about social change.

Publications, conference papers:


Non-Roma adoption of Roma children in Hungary: adoptive parents’ perspectives on ‘Gypsyness’ Paper presented at the at international conference of  ESRF on 05. 09. 2018. In Porto, Portugal.

Leslie K. Wang (2016) Outsourced Children: Orphanage Care and Adoption in Globalizing China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. INTERSECTIONS.EEJSP (Bookreview)