THE DENIED FAMILY A SOCIAL CRIME DOSSIER and
LETTERS TO A BARBARIC STATE (1995-2002)
“….Family is the first school, a permanent school where education to love is not based on sterile notions, but on the incisive power of experience”. John Paul II
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org web site translated by Paola Contini NON PROFIT WEB BOOK SPEAKING FOR INSTITUTIONALISED ORPHANS’ DENIED RIGHT DENOUNCING BOOK DEDICATED TO: All the children and young people who, on the threshold of the third millennium, are rotting in an orphanage because of the cold and incompetent Italian political class, which, like Pilate, washed her hands of these kids, and preferred to institutionalize them than giving them a right, legitimate, lay and Christian chance to have a family. In memory of millions of children, some of them dead in wartime, some from hunger, others for lack of medicines: innocent souls put down to subsidize the interests of the multinational companies, real economic and political globalized sub crime institutions. To thousands of children surviving the wars and the social decay, who are forsaken and neglected in these ”lager orphanages” of the world. Africa and East countries. To the Afghan, Asian, Africa and East countries kids, victims, against their will, of a war imposed by human nature. In memory of my father Cervi Italo To my mother Lucia To my sister Bruna Fidencie To Fidencie’s parents: Juvenal Nshimiyimana, Annonciate Don Benzi, a real priest Aleandro Baldi, blind singer Dott. Luigi Fadiga, former President of Latium’s juvenile court Dott. Caffo, President of Telefono Azzurro (Telephone service for assistance to the children victims of violence), Dott. Marco Griffini, President of Associazione Amici dei Bambini (Children’s Friends Association), Associazione Giorgio Conti of Cremona (Association for the battle against infantile cancer) To “Celestini”- Historical memoir not to forget Don Mazzi, who grew up without a father To Gino Strada, President of the Emergency Association To myself, because I was lucky enough to survive the troubles of life, supported by my own honesty and sincerity. Now, with an experience acquired through years of free battles, I can help people and be the spokesman for those who can’t speak. NON TO FORGET
SCRIPTA MANENT, VERBA VOLANT 2
THANKS THE FIRST DEDICATION ON THIS BOOK IS FOR THE HOLY FATHER POPE JOHN PAUL II, WHO I REALLY CONSIDER TO BE THE ONLY POINT OF REFERENCE FOR THE WHOLE CHILDHOOD OF THIS BLESSED EARTH OF OURS.
I thank heartily: Pope John Paul II, who gave me the chance to use His Holy Image for this web book. The ex President of the Italian Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro for answering to two of my letters as a President. Mrs Giovanna Melandri MP for her kind letter. Paul David, Secretary of the Committee on Children’s Rights (UNO), to whom I sent my complaint. Robert Schuman and Jacob Soderman, European Mediators for helping me with my complaints. Gina Lollobrigida, for her kind letter. Azeglio Ciampi, President of the Italian Republic, who took a great interest in Fidencie’ s case. The Helvetic Red Cross who helped Fidencie’ s parents. The ex-Prefect of Cremona (Palazzo Adriano), spokesman for the President of the Italian Republic Dott. Ciampi for Fidencie’ s case. Law. Simona Bracchi, Fidencie’s ex-guardian. Judge Dott. Preioni who gave Fidencie the chance to rejoin her mother. Don Perego, Director of Diocesan Caritas (Charitable Institution) for helping Fidencie to find her mother. My own family: my wife Rosangela and my sons Andrea and Luca, who I neglected for some time to devote myself to those who have been condemned to spend their life out of their family, in a cold and anonymous institute. I would like to thank particularly the Editors of the local dailies: La Provincia, Mondo Padano, Nuova Cronaca, Postagratis, La Voce di Cremona for kindly publishing all my letters about the orphans through all these years. I also express my thanks to the following weeklies and national dailies, which gave me lots of useful information for my civil battles: VITA – FAMIGLIA CRISTIANA – GENTE – LA REPUBBLICA – IL GIORNALE – AVVENIRE – IL CORRIERE DELLA SERA – EINAUDI Publishing House.
A short monograph on the author Gabriele at 4 years old at the nursery school 1960
I have been parked in a foundling hospital for three years, afterwards I luckily met my parents. The period of life spent at the foundling hospital caused me many health and interpersonal problems: I didn’t properly speak, I syllabified; I couldn’t express myself suitably and I had difficulty in learning. I’ve got very bad memories of the first year at the primary school: my teacher, in fact, beat my hands with a stick because I was left-handed and she said that I had to learn to write with my right hand. She considered left-handed people as handicapped and demented people… After that, my parents moved to Cremona and I repeated the first class. These hideous events caused me a lot of complexes and a great sense of insecurity I have dealt with for many years of my life. I’ve always been a very shy boy and I often withdrew from the rest of the world: I was a very asocial person. Day by day, thanks to the great help of my family and of people around me, I grew up. I had a bad time, my childhood wasn’t happy, but now I can say to have been and to be a lucky person. Luck gave me good parents, and, later on, I was lucky enough to start a wonderful family. In my opinion, I have a good quality: I don’t envy anyone and I am a sincere man. I met and I know a lot of people, who, apparently, seem to be happy, but they really are superficial and live by half-measures towards other people and especially towards themselves: that’s why they are so miserable and sad. We are talking about false, selfish and envious people, who can’t certainly love their neighbour. I often wonder what kind of values (if I may call them so) these people could transfer to their children. These human beings, suffering from a stupid omnipotence, base their lives upon indifference and mistrust. At present, Gabriele Cervi is working in a professional institute for disabled students. He is engaged with a voluntary service, he was the founder and is now the President of Onlus “Contromobbing Association” of Cremona (Assistance Group). This Association consists of simple volunteers and doesn’t need any public or private subsidies because the founder members finance themselves.
INTRODUCTION 1st LETTER This is an open letter in memory of my father Cervi Italo who always helps and watches over me from up there. Human mind is so complex that, in my opinion, one can’t judge anyone at first sight. My father transferred to me self-confidence, but, sometimes, I am also insecure, because of my experiences in life, my past, my present. It is very hard to be honest. For example, it is a continuous battle, both against oneself, because a person feels to be different from the rest of society, and against people one meets, who reveal themselves to be so resolute, merciless and false that, sometimes, one doesn’t have a glimmer of hope. Why does one feel so different from others? Because he sees that, in everyday life, at work, and in many daily situations, the most common “values” are illegality (for example, how many unworthy and incompetent people find a job and have a successful career?), insincerity, shrewdness, cynicism, without forgetting the patronage system that, as the time passes by, has legalized and spread over anywhere. Unfortunately, in our society, nothing changes for the better! I’ve always been conscious that those who manage this system can constantly rely on the status quo, yet, I keep on fighting and risking. Anyway, I couldn’t do otherwise, because it’s something I inherited by my father, a certainty that clashes with a deceitful mentality. A dear person lives in our heart only if the message she left to us is indelible in our memory and can be a firm point of reference in our way of life. If I didn’t think this way, it would be a sort of treachery or denial toward my Father... A dear person, a real person throughout her life, lives inside us until this memory is pure: so, nobody will have the power to wipe out the sweet memory of my father. Besides, we can’t deny that our individuality, with its good qualities and defects, is only and mainly due to what our family has transferred to us (a part from DNA). We are simple executors...for good or ill, but, during our life, we can do something to get better or worse: it depends on us...
THANKS TO MY DAD ITALO
Thank you, daddy, for devoting much time to me Thank you, daddy, for your patience Thank you, daddy, for giving me moments of happiness Thank you, daddy, for building me beautiful toys Thank you, daddy, for transferring to me these real values: honesty, simplicity, goodness, which have been useful during my life, to grow up, to mature and to become a real person Thank you, daddy, for being a real parent Thank you, daddy, for making many sacrifices to give me a dignified life Thank you, daddy, for making me understand the importance of a family Thank you, daddy, for your great goodness and simplicity that made you a real and unique person Thank you, daddy, for devoting yourself to your family with happiness Dad, I havenâ€™t always been a good son, but you always were a good father. BYE, DAD Gabriele, your son
www.aiutobambini.it ON LINE CALL At the beginning, my aim was to write a papery book, but then, I thought to myself that if a book of this kind is not properly sponsored and promoted, it won’t be useful to anybody... So, since my means are limited, I chose to write a web book that, besides ensuring a wider spreading, allows me to interact with anybody. This book, thanks to a new web site, with an E-mail address, could be continuously supplemented and updated with new witnesses, appeals and proposals... I look forward to hearing from your ideas; meanwhile, here are my proposals: 1. I submit to you this non-profit web book to let you know the sad situation of the orphans in our country, which has been and is now a very serious tragedy. 2. I undertake to achieve my aim as soon as possible, that is the closure of the orphanages without waiting for the umpteenth hypocrisy that will happen on 2006. 3. I commit myself so that the institutes and the orphanages could become temporary assistance places, conformable to the European standards. 4. I commit myself so that a child will never have to stay in an Institute until 18 years old: this is a real social crime and it must be removed. 5. Everyone of us should commit himself so that our State can give everybody, without distinction, a chance to have an adopted family or a guardian one. It’s a battle we must win at all costs; we are late, but it’s not our fault... Everyone can be helpful: the common citizen (like me), the politician and those who hold an important social position and who can awaken institutions to these problems. But, most of all, I rely on human society and on those people who, despite the adversities of life, still believe in some real values, such as family, honesty, common welfare. When we speak for people who where never talked about, we really help these brothers of ours... Let’s devote ourselves to them... It’s our duty... UNITY IS STRENGTH! WRITE ME, you can share in with your past stories in institute or in the street and remain anonymous. THANK YOU.
POLITICIANS HAVE BEEN UNDER ACCUSATION, BUT THEY ARE STILL NOW! GABRIELE CERVI IS ONE OF YOU!! PS. THE SITE WILL BE CONTINUOUSLY UPDATED. There’s no copyright, so that everyone can have free access to this site, unload and photocopy. The most important thing is that material is always used for the right cause!
Abandoned childhood, a tragedy
A SOCIAL CRIME AT PRESENT, THERE ARE MORE THAN 1800 STRUCTURES IN OUR COUNTRY: PUBLIC AND RELIGIOUS INSTITUTES, COOPERATIVES AND ASSOCIATIONS.
Business continues… CELESTINI’S LAND WELFARE CENTRES STANDING TRIAL By Bianca Guidetti Serra And Francesco Santanera Published by Einaudi, 1973 …We must go back to the root of the orphanages phenomenon, originating from structural social inequalities, from difference of economic, social and environmental conditions, which benefit someone rather than other people. This happens since their birth, and even before, since natural selection, in favour of healthy, beautiful and intelligent people, but to the detriment of the handicapped and invalid people... “Celestini” (let’s give this word a symbolic meaning) will always be present inside poor classes, where shortage of food mean hunger, where the most basic sanitary measures are often lacking, where instruction (even compulsory education) is still a privilege... But the greatest real scandal is that “Celestini” societies exist and are continuously created. From the book “Il paese dei Celestini - Istituti di assistenza sotto processo” (Celestini’s land Welfare centres standing trial) DENOUNCING BOOK NOT TO FORGET A short speech by the author: I’ve thought of starting my book with this first witness that, even if it dates back to 1973, can be still considered a topical one. Let’s think, for example, that today, institutes trade also on extra-Community children, whose family are broken up: it is disgraceful that “Celestini” still exist and that new societies of this kind are continuously created even 29 years later. So, I thought it right to extract a few pages from this book and put them in this web site, as an historical memoir, but trying not to generalize. The “CELESTINI” …… Francesco ... was with Carmela ... once she grabbed him by the throat, she flung him to the ground, she put her feet on his belly. But if any visitors came in, she pretended to be a good girl... once she made him get down on his knees and when he was going to get up she hit him behind his head, so that he fell down and broke three teeth....two of them were incisors. Carmine was beaten with sticks, was obliged to have icy baths and if he wanted to get out of the bath, she thrust his head under the water. He was very little, he went down the stairs very carefully not to fall and she made him tumble down the stairs...
Ciro was beaten with a stick and a brush... they made him have icy baths, water was very cold and he cried... he had to lick his pee. Another time, he was forced to clean the dormitory; he sat down a moment because he was tired and the wicked woman hit him with the scrubbing brush and slapped him until he bled. Nicola... was flogged and beaten with a stick almost everyday, he was covered with scratches and he cried... During the years 1955-56, a school inspectress learns that at “Celestini Institute” children were malnourished and abused with hideous punishments such as: eating for 15 days a bread soup without salt and with cod-liver oil, being confined to the feet of the bed with hands tied, being beaten. On 27 th March 1965, in this atmosphere of bleakness and negligence, Santino Boccia died, for lack of suitable and timely cares. Yet, the Institute keeps on working UNTIL DECEMBER 1966, thanks to the personal complaints of two primary school teachers, who oblige the authorities to intervene once and for all.
WITNESSES THE INSTITUTE AND THE CULTURE OF EXCLUSION ALEANDRO BALDI, the blind singer Aleandro Baldi, the blind singer who won the Sanremo Festival in 1994 with the song “Passerà”, remember with great pain his twelve years-experience in an institute in Reggio Emilia, which he calls “Gabbione” [“the large cage”](Baldi, 1994). The traces of that bad experience – he says – are still on my body, badly, most of all... We should remark that the institute was considered one of the best in Italy: it gave shelter to nearly two hundred handicapped children, but mostly blind or with mental disorders. He goes on: “Everything, inside there, made me sad. First of all, the large and hostile surroundings, that I didn’t physically know. After all, it wasn’t difficult to get my bearings in those great rooms, in the corridors, in the wide courtyard. The “educational” methods were violent: They hit us with rulers during the lessons if someone was absent-minded or disturbed the others, they literally took us by the ears and they gave us blows on our heads with knuckles (in Tuscany, this is called a “nocchino”, that means a blow given by the knuckle of the middle finger). But the worst thing was the way they treated us during the refectory: if a guy, for example, didn’t like eating meat at lunch time, the assistant forced him to stay there all the afternoon. Alone, until he decided to eat. No plays, no lessons”. Baldi describes another amazing story: “I remember one day, a boy, who had just arrived from Pesaro (in the region Marche), so very far, was desperately crying: it was his first day. So, to calm him down, they shut him up in the assistant’s toilet. He stayed there all night and thought to be secluded in a cellar, because they told him so. There were mice inside there. 10
We experienced that kind of punishment too. And we believed to be shut up in the basement. Baldi says: “Keeping in the dark those who are born in the dark is a foolish punishment!! The institute was closed in 1976. Baldi also adds: “I had paid for my sins. If I think about those years, I feel a great sense of rage for that repressive atmosphere and that solitary confinement in which we lived, but also for their twofaced attitude, when they said: “It’s for your own good, that’s the way it goes, you have nobody else in the world...”.
WITNESSES Children outside of institutes “ Let Church intervene” Don Oreste Benzi’s appeal at the Italian bishop’s Conference “ Let’s turn religious structures into custody centres for children”. Don Benzi, a priest who usually assumes public and resounding positions (for example, meeting young people at the discos, setting prostitutes free from pimps’ slavery, inviting Pope to go protecting the war zones in Bosnia with his young volunteers for “Colomba” mission), often expresses the wish that “in a few years all the religious institutes will turn into centres for family custody, so that every child can have the right to live in a family”. Don Benzi is conscious this is a delicate question. Most of the institutes for minors or handicapped children, are controlled by religious corporations, more or less related to the Catholic Church. Some of these institutes, especially in the South of the country, live on charity rather than on public subsidies. There are also profit-bearing institutes that must preserve themselves for employment reasons, besides depending on local political interests. In many parts of Italy, catholic voluntary service deal with insurmountable obstacles, when it denounces unacceptable educational systems or serious situation of children alienation. Some bishops also cover up violations of the 184/83 law, providing that children have the right to have a guardian or a family and that institutes are the last chance. Don Benzi declares to appreciate the devotion of the religious staff towards these kids, but adds that the best institute cannot replace the function of parents. He is supported by CEI and by a passage from Pope’s last encyclical. Will the ecclesial Congress of Palermo really try to remove this religious contradiction and, at the same time, appeal to Italian families to adopt the children who are now in the orphanages? Vita – 9th September 1995
INSTITUTES’ ORIGINS AND WORKING Einaudi, 1973 How does an institute originate? How does it work? Who are the financiers? How is it controlled? These are questions that can easily find an answer through the documents. How many needy children are there in the institutes? Unfortunately the answer is only approximate. According to Istat yearbook, on 31st December 1968, 172.197 children (41.443 of them were handicapped) were closed in the orphanages. 11
The number of institute is uncertain too: according to Istat, they were 3.871, but more than 5.000 according to Omni. We can say, at last, that the situation requires an in-depth inquiry into the whole field. These preliminary remarks are enough to raise a number of questions about the working of institutes, the treatment given to the orphans and the efficiency of public control. So, our perplexity leads us to wonder what is the destination of the 1.700 billion lire the national budget sets aside, through the sixteen Ministries with welfare competences; how much of this large sum of money is really devoted to these poor orphans: these bureaucratic structures (often having a great political influence), besides having their own aims, try to survive to the detriment of the beneficiaries’ interests. In the history of “Celestini”, there was an unidentified Mr. Tigano, who used to go through the Calabrian countryside to get some inmates for the institute. Maria Diletta Pagliuca propagandised some sort of special bulletins to get children’s custody. C.M. managers looked for naughty children to put into garrets and hovels. It’s sure that all these charity services guarantee the convenient survival of those who offer it rather than those who receive it.
- OPEN LETTER, 1995 (THE PARLIAMENT – SCALFARO – BORELLI –) Cremona, 18th November 1995 QUESTION To the President of Italian Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro To the President of Chamber of Deputies Irene Pivetti To the President of Senate Scognamiglio To the Members of Parliament / Their Seats Object: question about Institutes and Associations where orphans are recovered by tutelary judges. As a citizen and ex-user, I am addressing Your illustrious Lordship to submit to You the serious problem concerning Institutes and Association for orphans. At present, there are in these Institutes about 50 thousands of orphans. I am not sure about the exact number, because, till now, a real census has never been taken. For their support, our nation spends about 200 milliards monthly, corresponding to 6 millions of lire per child; this means, in one year, 2.400 milliards. In 1992 almost 900 children were free for adoption: 700 from famous parents, and the rest from unknown families. But the real scandal (besides the lacking census) is that 99 per cent of them could leave the Institutes and be adopted, or, at least, their custody could be granted to a family. Why is this not happening? Why does State want to keep these feeble Institutes alive? The removal of these cold houses would represent a 2.400 milliards saving for the Government. For this reason, I tell You in advance that I shall take care to send a complaint for starting a survey about this presumed crime. My complaint will be followed by a paper 12
documentation proving lobbies’ political interests, created by the Institutes themselves (every Institute conceals a “votes market”). If today I am a happy father, I thank my adopted parents (that I consider as my real parents), and it makes me sad to think that only a few children can feel this great happiness. I hope Your Lordship will kindly reply to my appeal, but, most of all, I hope we could reach a solution (also through Parliament) as soon as possible in order to give a family to 50 thousands children, as well as the right to give and get love, which has been denied to them by some dirty business. Best regards. Cervi Gabriele A common citizen PS: How can we think to take part to UE while dealing with these endemic scandals inherited by the old political regime and perpetuated by the present pseudogovernment? To tell you the truth, we are governed (I mean, not always) by mercenary politicians subdued to the power lobbies. Everything is done in the name of power and for the spoils system, forgetting the people interests. Things like that don’t happen in the Third World, either.
Letter personally delivered
Cremona, 21st November 1995 To the kind attention of Dr. Saverio Borelli Director of Public Prosecution’s office of Milan Object: claim for opening a survey on presumed illegal business of orphanages. Dear Dr Borelli, I take the liberty of disturbing you to let You know an important matter concerning “business to the detriment of children”. The accusation from Griffini (President of AiBi) and from Caffo (President of Telefono azzurro) is, shortly, the following: These structures, which should guarantee a family for the orphans, tend to keep these kids to get public subsidies. I’ve known for years (but I think everybody has) that some Institutes have no interests in granting custody of children; I always hope that some structures are honest, but, frankly, I didn’t believe the sum was so important: 2.500 milliards a year! That’s why, as an ex-user of these “cold containers”, I felt I had to send a question to the highest offices of state (here enclosed). I hope, with all this, to urge them to carry out an urgent legislative intervention. Yet, I also know this is not only a political matter and that’s why I decided to send You this letter which can be called a “complaint” or a simple “report”. Now, it’s up to You to decide, after analysing the article here enclosed, if there’s sufficient grounds for a survey. Gabriele Cervi ----------
PERSONAL REGISTERED LETTER
Cremona, 29th November 1995 Dr. Michele Santoro RAI Rome Object: request for intervention in favour of children victims of a state subject to the rule of the law Dr. Santoro, For Your information, I also enclose a copy of the open letter I sent on 20 th of the present month to the highest offices of state. As a citizen, I felt I had to intervene personally with a complaint too, that I’ve provided to register to the Chancellery of Public Prosecution’s Office in Milan. The letter was addressed to the attention of Dr. Francesco Saverio Borelli, Director of Prosecution’s Office of Milan. After a lot of perplexities, I thought it right to send this letter of mine to others TV hosts (both public and private, since I love equal treatment). As they say, I’m asking for money. (...) I would be delighted if You could talk, in Your TV programme, about these unlucky children and their non-right to love and being loved, imposed by our state. If this can be en encouragement or an incentive for anyone, I declare I am not a member of a political party and I don’t belong to any corporations or lobbies. I am a simple citizen, disgusted by the daily hypocrisy. I hope You can let the public opinion know that more than 50.000 children will spend their Christmas completely alone, without REAL LOVE. I don’t have anything else to add, I don’t want to say anything else. Gabriele Cervi ----------
HOLY CHRISTMAS, 1995 Cremona, 22nd December 1995 OPEN LETTER TO THOSE INNOCENT SOULS WITHOUT A FAMILY PARKED IN ORPHANAGES JUST LIKE GOODS. Dear children, the person who’s writing to you is not important, is not an authority, but he’s a common citizen who, supported by his family, has decided to dedicate these hypocrite and hideous festivities to all of You. You have to know that I’m not taking any gifts or sweets (you don’t surely lack them), but I’d really love to help you to have a real family as soon as possible. Yet, you have to understand that this won’t be a simple thing, because, for some people, you are nothing but a BUSINESS. My dear children, for this ill country, your guilt is to be pure, but most of all, you are guilty of being born in a state for which corruption has become a status symbol. Your enemies are the spoils system, the lack of control, the piloted discretion and welfarism, which are not directed to your welfare, but to the state business. For someone, you represent the real nothing. That’s why they never took care of your census.
In 1983 Parliament, after the government’s evasion of its responsibilities (I mean, the bribes period...), had decided to deliberate the 184 Law. This law, as many other laws, has been unapplied. Its aim was to protect you, but corrupted people has overbureaucratized it, so that its real essence has been nullified. For this reason, we shouldn’t be surprised, if only 1000 adoption demands out of 18000 are executed. This happens because, to your detriment, the public subsidies (we talk about 2.400 milliards of lire) have originated great bureaucratic machineries, where some people (not all the people, obviously) take advantage from Business. To break this chain of events, I decided to inform public opinion about this real institutional scandal. My interlocutors are going to be the passers-by who will be asked to sign the “Hope Book”. One thousands of signatures will be enough to solicit Members of Parliament to urgently debate this case, in short, to speed up the adoption procedures. It’s inconceivable that a lot of couples have to wait for long time (4 or 5 years, and they have to make another request for adoption after the 2 nd year) to know if they are suitable or not. Meanwhile, the years are slipping by and for you it’s more and more difficult to be adopted. Yet, my dear children, trust me, the battle for your freedom has just begun. Your fathers-masters’ months are numbered, because they have carved up everything, but, unfortunately, they have not managed to buy good people’s hearts. Lots of love Your older brother. (ndr) Letter given to the passers-by in Milan in December 1995 and January 1996
USELESS LETTERS? Since October I thought I’ve sent more than 30 letters all around Italy... and only a few people answered to me. Anyway, my aim is not to have an answer, but to inform powerful people about this institutional scandal. But I know I can and I must do more than this. I can’t just limit myself to that. The powerful figures don’t listen to the common people, so I’ll have to address myself to my fellow men: people, common people, simple and real people, who do something with all their hearts, without thinking for their profit.
FANTASY AND WILL OFTEN DO MIRACLES... I’ve decided to put one thousands of signatures in a book: this will bring me into contact with people. I’m going to Rome to collect signatures for three days in front of the Parliament. I’m very excited, I’ve got a lot of ideas running through my mind. I’m preparing some banners, leaflets and I’m going to bring with me also a little Christmas tree, that will be decorated with my complaint letters. All this makes me very happy, because, at last, I am free to do as I please. Short journal 23rd December 1995 - It’s a cold and rainy day, I am on the train to Rome.
It’s a very important day, I am happy, but, at the same time, a bit nervous and worried too, because I’m going to spend my Christmas Holidays far from home, but I want to live all this directly . I am organized, I prepared some posters and I have a microphone (karaoke) too, to draw people’s attention. The train is full, but I could find a place to sit in: I feel myself a bit like Fantozzi (a jinxed character of a TV Italian series), because, since I don’t have a case to change my clothes (I preferred to put in the material to give out), I’m wearing three sweaters! A pair of gym shoes and a jacket complete my clothing... At last, after a 8 hours trip, I am arrived at Termini Station at 14, 40. My destination is Parliament: there, I’ll start to collect passers-by’s signatures on a book that I called “Hope Book”. After walking for half an hour, I arrive near Parliament. In the square, there’s a box with some “carabinieri” to watch the Building. I ignore them and I start unrolling my posters... with some adhesive tape and string, I hang them in strategic points such as lamps and columns. After some time, though, a marshal beckons to me to come nearer him. I bashfully go near the guardroom and explain to him the purpose of my actions. The marshal asks me if I have a permission, I tell him I haven’t, I am just arrived from Cremona; so, I give him my identity card and he tells me to wait for a minute. I see him while he tries to get in touch with the Building headquarters... at last, he tells me that, unfortunately, I can’t stay there. I tell him I am not doing anything wrong and that they can frisk me, if they want to. The marshal kindly bring me into contact with the commanding officer inside the Building. I repeat my actions have just humanitarian aims, but he insists that, if I haven’t got a permission, I can’t absolutely occupy that property and he invites me to change place... Well, I think they’re right, they’re doing their job, after all. I move away some metres, but now there’s another problem: the light is faint and it has started raining... The posters get wet and I’m losing my temper... Then, I luckily find a recess near a shop window and I decide to put there my posters and banners. The windows light is enough to read easily the banners. There’s a lot of people but everyone is in a hurry. I courageously start stopping people... Yet, I think that today everything is against me: in fact, after some time, the shop’s owner comes out and says my banners are darkening his windows... I tell him that’s not true, but he insists and I add that I hung my banners on the near scaffolding (they are renovating a building nearby), that I am just taking advantage of the windows’ lights and that it’s not a great damage to him. But that cheeky face doesn’t let it go... These people really piss me off, I’m not bothering him, I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m not begging... Go to hell, you and your luxury rubbish! He isn’t joking, he threats to call the policemen. Ok, lad, call the policemen, but go to... I am really angry, I’m soaked to the skin and I must take my banners off for the second time. Now it’s raining heavily and some unwelcome tears are streaming down my face, melting with the rain. I am disappointed, three hours have already passed by since my arrival in Rome and I haven’t concluded anything good. I decide to phone home... my wife has got a fever and I decide to go back home. That’s not too bad, to begin... Exhausted, I go back home... Cold and stress made me weak and I think I am feverish too. Nevertheless, I’m not going to give up.. I am sure there will be another chance... I don’t lose heart! The first week of January I commuted to Milan... I used to leave soon in the morning with my stuff (not forgetting my Christmas tree) and I went to Piazza Duomo to collect signatures... It always was rainy and snowy... I went more than once to Milan Court of Justice ... at last, thanks to the signatures I collected at University, I could get in touch with more than one thousands people... I am 16
satisfied, I’ve expiated my guilt too, because I should have started this battle many years ago, but my job didn’t allow me to. Let’s get back to the subject, I have to admit that the people I talked to are very sensitive and highly indignant about this social crime ..., many of them were uninformed... I think I did something good.
The “Hope Book”’s cover NOT TO FORGET… Ferruccio happened to be tied to the feet of the bed, with his hands tied behind his back, he was pinched with nails and was shut up in the shower box. Franco was given punches and blows with a broomstick; Alberto was hit on his head with a bottle and a swelling came out, with blood.... Teofila was cruel to Domenico, she gave him blows with a stick and she made him lick his own pee, because he sometimes weed in bed; she made him take icy baths, she made him get down with his hands and knees on the pebbles... she forced him to go around the dormitory with the chamber pot on his head, to humiliate him, because he suffered from enuresis. CHILDREN LIKE RUBBISH In two years in Italy, 650 children born alive were thrown away in the rubbish skips. Not all of them were saved, because someone was found late and didn’t survive. But, unfortunately, besides these kids, there are many other children who were never been found. On average, more than one child a day was thrown in the rubbish. This, maybe, is surprising, it’s shocking, but not so much, if we consider that our mind is dimmed by those who, by means of mass-medias, have interest in hiding these crimes, so that we can’t think our own way. On the contrary, heart, human affections and solidarity are cancelled because they would let us know the truth, while those who have the power of money have interest in cheat us with lies,
with hypocrisy, with appearance. So, these facts run away, like water on a marble slab, and they don’t hurt us anymore. From the monthly “La Vita”. A page from the Hope Book, 1995.
OPEN LETTER, 1996 (SCALFARO – GRILLO – PIVETTI – PRODI – MELANDRI – SCALFARI – ZERO – COSTANZO – TURCO) Milan, the 10th January, 1996 To the attention of the Chancellor of Milan University The undersigned Gabriele Cervi asks to Your Lordship to authorize me for a collection of signatures inside Your University concerning children’s adoption procedures in our country; the purpose on my initiative is to urge Parliament Members to debate this bill. --------Cremona, 8th February 1996 To the Director of Public Prosecution’s Office Cremona Dr. Grillo Object: Report For Your information, I enclose 2 photocopies of articles published on two dailies (one of these is a local paper), where the drafters denounce the business and speculations concerning the adoption procedures in our country and, specifically, in our town. 18
As a citizen, but, most of all, as an ex-user of these institutes, I feel bound to send You this report, so that Your Lordship, after analysing these public complaints, can start a survey, if there’s sufficient grounds for it. Cervi Gabriele ---------Cremona, the 10th February 1996 To the President of the Chamber of Deputies Mrs. Irene Pivetti MP Roma Object: Appeal Mr. President MP, On 8th October 1995 I read an article on a national daily which made my flesh creep, but, above all, shocked me as an Italian citizen. The article talked about the shady business concerning orphanages and institutes. Since then, I swore I wouldn’t have peace until this scandal hadn’t been solved. At this point, I wondered what I could do to really help my brothers. After rejecting the idea of involving the parties’ secretaries, that I consider to be just business committees, my fantasy helped me and I thought to create a sort of book, that I named “Hope Book”. With this book, that You will find enclosed, I started to go around Milan, symbol of “mani pulite”. My destinations were: Law Courts, Duomo Square, the underground passages and the University. In eight days, I managed to talk to more than one thousand people: my conversation with everyone lasted about fifteen minutes, to explain them the real reasons of my initiative. At last, everybody agreed this is the moment to debureaucratize the adoption procedures. Obviously, a severe and impartial control has to be done. Mr President, in the name of the thousand signers who ideally assigned me this task, I kindly ask You to take this matter to heart. We are not asking You something impossible, but, since You are one of the highest offices of state, we ask You to intervene in the parliamentary committees to press for an urgent intervention from the Members of the Chamber You properly represent. I’m looking forward to hear from You soon. Best regards. Gabriele Cervi (ndr) It was all in vain: after some time, the government topples down and I decide to send another letter to Irene Pivetti. --------Cremona, the 20th February 1996 To the President of the Chamber of Deputies Mrs. Irene Pivetti MP Roma Mr President, Unfortunately, this early and unexpected election has invalidated my actions. My disappointment is so strong that I think it is useless for me to vote. I cannot vote a state freely engulfed by statism and carve-up, a state where thieves are crafty and honest people are considered completely silly. I cannot vote a state where business is ruling. 19
Anyway, thanks if You can do something. Cervi Gabriele ------------
Insured letter Cremona, the 9th April 1996 To the President of Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro Rome Object: Appeal to children’s benefit and ballot paper for political election of 21st April 1996 Mr President, Hereby I’m informing You that as a modest and honest citizen of this country, I’ve decided not to vote on 21st April. Mr President, I don’t want to be disrespectful to You, but this state of ours, that You properly represent, is not a state subject to the rule of law. For example, section 1 of our Constitution should be completely modified as follows: “Italy is a Republic based on parties’ secretaries which are nothing else but business committees, subordinated to lobbies, corporations and unions. Mr President, this stinking hotchpotch has created, during these years, a situation of free corruption. I won’t list all the foul deeds upon which our system is based (government by compromise, bribes scandal, and other scandals involving many aspects of our society, such as the rent system, invalids, universities, health boards, Amnesty, mass-medias and children situation, which has still to break out). You should read a daily of ten, twenty or thirty years ago to understand the dramatic situation we live in, with all its recent scandals. Today we live in a sort of far-west system and those who obey the law are emarginated and pointed at, while honest people are considered different, a sort of crazy splinter to eliminate. By now, business spares nobody, not even children. In this specific case, I am talking about thousands of children who are only stuff, for some merchants of our state. This “merchandise” (not classified because not registered) is rotting in thousands of orphanages, now called children institutes or charitable institution. It’s a diversified world, supported by an obsolete law, the n° 184 dated 1983, which is now unapplied. Mr President, this state of ours has not moral and civil requisites to be called a state subject to the rule of law and that happens not because there are first and second-class citizens, but because some citizens aren’t classified. At present, we don’t know how many children are rotting in the different institutes... But the state, which doesn’t check the situation, yearly spends 2.400 milliards of lire, distributed to the orphanages’ directors: we are talking about public money, obviously! This money, thrown away to sustain structures that don’t produce anything, could be used, on the contrary, to help (with food tokens, for example) poor families, bereaved of their children by a state that banishes them in the usual institutes. So, the state, besides breaking up a family, condemns parents and children to a tragic separation, when their only fault is poorness. And all this happens in spite of government’s welfarism based on a spoils system and on waste of public money. As You can see, Mr President, I didn’t choose a convenient silence, but I have been fighting for months for this right and legitimate cause. 20
To awaken public opinion to these problems (I counted only on my own efforts and on my scarce money supplies), I collected on a book (called “Hope Book”) one thousand signatures of citizens. The signers agreed to press for an urgent intervention from the Members of Parliament, so that they could, as soon as possible, debate the bills concerning children adoption’s procedures in our country. On 10th February, I sent the Book to the President of the Chamber of Deputies Mrs Irene Pivetti MP to kindly request Her intervention in the Parliament committees about this delicate matter. I am glad that, after a long period of silence and abscondence, something is changing: it’s the case of Cardinal Tonini’s intervention. During a recent interview with a national daily, when he was asked a question concerning adoption matters, he answered, with great conviction, that singles are better than orphanages. Tonini has courageously taken a position against the traditional Catholic ideology... Anyway, we all know that Jesus Christ was adopted and he was lucky because the 184 law didn’t exist yet! Mr President, as You know, there are two draft bills in Parliament: if they were urgently debated and deliberated, they could open the orphanages doors once and for all. Yet, as I remember that it took more than 14 years to pass the rape law, I’ve decided to ask Your Lordship to intervene, as soon as new Parliament is sworn in, so that the Members of Parliament will urgently debate the draft bills I mentioned before. As regards political Leaders, it’s shameful (and I stop here) that none of them deigned to spend a single word in favour of these “nonexistent” children, even though they knew the tragic situation. That’s why I also enclose my ballot paper: I cannot vote anything. In the name of the bleak reality our country lives in and in conformity with “par condicio” (equal treatment), the undersigned Gabriele Cervi refuses his own ballot paper, because I haven’t got enough trust to give anybody my vote during the next legislature. I would like You to understand, Mr President, that my action doesn’t mean to be against institutions (I’ve always served with honesty and allegiance), but they cannot make a fool of myself anymore (I’m sorry for the bad term), since I don’t trust their hypocritical attitude towards family, solidarity and faith . When You receive this open letter, the Holy Easter will be already over, but, even if late, I would like to send my best wishes to You and, most of all, to Your daughter and to the political Leaders’ children, because I think it’s not fair that fathers’ faults fall on their children. Best regards. Cervi Gabriele --------To the Editor of the daily “La Repubblica” Dr. Eugenio Scalfari Mr Dr. Scalfari, I hereby enclose the open letter I sent to the President of Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro concerning the adoptions business. I hope You can publish it on Your daily. Best regards. Gabriele Cervi Cremona, 10th April 1996 21
Dr. Maurizio Costanzo Canale 5 Roma Dr. Costanzo, For Your information, I here enclose a copy of the open letter I sent to the President of Republic, Senator Scalfaro. As a free citizen, I promoted this initiative because I think it is my duty and, as such, I hope it could be a reason for meditation for someone. Yours faithfully Gabriele Cervi ANSWER
Prefecture of Cremona 13th April 1996 Mr. Cervi Gabriele Cremona Object: Return of ballot paper On behalf of General Secretary of the Republic Presidency, we return the ballot paper You sent to the above-mentioned office on 9th April 1996. The Prefectâ€™s Office The Principal private secretary ( Panico )
--------General Secretariat Of the Republic Presidency General Affairs Service Social solidarity Department Rome, 17th April 1996 Mr. Cervi, Following Your request to the President of Republic, I wish to inform You that these Offices have provided to advise the competent Organs of Government. We sincerely hope that the suitable initiatives can be urgently promoted to meet Your request. Best regards. Head of department (Dr. Giampiero CONRADO)
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES Rome, 7 May 1996 22
Mr Cervi, Thank you very much for your kind letter. I assure you that I will keep on fighting so that the adoption laws you auspicate will be passed. Best regards Giovanna Meandri --------La Repubblica Rome, 15th May 1996 Mr. Cervi, I’m very sorry but we don’t publish any open letters. Thank you anyway for writing me. Best regards Eugenio Scalfari Cremona, 18th June 1996 Mr. Dr. Scalfari Eugenio Editor in chief of daily “La Repubblica” Rome Mr. Dr. Scalfari, I received your kind reply and I thank you very much in my turn: you were so kind to reply, at least! (...) Yours faithfully Gabriele Cervi -----------Cremona, 18th June 1996 Mrs. Giovanna Melandri MP. Rome I received, with my great joy, Your kind reply. Mrs Melandri, I’m fighting against time... too much evil has been done, too many destinies have been badly changed, too many children (who are now adults) have grown up completely alone because our state treated them like stuff. Please help them... You can do it. Yours faithfully Gabriele Cervi ----------------
Cremona, 5th May 1996 TO THE KIND ATTENTION OF 23
RENATO ZERO Dear Renato, Hereby I enclose, for Your own information, a copy of my Hope Book. You have to know that, among our state’s problems, there is one serious matter: its incivility, its immorality make us come down to a Third World’s country level. In these countries, as we know, a state subject to the rule of law doesn’t exist and the weakest people are the most vulnerable to any abuses; in our specific case, the abuse is totally to orphans’ detriment. I am an ex-orphan, who personally knew what survival means, when you are completely forsaken in a bleak and cold institute. Yet, in spite of my first bad luck, at three years old, I was adopted, even if the shock had already nullified the first period of my life till my adolescence. It wasn’t easy to live together with pain, with insecurity, with the most foolish complexes, with a great sensitiveness and shyness, but, most of all, it wasn’t easy to learn. (...) I thought about you because your songs often helped me to make myself out during the hardest moments of my life. I thought about you also because you are a very sensitive, good and real person, you know how to love other people, but, most of all, you did never side with the powers that be. (...) For these children, you could do so much, please talk about them during your concerts, in your interviews and you will see that the orphanages will be soon empty. It’s a fight against time, because the more time passes by, the more children will grow up with death inside. Bye, Renato PS: my best wishes! ( n.d.r.: This letter was delivered on this date at Ponchielli Theatre (where Renato had his performance) to one of the organizers, who personally assured me that he would give it to Zero. Since then, I’m waiting for an answer... But, I really wondered, all these years round: did they really give my letter to Renato?) --------------Cremona, 27th July 1996 To the President of Cabinet Romano Prodi MP Rome Object: how to save 2.400 milliards of lire... Mr. President of Cabinet, I’m writing to You to talk business. At present, our state gives to thousands of Institutes about 2.400 milliards of lire to sustain nearly 50.000 orphans, parked there by the tutelary judges, since there were no alternatives. I wondered more than once why the state has to dissipate 2.400 milliards, while three draft bills in Parliament (Melandri – Pds, Guidi – Fi, Mussolini – An) are going rusty. If Parliament should urgently pass these bills, thousands of children would have the chance to give and get love; at the same time our state, that, I suppose, doesn’t enjoy good health, would save a lot of money! Mr President, we need some good will to succeed, but, most of all, it is a duty that the representatives of our country, of which you are one of the best leaders, must make responsible for.
A great part of this money could be invested to help poor families, for example, by giving them food, clothes, school tokens, and so on. But, above all, this money could be used to realise custody programmes. These days, we have heard a happy sentence by Constitutional Court: the limit of age of new parents, which is now 40 years old, can be exceeded, if this can be useful for the child. I don’t want, Mr President, to use the word “business”, but unfortunately I must say with sadness that here there’s a lobby that didn’t allow (until now) and won’t allow the Parliament to pass adoption laws. That’s why, on 9 th April of this year, I sent a letter to the President of Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (here enclosed with relevant reply), in which I rejected my ballot paper because I thought anyone could deserve my vote. Now, I humbly write to You, because I know You are a good person. Dear President, our country doesn’t need any charismatic leaders, but it needs honest and real leaders (...). I wish you to enjoy Your holidays, but please, remember these children when You’ll go back to Parliament; remember that, although there are yearly over 20 thousands requests for adoption, these children are rotting in the institutes and cannot fly off (...). Cervi Gabriele -------------Personal Registered letter Cremona, 12th December 1996 Minister for Social Affairs Mrs. Livia Turco MP. Via Barberini, 47 00187 Rome Mrs. Turco MP, Here enclosed You will find a paper correspondence concerning my personal initiatives and position towards the business of orphanages. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken care of these children since 27 th July 1996 because of serious problems (see the letter to the President of Cabinet, Romano Prodi MP). These problems still exist today and don’t allow me to devote myself entirely to this right, fair, sacred and legitimate cause. That’s why I’m sending You all I have to prove what I did, because I am sure that You’ll be able to solve this endemic scandal as soon as possible!! You have to understand that I don’t need a reply from You, because I know that Your reply will be given in the right circumstances. Thank You so much, also because I’m convinced that, thanks to You, this will be the last Christmas these orphans will spend in the institutes. Please, accept my best wishes for a Happy Christmas to You and Your family. Gabriele Cervi
LIVIA TURCO’S STATEMENT ON 28TH MAY 1996 Rome – The way to solve the serious problem of the 40 thousand children who are in the institutes is not only to grant adoption to the singles too, which I do not contest at all, but rather to sustain the poor families, who are often considered the real cause of this problem. 25
This is the position of Livia Turco, Minister for Social Affairs, who, during a meeting in Naples, expressed her wish to facilitate the office hours flexibility for parents, so that they can limit their working days in particular periods of their childrenâ€™ life.
WITNESSES Cardinal Tonini: “Adoptions? Singles are better than orphanages”. Milan. “A single rather than an Institute”. Cardinal Ersilio Tonini has no doubts. He is persuaded about what he says on the adoptions problem. His position is definitely far from the traditional catholic ideology, since he gives to a single the chance to adopt a child. Dalila di Lazzaro knows something about that, because she has been fighting for years to have a child. She filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, but she lost. Now she’s waiting for a reply from Strasbourg Court. Cardinal Tonini’s unexpected position was expressed yesterday at “Video sapere”. During the TV programme, they talked about this matter, in the light of two draft bills next Parliament must examine. Tonini also added that “this choice is preferable, even if the child will be handicapped compared with other kids”. We know that law, religion, and many associations too, fight against adoptions by singles, supported by the fact that children wouldn’t grow up like the other children because there’s only one parent. From “Corriere della Sera”, 27th February 1996
CHILDREN’S MARKET On some newspapers I read they are investigating the scandal of adoptions business: there will be inspection in Italy too. Investigations started in Bahia (Brazil): in that country, children are not adopted but sold. We are talking about 80 millions lire a child... In four years, 534 families out of 610 have come back from Brazil with a child. Obviously, this could happen thanks to judges and lawyers, suspected of lucrative activities. Between the Italian cases, we cannot forget Oriella Dorella’s (a famous classic dancer), who has made an International request for adoption three years ago and after a month of long wait in Bahia, she said that everything was a bitter disappointment and that she has started another procedure in Rio. The juvenile magistrate Livia Pomodoro has remarked that in Milan there could be an appendage of the Brazilian inquiry, but it is maybe concerning the illicit organs trade. I was impressed by Dorella’s determination, will and courage to carry out this adoption procedure, in spite of all. Oriella Dorella and his husband requested, during three years, a lot of certificates and they respected all the procedures of Brazilian law, but unfortunately, this scandal has stopped (legitimately) all the adoptions of that country. Yet, she’s not going to give up, she declares that she’s available to adopt two little brothers, without any problems concerning the colour of skin. At this point, a deep reflection is spontaneous: why, for God’s sake, people like Oriella Dorella (but many other unknown couples in Italy too) sacrifice themselves for years to have
a child and must go abroad? Because in our country adoptions are hampered by this disgusting situation of business profits and are allowed little by little. But is it possible that this happens in a country like Italy, that boasts of being democratic and civil? In a state whose best neighbour is Pope, who has always good words for families and children? It’s a real shame! That’s another reason for going on, but we wonder how many battles we’ll have to face to vindicate our denied rights!!!
EASIER ADOPTIONS Good news, at last. Some days ago a draft bill concerning adoptions was introduced at the Chamber of Deputies. The text of the bill talks about a lot of things: suppression of new parents’ age limits, qualification of social services, increment in the speed of adoption procedures, preparation and supporting frameworks for adoptions, establishment of new ombudsmen and central authorities for children custody and adoption, new chances for singles, and a new system providing a “biologic-like” waiting for adoptions: that means that 9 months after presenting an adoption request, the new parents have the right to receive an answer, both positive and negative. The first signer is Giovanna Melandri MP, Member of Pds Party. If this draft bill will be approved, it will bring about a complete revolution in this field, but we must aim to the closure of these useless institutes. This dirty business is very big and laws, even if worthy and suitable, are often unapplied in our country because of the lack of endemic controls. Corporations and lobbies are very powerful, and, besides this, we cannot underrate the time factor. I wonder how many years will have to pass by before debating, amending and deliberating this bill....
1997 WITNESSES ( ROBERT SCHUMAN – LIVIA TURCO ) STOP TO CHILDREN INSTITUTES, STOP TO ORPHANS, THE MOST POWERFUL CATHOLIC ORGANIZATION OF VOLUNTEERS MAKES THE PROPOSAL. TURCO: “ I AGREE”
Rome - Angels don’t exist, says the heretical Don Vinicio Albanesi from the stage. So, the President of the most powerful catholic organization of volunteers (the Cnca, made up of 208 realities) challenges the catholic world of institutes giving shelter to 37000 orphans. The title of the meeting couldn’t be clearer: “No more institutes”. Together with Don Albanesi, there are the Minister for Social Affairs Livia Turco MP, the President of Region Latium Piero Badaloni, the President of Latium’s juvenile court Luigi Fadiga. “No more institutes” means that we must stop shutting up children who cannot be sustained by their families. It means “immorality” (and for President Fadiga also” illegality”), because they can’t tear children away from their families and from their affections on the pretext of great financial difficulties, as Stefano Ricci remarks (Ricci is responsible for the “minors group” of Cnca [national Coordination of welcome communities]). Immoral, illegal and uneconomic too: a survey made by national Coordination shows that if one thousand children were taken out from institutes and assigned to original or guardian families (with suitable subsidies), the state could save a good 14 billion lire a year. We can easily calculate the whole public savings if the children assigned were ten or twenty thousand. Of course, we cannot think of closing institutes and leave thousands of needy children and families to run wild. A good solution could be the creation of family-houses, social micro cells which goes beyond the surrounding discrimination typical of present institutes. Livia Turco agrees with that and, during her intervention, makes an important declaration: this is, she says, the real social State. But a lot of people are careful not to favour the main point of this debate: that social State is based on the institution of family. On the contrary, she polemizes, everyone talks only about pensions and health. So, the result of Italian social politics is still regulated by Crispi laws of 1890, with a “jungle” of laws and rules changing from region to region. Luigi Fadiga harshly talks about “joyful removals” from families. They are just like inclined planes: it’s difficult to resist. For those who run them, they are convenient, easy, quick and cheap and, most of all, they create the impression of solving a problem. On the contrary, results are dramatic. In many cases, it happens to lose orphan’s trails. We often are witnesses of real “welfare deportations”. From the daily “La Repubblica” of 26th June 1997
WITNESSES “ I AM A COMPLETE FAILURE, I AM GOING TO DIE ” “I am a failure, a vegetable without will of living, without stimulus anymore, without the smile I had together with my grandmother, that I hope to join in Heaven, where I am sure I will be serene and tranquil with her”. This is Rosario Conti’s last cry for help; he’s twenty years old, he’s from Naples, he has nobody else in the world. From today, he’s decided to start the hunger and thirst strike, “to the bitter end”. He wrote a last, desperate appeal to the newspapers and then he shut himself up in his little bedroom of Grosseto’s Student House, where he arrived after passing from one institute to the other. Rosario is not even trying to find a job, he simply needs some friendliness and, above all, he can’t do without a family anymore. His life has been a long ordeal: his mother deserted him when he was born, his father died some time later, his grandmother, with whom he lived for 11 years, died while holding him in 30
her arms. When he was just a little boy, he was left in an institute where, he says, “I lived very bad experiences”. He’s pride of saying that he has always resisted temptations, he has never been involved in criminality and drugs matters, so near to his reality more than once. Rosario tried to react also when his life in common with a family from Grosseto (lasted some years) failed. In June, the boy finished his third school year at Grosseto’s Commercial Institute, where he has got his only friends. For long time, his greatest hope has been to find a new, real family, someone who live with. “I know – Rosario says - that it is a very difficult demand to satisfy, but I can’t do without a bit of love. Even a community would be enough for me”. Before the last appeal (concerning the hunger strike), Rosario gave a scream of anguish to the President of Republic and to the Minister for Social Affairs: in reply to his longing letters, Roman authorities just had kind words, full of affection and participation, for him, but no facts followed these words and his situation has grown worse. Rosario was also a guest at Maurizio Costanzo Show; after the programme, he went back to Grosseto full of hopes. Also this time, though, he felt bitterly disappointment. Despite all the concerns of people who know him and his last desperate call, Rosario is full of life and keeps on fighting. In fact, besides the sad news of his hunger strike, his tragic situation is evident in his letter’s final passage: “By now, pain has exasperated me, I hope you can give me the chance to cry out with pain, to give a last cry”. From “Il Giornale”, 3rd September 1997 ---------------Cremona, 18th September 1997 European Mediator Robert Schuman Strasbourg OBJECT: Appeal for supposed irregularities in the management of Italian orphanages. The undersigned Gabriele Cervi, as Italian citizen, hereby intends to make a formal petition to Your Institution (European Mediator) to let You know the serious situation concerning the business of Italian institutes for orphans. To support my request, I here enclose (...), which is a complaint against this Business and all the speculations concerning adoption procedures in our country. Among these, I remark the missing national census of these children and the scandal of “welfare deportations”. I hope (with all the supporting documents here enclosed) You can start a survey and, at the same time, alert the entire European Community. I thank You in advance for what You will do and I hope to receive Your kind reply. Best regards. Gabriele Cervi ANSWER
Strasbourg, 17th October 1997 Mr Cervi, I reply to Your letter of 18 th September 1997, in which You denounce the situation of Italian orphanages, as well as the speculations concerning adoption procedures. The European Community Agreement and the Charter of the European Mediator provide precise conditions about receiving a complaint. 31
The Mediator can start a survey only if these conditions are satisfied. After a thorough review of Your complaint, we deduced that it doesn’t satisfy this condition, because this does not concern the action of an institution or a Community body. So, I am sorry to tell You that I am not authorized to treat Your request. Anyway, on European scale, I can suggest You to address to European Council, so that the social problem You mentioned can have more chances to be solved. Therefore, I enclose an informative brochure. Best regards. Jacob SODERMAN ------------EUROPEAN INFORMATIVE REPORT Cremona, 3rd November 1997 EUROPEAN COUNCIL FRANCE The undersigned Gabriele Cervi, Italian citizen and ex-user of orphanages, hereby intends to make a petition to European Council to acquaint You with the situation concerning the business of today’s Italian orphanages. In support of my demand, I here enclose (...) speculations concerning adoption procedures in my country, including the lacking of a national orphans census and the scandal of “charitable deportations”. I hope you can start a survey as soon as possible and personally ensure helpless children’s rights. I thank you for all that you will be able to do and I trust in your kind reply. Yours faithfully Cervi Gabriele ANSWER
Strasbourg, 27th November 1997 Mr. Cervi, In reply to Your letter of 3 rd November 1997, I am sorry to tell You that European Committee for Human rights is not competent to intervene as You wish. According to the law 19 of European Agreement, the Committee’s task is to check the respect for the rights guaranteed by European Agreement for Human Rights. I here enclose, for Your information, a copy of it, together with the instructions for those who wish to address to the Committee. Best regards. For the Secretary of European Committee for Human Rights Sergio Sansotta
WITNESSES “ THE WHOLE THING MUST BE REDONE “ MY DEAR CHILDREN, THE PRESIDENT OF ROME’S JUVENILE COURT TALKS ABOUT THE NEED OF A STILL FAR REFORM. LUIGI FADIGA IS VERY OUTSPOKEN: “GOVERNMENT MUST CHANGE ALL THE RULES STILL BASED ON A ROYAL DECREE DATED 1934”. Juvenile justice is today based on incompetence and it produces terrible damages. Even Minister Turco’s childhood scheme forgets this theme. It’s a question of redoing juvenile courts, not of helping them. It’s amazing that Ulivo’s programme doesn’t mention that at all. It’s amazing and also worrying that the reform for justice the Minister is going to pass doesn’t mention anything concerning this matter. Luigi Fadiga, President of Rome’s juvenile court, spoke harshly, some days ago, as a President of Italian juvenile judges, at the adoption and custody convention of Papa Giovanni XXIII association. He didn’t change his mind, even if wants to precise that Turco’s recent childhood Scheme is “an extremely positive aim, inconceivable until two years ago, so that UNO had rejected Italy as regards the enforcement of children’s rights convention. But justice side of juvenile protection must be “urgently recognized” and juvenile judges intend to urge those who have this duty. “We act on the grounds of 1934 royal decree” Fadiga adds “and we care about children of 90s with a judicial structure created 63 years ago”. “Damages – the judge says – don’t immediately appear because children have neither political representatives, nor the power to protest. The result of this? An “impossible” justice: “There’s only a law court in every district of a court of appeals – He explains – that means, more or less, one per region”. But an “unfair” justice too: “The son of a real couple who’s getting divorced – Fadiga says – is granted to a guardian family by the juvenile Court, but the judge isn’t usually involved in the economic side of the question. When the guardian parent (usually the mother, so the weakest part of the family) asks for alimony, all we can do is suggesting a civil suit procedure. The custody of a married couple’s son is provided by civil court, where, anyway, judges have no specialization as regards minors and their problems. “In these courts, divorce proceedings are generally assigned to the first section – Fadiga points out, - that is the section which is responsible for successions, complex property suits concerning public authority, and so on. As a result, the attention of these judges is drawn by urgent questions and financial problems, rather than by delicate matters such as children custody”. An “uncoordinated” justice: as regards abuses of children, the court is supported also by ordinary Prosecutor’s office, for the crime committed by adults: “This kind of situation is not ruled by any laws” President says. Justice risks sometimes of being “incompetent” because of these juvenile judges; a specific preparation in childhood matters (psychological, sociological, and so on) is not always provided. “A particular training is absolutely necessary”, he admits, “Today, a specialization is required only to chief judges and to directors of public prosecution’s office. Careers goes on in order of seniority, so a civil judge can require to become a juvenile judge without having any specific acknowledgments in childhood matters”. It’s like a director of anti-mafia prosecution’s office who become a tutelary judge.
Now, I wonder whether it is time to set up a new family court.... We have been talking about that for almost thirty years, by now. “This proposal causes opposing reactions – Fadiga replies – Personally, I agree with that. There are encouraging experiences abroad. In Italy too, we could do something positive, for example, if we set up, in every civil courts, a specific section for these problems. In Milan, Prosecution’s office has successfully provided that.
WITNESSES PAPER CHILDREN AND RIGHTS UNO AGREEMENT EIGHT YEARS AFTER ITS APPLICATION ERNESTO CAFFO’S BITTER COMMENTS. UNO Agreement eights years later. The balance made by Prof. Ernesto Caffo, founder of TELEFONO AZZURRO, is negative. “The agreement history is proof of our Country commitment” he remarks from his headquarters in Bologna. Approved in 1989, the agreement was ratified by Italy in 1991 and the first report to UNO had been made only three years later. “.... so that we well deserved blames by Ginevra Committee, which sent it back to the sender for the suitable corrections”. Actually, the Agreement has become a stillborn plan, except for the creation of children Observatory. There’s also the problem of minors work: nobody cares about integrating these young people in our society, while the “luckiest” of them – Caffo adds – are taken into these institutes for too long”. Institutionalization: another insult to children’s rights: institutes, in Caffo’s opinion, “... should be centres of temporary welcome, according to European standards, and not charitable structures only aiming to keep children for the funds they represent”. From the weekly “Vita” of 28th November 1997
MY PERSONAL PROPOSALS TO LIVIA TURCO CONCERNING THE ADOPTION REFORM Cremona, 15th December 1997 To the attention of Livia Turco MP. Minister for Social Solidarity Rome Object: sending proposal for adoption, custody, handicap trouble, unmarried mothers and paedophilia for issuing of laws by decree to abolish institutes. Mrs. Turco MP, I hereby send You some simple proposals concerning the unresolved problem of adoptions in our country. Your childhood plan is, for different reasons, revolutionary, especially if we consider that in 1995 UNO rejected our Country as regards the application of Children Rights Agreement. Yet, allow me to say that Your plan needs absolute priority!! Not to mention the removal of institutes! 34
Only if You have the power and the courage to bring in to Cabinet a law by decree that could abolish these expensive, empty and cold containers, this dirty business can be removed and adoption procedures can take off. It’s not certainly impossible to think that many unlucky children can have new chances and can, at last, play an active part in their destiny. I hope that this letter isn’t rejected and I wish a Merry Christmas to You and to Your family. Best regards. Cervi Gabriele ( My proposals for orphans tragedy to Livia Turco MP )
ADOPTIONS – CUSTODY – HANDICAP UNMARRIED MOTHERS – PAEDOPHILIA PROPOSALS FOR A NEW LAW BY DECREE TO ABOLISH INSTITUTES 1) INSTITUTES In the orphanages, children are passive characters. Everything is planned. This institutes, also called family-type structures (family in name but not in deed), cannot give love and affection. The institute, even if little, will never be able to take the place of a real family. The first right of a child is to have a family, that’s all! If a state denies them this right, it is nothing but a barbaric state. MEMORANDUM A) At present time, there are 40 thousand children in the orphanages and more than 60 thousand adoption demands at year. B) For their support, our state spends yearly 2.400 milliard lire, that means 200 milliard a month. On average, it spends about 4-6 million lire for every child. C) On national scale, a real census has never been made, so we can deduce that today, public funds are allocated without a legitimate control. 2) THE BUSINESS OF ORPHANAGES We can prove that a lot of institutes, thanks to public money and political hedge funds, have managed to build mega structures and engage staff. So, it’s logical that the structures which should give back children to their families, keep them in order to get public subsidies. This speculation could be avoided thanks to custody procedures. 3) CUSTODY Many children parked in the orphanages are not in the position to be adopted, according to the Juvenile Court, because they’re not completely deserted. Generally, these are children without a family assistance: children of drug-addicted, psychically unstable or money less parents. For these children, the only alternative to institutes is a temporary custody by an available family. 4) HANDICAPPED ORPHANS If it’s difficult, for “normal” orphans, to be adopted, for handicapped kids is almost impossible. I say “almost” because some courageous families adopted handicapped children, but these are such rare situations that we could count them on the fingers of one 35
hand. For these orphans, that I consider doubly unlucky, our state should try to do its best..., but all that it does is using institutes to “park” them.
PROPOSALS FIRST SUGGESTION: SUPPRESSION OF INSTITUTES The Government could deliberate on the abolishment of institutes with a law by decree: for example, these institutes could be used to give shelter to homeless, extra-community, drugaddicted people, etc. If institutes were soon closed, there would be a saving of nearly 2400 milliard; with part of this money we could provide: a) A professional retraining of people operating in this field ( social workers, educators, judges, etc. ) through annual courses. At present time, judges activities are based on a royal decree of 1934. It’s incredible that they take care of 90s children by means of a decree dated 63 years ago!! Justice is really incompetent sometimes: it isn’t expected a specific preparation (psychological, sociological) for judges as regards childhood aspects. Today, a specialization is only required to chief judges and to directors of Public Prosecution’s Office. b) Working hours: with suitable economic incentives, the presence of social workers during the whole day could be granted. SECOND SUGGESTION: STIMULATING CUSTODY Custody should be the last chance. Only if a family seems pathologically irrecoverable, custody must be applied; families have absolute priority . In case a couple of parents doesn’t want the custody of a child, then the waiting families have to be considered. The guardian families must not be left alone: psychologists and social workers have to look after them. Moreover, it’s necessary to give them a due subsidy too (for example, food and clothes vouchers, etc, and not money donations, that could represent a profit for someone!). THIRD SUGGESTION: HELPING HANDICAPPED ORPHANS This is a delicate matter, if we think that today, there are thousands of handicapped children living in the institutes. They have a double problem: besides being without love, they have a physical and mental handicap. For these unlucky children, we should do all our best to allow them a dignified life and to improve their learning so that they can well integrate in our society. Society can do that, using the money saved with the closure of orphanages, and giving every child a personal psychologist and a specialized staff, working at rotating shifts, so that presence and efficiency are granted. If adoption or custody are not possible, as a last chance they can be sheltered in micro-family houses. FOURTH SUGGESTION: HELPING UNMARRIED MOTHERS We must state beforehand that, through mass-medias, it is possible to propagandize that there are special laws for young pregnant girls who don’t want to acknowledge their child: these laws allow them to give birth to a child and remain anonymous in the hospitals.
During the last two years, about 650 children have been thrown alive in the rubbish skips. Not all of them were saved; beside these children, there are certainly many other babies who were never found. On average, one child a day (or more) has been thrown away just like rubbish... These girls, who are living today in communities or in little “family-houses”, need a real house, a job and a continuous psychological support. FIFTH SUGGESTION: CREATING A NATIONAL PERMANENT “OBSERVATORY” TO WATCH OVER THE ORPHANS This observatory should control and monitor all the local realities within communes, provinces and regions. SIXTH SUGGESTION: FIGHTING AGAINST PAEDOPHILIA A provisional injunction providing chemical castration and hard labour is absolutely necessary to fight against these monsters.
- NOT TO FORGET… CATANIA’S INSTITUTE On 22nd December 1966 “carabinieri” of.... reported to the local Prosecution’s office: “... a lot of poor children living in the institute... have lice... they are forced to live in unhealthy places... their feeding is pretty scarce and they sleep in cold dormitories where windows are without glasses. There’s a lot of moisture in the institute, with a sickening stink and, even with a coat, one can be cold... There are eight toilets for the kids and two closed toilets for the governesses. Children toilets are Turkish toilets type and are full of excrements. Governesses toilets, on the contrary, are locked, clean and perfumed and toilet bowls are covered with suitable wood cap. On the back side of the toilets there are some gratings without glasses and inside there are six Turkish toilets. In the toilets there are pipes and flushers, but pipes are not connected and there’s no water. In the classroom, while the teacher is giving lessons, there are thirty children... their faces are dirty. The classroom has no suitable didactic structures: on the left of the table (not exactly a desk) there’s a broken blackboard (almost three-quarters of it)”. The report finished as follows: “... It’s a structure showing a deplorable situation, unworthy of human beings. A great number of children, who should receive help and comfort, who should find human affection to forget the distance from their families (and separated from them because of poorness and need), are living, on the contrary, in a dirty and unhealthy place, and they’re dirty and ragged themselves. ….Once Teofila saw that Nicola, together with other guys, were talking with a visitor... So, she called them and promise to give them a lot of toys, but she made them have cold baths. Saverio... once Teofila hit his head with a stick... she made him wash the floor with clothes until late, he had to clean toilets and get down on his knees with his hands on his head or under his knees. The following depositions were made by some witnesses, as injured parties: GIOVANNA: I am attending the second class at the primary school... it’s very cold at night in my room... I have been living in this dormitory for three months and they never changed my sheets, that I found dirty once. They changed my pillowcase only once... Renza and I, we went and call Mrs S. because of lice; she told us that she wouldn’t treat them and that we should manage by ourselves! At dinner, they give us bread and 37
“mortadella” (Bologna sausage), they serve us soup only once or twice a month; the same is for the eggs. MARIA: I am attending the fifth class at primary school.. Mrs. F.M. often beats me with pieces of wood. Mrs A. also beats me up with a more than one metre long stick of wood... The two women also leave us out on the balcony only wearing our pyjamas. They make us clean dormitories, WC and corridors with cold water... after doing all this cleaning, my hands are numb with cold and I cannot even hold my pen.... CARLO: I have been living there for two years. I am attending the fifth class at primary school... The bed I sleep in is only covered with a pair of small blankets: this isn’t enough to protect me from the cold... In this room window glasses are broken and wind and rain come inside... At lunch, they give us pasta, but we often find worms, earth, flies and insects in the plate!
WITNESSES “ A family is better. Anyway ” Once, they used to say about babies: they are so little, they don’t realize that. Food and cares are enough for them. But now, it’s not like that anymore! During the last years, researchers have shown that newborn babies well understand things! They cannot be left in the institutes for months”. Gabriella Cappellaro, a very strong clinical psychologist, has been working for ten years to the Custody Service in Venezia and Vicenza and is now member of the Association “Bambino chiama aiuto” (Baby calling for help). She says: “Institutes are culturally outdated, because today’s psychological and sociological knowledge show us that family is the main and most important institution for children growth. What’s more, this concept is now explicitly stated in the Constitution and in the Children’s Rights Agreement. In institute, a child can neither build good relationships, nor feel the sensation of belonging to anyone. And that is better, for some families, because they feel to be in competition with guardian families. Instead of appreciating the help of other parents, who are available to make up for some lacks, they are afraid that children might make comparisons. On the contrary, we well know that kids always idealize their families, also when they mistreat them”. Children – Gabriella Cappellaro says – are “socially competent” since they are born. The have the right to build important relationships, but that is difficult in institutes where professionalism cannot supplant turn-over rules and employment contracts requirements. Someone said that is better, because, should the child be soon adopted, he shouldn’t become fond of anyone. But that’s a real non-sense: a family is the less evil, anyway, because love and affection are always positive for a child. In people’s life, a family is the main brick, during the construction of relationships, that lasts forever. We have to remember that it’s a non-sense to say that a child well “adapted himself”, as if we were talking about a training. Affection and fondness are other things, that always are with us when we grow up”. r.m. - from “Famiglia Cristiana” 38
1998 ( UNO – Scalfaro – Dario Fo – Prodi – Holy Father ) -------COMPLAINT U. N. O. Committee for Children’s Rights Object: request for a survey about presumed irregularities in Italian orphanages, violating the Children’s Rights Agreement The undersigned Gabriele Cervi, as an Italian citizen, hereby intends to make some requests: In 1995 UNO rejected our nation as regards the application of Children’s Rights Agreement; today, unfortunately, the business of orphanages in our country is a bitter reality, with its speculations concerning adoption procedures (on this subject, I underline that Italian juvenile judges are still basing on a 1934 law by decree), with the lack of a national census of orphans and the “welfare” deportations, as we can see on some articles I here enclose. Therefore, I’m asking You to start a deep survey, as You can answer for the application of Children’s Rights Agreement. ------------Cremona, 8th February 1998 To the attention of the Prime Minister Dr. Romano Prodi ROME Object: request for intervention in favour of orphans and proposals for the removal of institutes. Mr. President, I hereby take the liberty to addressing You my ardent appeal in favour of orphans. As You know, about 40 thousand children are parked today in the Italian institutes, most of them being deserted for several reasons. We must stop this once and for all, Mr President, because these children, who cannot be sustained by their families, have been banished in these “houses” for centuries. That is immoral, illegal and also anti-economic for our society. During the last years, studies have showed that if we should take one thousand children off the institutes and give them back to their original families (or guardian families, with suitable economic subsidies, certainly), the State could save 14 thousand milliard a year. Consequently, we could easily calculate the amount of public savings, if the children out of institutes were 40 thousand! Last summer, You wrote an open letter (published on “Corriere della Sera”) 39
concerning families, in which You declared to be impressed by demographic surveys showing an increasing social sterility and the general “fear of procreating”. I took Your letter as a starting point for writing a personal letter (here enclosed) that was published on a local weekly on 30th August 1997. I also wrote to You a long letter in which I denounced, as an Italian citizen, the orphanages business, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get a prompt reply. That’s why I’m writing to You again, hoping that this letter isn’t rejected, because I’m sure that, even if You are not certainly a social worker, this serious problem can be solved. I’m also sure that You can do all Your best to find a solution, because children’s right to have a family is sacred!! If a state denies this right, it must be considered a barbaric state! Gabriele Cervi ---------------EUROPEAN COMMISSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS Strasbourg, 6th March 1998 Mr. Cervi, Your open letter dated 16th February 1998, addressed to the Member of European Committee Miss Emma Bonino, has reached this European Committee of Human Rights Secretariat, which is different from European Union Committee. Therefore, I sent You back Your letter and I advise You that the next letter addressed to Miss Bonino must be sent to European Union Committee, (...), Bruxelles. I also take the opportunity to precise that in my letter dated 27 th November 1997, I indicated that European Committee for Human Rights is not competent to deal with this case, as You wish, but its task is only to control that the rights guaranteed by Human Rights European Agreement are observed. Meanwhile, I inform You that, if You need to have any clarifications about the European Council’s activities (it’s an international organization for childhood matters), You have to write to (...). Yet, I precise that this Division only operates in “intergovernment” matters and has no power to start any kind of survey. The Secretary of European Committee For Human Rights Sergio Sansotta --------------
to: DARIO FO APPEAL FOR CLOSING ORPHANAGES 9th MARCH 1998 To the attention of Dr. Dario Fo Milan Dr. Fo, I take the permission to address You a call in favour of orphans in our country. Of course, our country!! This acrobatic, hypocrite and bigot country, where government is doing business to the detriment of these poor children!! 40
This country, where our incompetent politicians, as Ponzio Pilato, relegate to thousands of institutes thousands of children, whose only fault is to be deserted. Most orphanages live thanks to public subsidies (...). They try to self-preserve because of employment reasons or local political interests. (...) A great number of opportunist white-collar workers treated these orphans like prisoners, who can’t get out of those squalid containers because they are considered as merchandise: it’s a real violence, a real insult also for thousands of families who would like to adopt them. So, today babies, kids and teen-agers are kept together in these institutes, which should be, on the contrary, temporary assistance centres, in accordance with European standards. But, in Italy, they are real prisons. What a shame!! In 1995 our country was rejected by UNO because we didn’t apply the children’s rights Agreement. Our juvenile justice even makes use of a 1934 law by decree: it’s absurd! How can we think to treat children in the year 2000 by means of a legislative structure dated sixty-three years ago? As You can see, this problem is a bottomless pit; a lot of people busy themselves and get angry, but, besides the usual chatters, there’s no action. Personally, I tried to pass from words to blows, but, unfortunately, even if I’m proud of my freedom and my independence, I have to face my limits too. So I wonder, how can we fight against that? Why such a civil society can’t allow children to make a new life for themselves? That’s why I’m asking You to speak in favour of these innocent children. Best regards. Gabriele Cervi ( This letter had a prompt reply by a theatre actor (Fo’s friend), who confirmed that Mr. Fo and his wife had received my documents. The same documents, then, were used by Fo to put on the stage a travelling exhibition denouncing the adoptions business ). -------------Cremona, 12th March 1998 TO THE HOLY FATHER POPE JOHN PAUL II CITTA’ DEL VATICANO OBJECT: APPEAL TO THE HOLY FATHER IN FAVOUR OF ORPHANS HOLY FATHER, I’m addressing to You in the name of all the children who cannot speak to enforce their rights in this country... They’re only helpless kids, some of them since their birth, others were deserted because their parents couldn’t economically sustain them, grow them, take care of them, but, most of all, nobody tried to help those poor families. Holy Father, I’m talking about the desperate situation concerning orphans in our country. Our state preferred to delegate thousands of institutes to perform this task. Our state, in this case, is like Ponzio Pilato: it washed its hands of it! God sent his Son Jesus Christ on this Earth, but He didn’t leave him alone, he gave Him adopted parents and so Jesus could grow up surrounded by love. So, family is a DIVINE right! These children, these youths are innocent, pure, but they have one fault: they don’t count anything, they are nothing for this wealthy and hypocrite society. The problem is, as Don Benzi points out, that people are unaware of kids’ spiritual and affective needs. 41
You, Holy Father, said Yourself: family is the first school, a permanent school where education to love isn’t made through cold notions, but through the great power of experience. Holy Father, when You receive this letter, Easter will be near: Jesus Christ is going to rise again from the dead and, ideally, I would really like that all these children could resuscitate with Him too. I hope that my call (that I am addressing to You, Holy Father, with all my heart) is accepted; in the meantime, I am glad to wish You a Happy Easter. Gabriele Cervi A REPLY FROM VATICAN
Vatican, 25th March 1998 The Secretary of State gives its regards to Mr Cervi and, on behalf of the Holy Father, thanks Mr Cervi for wishing Him a Happy Easter. Monsignor Pedro Lòpez Quintana Councillor ------------
TELEFONO AZZURRO A REAL VOICE TO PROTECT CHILDREN To the attention of The Director Mr. Caffo, While leafing through your daily (more interesting, now, as regards both paging and the space given to readers), I realized that, among the useful numbers, there isn’t Telefono Azzurro’s. I wondered if this choice is due to the lack of space or to your conviction that this phone number is useless. Personally, I think, better, I am convinced that Telefono Azzurro Association is one of the purest associations we have in our country. The proceeds of donations and bequests are used to pay the real costs and no to give a job to people that have nothing to do with voluntary service. On the contrary, for some non-profit associations, this is a business supported by political figures of the First and Second Republic. Volunteers (authentic people) operating in this association are always highly qualified staff (with a degree in psychology, psychiatry, etc) devoting their time to unlucky children. Never has been created such a good association. In Cremona, there’s a case which can be compared to Telefono Azzurro for its purity: it’s Giorgio Conti’s Association. Today, more than ever, Mr Caffo, prevention is fundamental to fight against the abuse of children. If families or schools are lacking, if people, besides chattering, don’t intervene in the real situations, well, I really think that, for these poor children, it is very important to have a point of reference in their life. Gabriele Cervi, ( letter published on the daily “La Provincia” dated 18th March 1998 ) -------------
TO THE EUROPEAN MEDIATOR COMPLAINT Sent by FAX
To the attention of Dr. 42
Jacob SODERMAN STRASBOURG Mr. Dr. Soderman, I hereby kindly ask Your intervention as regards the very serious institutional scandal of the non-application of the 184 orphans law in our country. The unapplied point is orphans’ registry office. At present, we don’t know how many children are parked in the institutes and the consequences of this have repercussions both on the juvenile courts (which should get detailed six-monthly reports from institutes) and on the judges themselves, who should periodically inspect them. If we don’t know the exact number of children and their personal situations, it is impossible to make adoptions and custodies work. Apart from this, we presume there aren’t administrative controls: how does the state allocate public funds? On which basis these subsidies are distributed if we don’t really know the number of children to help? Now, that’s why the undersigned Gabriele Cervi is addressing to You as European Mediator so that You can intervene to Italian Ministries, to the state or to the government, or to anyone else to point out the bad administration of institutions and community bodies in our country. I am looking forward to receiving a prompt reply and I am at Your complete disposal for every clarifications You might need. Best regards. Gabriele Cervi --------------Cremona, 27th August 1998 To the attention of the member of European Committee Emma Bonino MP Radio Radicale Rome Mrs. Emma Bonino MP, After trying to send You some letters (here enclosed) (...), I take the permission to send You a Fax in Radio Radicale, as the matter has a social importance. Hereby I am asking You to intervene as regards the serious institutional scandal concerning the non-application of the 184 orphans law in our country. The unapplied point is orphans’ registry office. At present, we don’t know how many children are parked in the institutes, except for the regions of Lombardy and Tuscany which have suitable regional registers. The consequences of this have repercussions both on the juvenile courts (which should get detailed six-monthly reports from institutes) and on the judges themselves, who should periodically inspect them. If we don’t know the exact number of children and their personal situations, it is impossible to make adoptions and custodies work. Apart from this, we presume there aren’t administrative controls: how does the state allocate public funds (it is about 24 thousand milliard a year)? On which basis these subsidies are distributed if we don’t really know the number of children to help? Now, that’s why the undersigned Gabriele Cervi is addressing to You as European Mediator, so that You can intervene to the Ministry for Social Affairs, Mrs Livia Turco MP, or to the government, to point out the non-application of equal treatment and the bad administration of institutions, as institutes should be temporary welcome centres, in accordance with European standards. 43
I hope to receive a prompt reply, I thank Radio Radicale for its kind attention and I am at Your complete disposal for any clarifications You might need. Cervi Gabriele ( Mrs Bonino never got in touch with me.... What a disappointment... I counted on Her!! ) ---------------
Cremona, 13th January 1998 To the President of Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro Rome Mr President, I am one of the 11 million Italians who watched on TV Your New Year’s speech on 31 st December. In nearly 40 minutes You talked about a lot of subjects: reforms, justice, amnesty, etc. But the most touching topics, for me, were those concerning voluntary service and childhood. You said that the real voluntary service is the pure one, the FREE one. You said that You know people who thought to be volunteers because they accommodated their parents and their friends. These are not volunteers: the real volunteers operate for nothing. Mr President, I agree with You; there are too many people rinsing their mouth with good words, such as solidarity and goodness but then they reveal to be only miserable opportunists. You finished Your speech pointing at the tragic situation of “children-merchandise”. You mentioned paedophilia and that Pakistan child who was killed at only 12 years old because he denounced exploitation of juvenile labour in his country. Of course, Mr President, these are very serious problems involving our country too, but, please, allow me to add, on this subject, that there are more than 40 thousand orphans waiting for a real family. Now, I ask You how can we acquit our state, our “democracy”, if they couldn’t and can’t accomplish their fundamental duties? What can we say about this government, unable to issue a decree for closing institutes? Minister Livia Turco MP, who’s for the closing of institutes (I recently sent Her a few proposals that I here enclose), issued a good law, the number 285 (better known as “childhood plan”), but that is not enough! Even if we should spend, in three years, the 900 milliard allocated to help poor families and to improve services for childhood, that wouldn’t be enough too. We need to reform and professionalize the whole sector (social workers, operators, educators, judges), because, Mr President, it’s absurd that juvenile judges, for example, don’t have a suitable and specific preparation (sociological, psychological, etc) concerning childhood (even if, it’s not their fault, but it’s the political class which doesn’t legislate). A judicial structure still basing on a royal decree dated 1934 can’t judge children’s situation in 1998, it’s obvious! During a meeting on orphans which took place in Rome some months ago, Dr Luigi Fadiga (President of Latium’s juvenile court) denounced immorality and illegality of this expensive plan (at present, our state spends about 2400 milliard to park children in institutes), consisting of shutting orphans up in these cold containers. Even, this courageous judge openly talked about “merry removals” from families. In many cases, we lose traces of children shut up in institutes. “We often witness real welfare deportations. About amnesty You granted to six terrorists, You justified You decision to leave hope to these young prisoners, who, during the day, go out to work and go back in the night. You really took a great responsibility! 44
So, I would like to ask You, Mr President, why 40 thousand pure and spotless children must live in institutes until 18 years old only because they are considered as stuff? You see, when it’s growing dark, and I think that nobody is kissing them goodnight, I’m very upset and I wonder how we can call this state, that You highly represent, a “democratic and civil” structure... Of course, letters of affection and support, as well as criticism and insults arriving at Quirinale, they are a symbol of democracy too. You were very sensible... that’s why I am hopeful, despite all, because I know that You, Mr President, will busy Yourself with the Prime Minister to discuss this burning question. I thank You heartily and I wish You and Your family a Happy 1998. Gabriele Cervi REPLY
Republic Presidency General Secretariat Judicial Affairs and Constitutional Relations Office Rome, 23rd January 1998 Mr. Cervi, I here reply to Your kind letter dated 13 th January, that You addressed to the President of Republic, expressing some considerations about the serious problem of orphans. On this subject, besides thanking You for Your kind words towards the Head of State, I would like to inform You that this office has notified the competent Minister for social solidarity who, after analysing the question, will let You know as soon as possible. Best regards The manager (Dr. Luigi Paoli)
WITNESSES Juvenile difficulties Dear Sir, Unfortunately juvenile difficulties are increasing. People think that the real cause of this phenomenon is a general loss of values in today’s youth (but I think it’s a society’s loss of values), all the sound principles that, once, parents transferred to their children. But we’re talking about old days, when a youth had the idea of sacrifice and humility and a person was considered for what she really was and not for what she owned. Now, on the contrary, as consumerism is getting more and more standardized, exhibitionism and possession of things are prevailing in our society and try to make up for a general dissatisfaction and for human weaknesses. Anyway, the problems are no concern of youth only. For example, I know people who base their lives on indifference and mistrust, on existential hypocrisy, and then, to pour out their fears, their worries, they buy gifts for other people and for themselves. But these unnecessary expenses only give to the person who buys them the temporary feeling of comfort, of power, of outward possession. Unfortunately, this sad situation can be found also in youth, who differ from adults only for their great fragility; in many cases, this weakness causes devastating effects: criminality, self-damaging behaviour, hedonism and, sometimes, also suicide, because death is often considered as a liberation. To fight against this serious problem which is getting worse in our country too, during the last months Senate is debating a bill providing interventions in favour of juvenile difficulties and introducing the possibility of a psychological help in the schools for students who are going through a problematic period of their life. 45
In fact, youth traumatic pathologies, if not found in time, could trouble a person for life. The declaratory also states that schools, together with parents, have to monitor in good time every symptoms of psychological discomfort students could show, and plan the suitable interventions. This bill is very important, in my opinion, if it is considered with seriousness, professionalism and accuracy, and I am sure that it could really help a lot of children who, for family or interpersonal reasons, urgently need a hand. My hope is that the bureaucratic procedures for passing the bill will shorten, because time is the real enemy of these children; in fact, the growth factor is negative for them, because, the more time goes by, the more difficult is sustaining them. In conclusion, as I’ve been witnessing many situation concerning juvenile difficulties for years, I can say that, this big problem is not only due to young people, but, most of all, to adults (that I mentioned at the beginning of this letter). These latter are not the bearer of good values any more, but, they cause themselves a lot of difficulties and young people, without good and proper models, live in a deep existential disquiet. Gabriele Cervi Letter published on the local daily “La Provincia”
1999 (Pomodoro – Prodi – Lollobrigida – Formigoni – Paulo David) --------Cremona, 8th January 1999 To the attention of the President of Milan’s Juvenile Court Dr. Livia Pomodoro Milan Object: report demanding the opening of a survey in Lombardy. Mrs. Dr. Livia Pomodoro, By means of an article published on the daily “Avvenire” dated 12 th December 1998 (here enclosed as a supporting document), I’ve known that Lombardy (after a data request from Anfaa Association) hasn’t got exhaustive statistical information about orphans. It’s a very serious aspect, because every year, this region allocates thousand millions (public fund) to thousands of institutes to sustain children themselves. At this point, a legitimate question arises from this: if region doesn’t know the exact number of users, on which basis public funds are allocated? That’s why the undersigned asks to You to open a survey in Lombardy, to verify the truth of the events reported on the abovementioned article. Best regards. Gabriele Cervi -------------Open letter delivered today Cremona, 10th June 1999 To the kind attention of the President of The European Union Committee 46
Prof. Romano Prodi Mr. Prof. Prodi, On 8th February 1998 I sent You, as an Italian citizen, a letter-appeal (here enclosed), where I asked You to intervene in favour of all the orphans. Unfortunately, my letter didn’t get a reply, but my commitment in favour of orphans went on and now, after sixteen months I can send You the same sad call. As You can see by the enclosures, I repeatedly (since 1997) filed complaints to the European Mediator, but I didn’t get positive results. For this reason, on 19 th January of the current year, I sent UN a letter in which I made a list of irregularities, such as: Italian orphanages should be temporary reception structures according to the European standards and not welfare centres based on the immoral and inhuman logic of grants-in-aid. Another example: Italian judges’ activity is still based on a law by decree dated 1934 and they have no specific preparation about childhood matters. Last but not least, at present, Italian law has not provided a census for the minors in the orphanages yet. This complaint of mine got an important reply from the Secretary of Children’s rights Committee, who let me know, through a letter dated 19 th February, that my request will be transmitted to the Children’s rights Committee during the next session taking place on MayJune 1999 in Genoa. With all humility, I therefore ask You to intervene to the Prime Minister Mr. Massimo d’Alema MP to submit the serious question of institutes business to His judgement. I’m waiting for Your kind reply and I wish You all my best. Gabriele Cervi ( Short account of the meeting of 10th June 1999 ) I was lucky enough to meet personally Mr. Prodi during a meeting taking place in Cremona on 10th June. After weaving through the many authorities present at the meeting, I manage to shake His hand, at last. In the meantime, I give Him the envelop with most part of my personal battles in favour of orphans. I can also say a few words... I tell Him to help orphans... He tells me he will do... He also tells me that the number of orphans is going down... From then on, I didn’t hear from Him anymore... ---------------Cremona, 20th May 1999 To the attention of Mrs. Gina Lollobrigida Rome Object: sending a dossier concerning orphans Mrs. Lollobrigida, (...) orphans are the real reason for this letter. (...) Unfortunately, the bureaucratic course of adoptions in our country is still very slow, even though the passing of the recent law, which I consider a good law. But this law didn’t defeat the dirty business revolving around orphanages! As You can see, there’s still much to do, but I’m sure You will be able to give a real hope to those who have been looking for a family for years: it’s a sacred right! I hope the documents here enclosed can be useful for Your social activities. My best regards. GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA’S REPLY
Rome, 24th May 1999 Mr Cervi, I thank You very much for thinking so highly of me and for Your letter dated 20 th May: this is a great witness of Your commitment for orphanage. My social commitment in these years consists in my collaboration with some world Organizations providing, through political activities, support for the poorest civilizations, especially African, Asiatic and Latin-American people. In particular, the adoption law in force, even if it has partly regulated the situation, can be certainly improved. Concerning this matter, I think I can intervene to the European Parliament, in order to speak for orphans and for their right to have a family; in fact, these poor children are now waiting for an unlikely adoption and are parked in secular and religious institutes, till they come of age. My best regards (...) Gina Lollobrigida ----------------Fax to MR. FORMIGONI Cremona, 11th October 1999 To the President of Lombardy Mr. Roberto Formigoni M.P. To the District Councillor for social policy To the President of the District Council To the Members of the District Council Their Offices Object: an enquiry from a common citizen. Dear Sirs, I have known that data about orphans living in our Region are old and defective. I’m hereby following up a letter by myself published on the daily “La Provincia” dated th 27 June 1999; in this letter, I addressed Mr. Formigoni M.P. an enquiry about orphans’ situation and the lack of a clear census. Since I didn’t get a prompt reply up till now, it seems to me legitimate, as a simple citizen, to send You by fax this open letter, hoping that You can reply, as soon as possible, to this public enquiry: On which grounds and control procedures does Lombardy region allocates such a great sum of public money to the institutes (in 1996, our Regional balance included a 9 milliard lire allocation for custody projects and a 18 milliard lire allocation as a subsidy to institutes and communities) when the Region itself doesn’t know the exact number of users??!! Gabriele Cervi A REPLY FROM LOMBARDY REGION
REGIONAL COUNCIL Juvenile Office OBJECT: MR. CERVI’S ENQUIRY Following your letter dated 11th October 1999 sent by fax, we inform You as follows: 48
Lombardy region doesn’t fund charitable and educational Institutes for orphans, 2. The usual fund allocation procedures addressed to other kinds of services or social interventions for minors (nursery schools, community lodgings, etc.) is provided by Aziende Sanitarie Locali (Local Health Units) and by the Municipal District of Milan. Our Region yearly finances these institutions with a stated budget for the above-mentioned services and interventions on the grounds of the expenses statement made by the Offices (Municipalities and non-profit private firms) for the different kinds of activities. To get subsidies, every Office has to submit a suitable application to the local government in Milan or to the Local Health Units, together with the activities balance of the previous year. On the grounds of all the applications and the available funds, Milan’s Municipality and the Local Health Units, in accordance with the board of Auditors, fix the financing shares to assign to the different types of service, as well as the amount of subsidies to allocate, basing on a special statement of expenses made by every Office. 3. All the data owned by Lombardy Region about social services and charitable interventions in favour of orphans are neither old nor defective, since they are drawn by the local intervention Plans provided by Local Health Units and by Milan’s Municipality. So, as regards the matter You are talking about in the note (Orphans’ Institutes), the outline of services funded in 1998 is the following: TYPE OF SERVICE
N° of SERVICES
N° of USERS
Community lodgings and Centres for Orphan’s Reception
Community lodgings for Mixed users (adults and minors)
Regional subsidies aim to support the service management (overheads, staff costs, etc.). With the same procedures as indicated at the point n. 2., Lombardy Region yearly assigns also financings for minors’ institutionalisation charges and for subsidies to the guardian families. These interventions are in accordance with the paragraphs 80, 81 and 82 of the Regional Law n° 86, about minors who live: - with guardian families - in community lodgings or centres for minors’ prompt intervention - in educational and charitable institutes. The regional subsidy, also in this case assigned in accordance with the statement of expenses, aims to support Municipalities and Local Health Units providing for the above-mentioned charges and subsidies. As regards these types of intervention, the regional financing in 1998 came to £. 19.679.823.000 corresponding to the 22,4 per cent of the correlated expenses. In particular, as regards the number of minors living with guardian families, it amounts to 2.392. 49
At last, as regards the educational and charitable institutes for orphans (which isn’t directly, nor indirectly managed by Lombardy Region), the outline in 1998 is the following: N° of INSTITUTES: 30 MINORS ON 31st DECEMBER 1998: 650. Yours faithfully. Service Manager (Lina Pierro)
Process Manager (Dr. Maurizio Bricchi )
Preliminary investigation Manager (Anna Maria Plantamura)
Dr. Paulo David Secretary Committee on the Rights of the Child Dear Dr. Paulo David, With reference to your letter dated February 19, 1999 (in reply to my letter of January 19, 1999) informing me that you would have brought the contents of the aforesaid letter to the attention of the Committee for Children’s Rights in the May/June meeting in Geneva, I would like to ask you if that has been recorded. Moreover I would like to know if the information I gave you were considered for the Committee in drawing my comments for the next periodical report on Italy, as you stated. Yours faithfully. Mr. Gabriele Cervi THE REPLY FROM THE SECRETARY
Committee for Children’s Rights Dear Mr. Cervi, The Committee will appreciate any information regarding children’s rights in Italy, when it considers the second periodic report of Italy, which has not been submitted yet. Therefore it will not be considered before 2 years. Yours sincerely, Paulo David 15th December 1999 --------------
COMPLAINT United Nations Geneva Re: request for survey The undersigned Cervi Gabriele, as an Italian citizen, herewith kindly asks: Considering that in 1995 UN voted against Italy for what concerns the enforcement of Children Rights Agreement, and that: a) Italian institutes for orphans should be “temporary reception centres” according to European standards and not charity structures based on the immoral and inhuman logic of government grant-in-aids. b) In my country, judges of the Juvenile Courts are still working according to a law by decree dating back to 1934 and they receive no proper trainings about childhood. 50
c) Up to now, a census of children admitted to the orphanages has not been completed yet. I ask You, to start a survey as You can guarantee the enforcement of Children Rights Agreement. I am looking for Your kind reply and I send You my best regards. Yours faithfully Gabriele Cervi --------------Fax to Laura Balbo Minister for Equal Opportunities Cremona, 31st March 1999 Dear Minister Mrs. Balbo, With great sadness, I read on newspapers Your personal (yet legitimate) and favourable position regarding adoption and assisted fecundation for gay couples. I was lucky enough to be adopted when I was three years old and if today I can say I have a wonderful family, an exceptional wife and two special sons, I must only thank my adopted parents (who I always considered to be my natural parents), who brought me up with great love and gave me important values, such as simplicity, honesty and disinterested solidarity with other people. Your words deeply offended me, because a Minister (in such a shabby Republic) can’t make immoral, unnatural and, most of all, insulting declarations for all those orphans who are deserted in thousand of institutes till the age of 18, because our State and politicians like You have interest in doing it! I have nothing against gay couples, on the contrary, I think gay couples should have a regular life as a couple, involving the same right and duties of a normal married couple! So, You should fight in favour of this denied right, to give equal opportunities to emarginated people, who feel to be different from others! On the contrary, You further segregated these children who, besides being treated with indifference by hyper-bureaucratic laws, have to suffer the consequences of Your irrational position. So, I’m speaking frankly to you: will you please examine your conscience? My best wishes for a Good Easter. Yours faithfully. Gabriele Cervi
WITNESSES THOSE HUNDRED PEOPLE NEGLECTED BY EVERYONE Is it possible that, at the beginning of the year 2000, we don’t know anything about a child in an institute, we don’t know if his parents go to see him or, if he is an orphan, if there’s a plan to give him a better future? Yes, it is – answers Anfaa (Adoptive and guardian families National Association). Maria Grazia Floridi, national councillor, explains: “We’ve recently denounced the dramatic situation shown by data about children living in Lombardy institutes. First of all, we don’t know anything about 117 orphans, or if they were visited by their families, either. We don’t even know if they went back home”. According to data given by Family and Social Politics Department of Lombardy, on 31st December 1996, 766 children were sheltered in the institutes and 1476 lived in a community; in all, we are talking about 2242 children, that means 1498 more than last year. 51
“The most negative data – she explains – are those concerning children’s coming home. It’s true that 364 children out of 766 come back home once a week, but 88 of them do once in a fortnight, 33 once a month, 42 once in six month, and 176 never do. One hundred of these never see anyone. Who are these hundred poor kids, forced to live in a safe, but anonymous place, without a family, without love? “We asked to the Juvenile Court – Maria Grazia Floridi answers – that, in accordance with the 9th paragraph of 184 adoption law, carries out serious controls on orphans living in these structures, starting with those who have no relationship with a family. Lombardy Anfaa sent demands to the regional and local authorities too: “First of all we ask for social-economic and educational helps to the original families, children custody to guardian families, adoptions and family-like small communities. Communes should urgently support adoption procedures for guardian families, starting from very little orphans. r.m. - from “Famiglia Cristiana”
WITNESSES Children and couples, game lost The ratio of couples waiting for an Italian orphan to children who can be adopted is 20 to 1: it’s a sensational item of the latest years, in particular, of 1997, when the ratio of adoption demands waiting for a reply to the children who can be adopted is 21 thousand to 1440! But how is it possible that we have come to a situation of total restriction of national adoptions? It’s simple: while couples keep on doing requests for adoptions, the number of children is always stable. On 31st December 1993, for example, adoption requests were 14.524, while orphans were only 1231; in 1994 requests rises and the number of children goes down: they are 1051. The next year, requests for adoption are 17.512. The kids in the institutes slightly increase: 1148. In 1996, at last, adoption requests are almost 20 thousand (19.998), while orphans who can be adopted are only 1359! But, most of all, we should reflect upon this situation: the number of children getting into the orphanages every year doesn’t reduce at all, despite the continuous appeals for closing these houses of pain. In Italy, as a matter of fact, we generally tend to grant custody of children to Institutes rather than to families (1293 against 922 in 1997): 13 courts out of 25 (which took measures for custody of a child out of his original family) have provided more admission of children in the institutes than family custodies. Besides, in 7 courts family custodies were less than half the number of admissions in institutes! In conclusion, if 1440 children have joined a family, 1293 have been admitted in an institute, and we don’t know how long they’ll stay there. From the weekly “Vita”, 1999
WITNESSES BLIND, HE CAN ADOPT A CHILD Trento: a teacher wins his battle to the Court of Appeal Trento – Even a blind man can adopt a child. This is the sentence established by Trento’s Court of Appeal, a sentence that reversed a previous verdict by the same Court; it was a humiliating situation for him and for all the blind men”. The protagonist of the case is Professor Giuliano Beltrami, 44 years old, blind since his birth: it’s an handicap that didn’t prevent him from becoming a teacher of literature to the 52
secondary school and, at the same time, deputy mayor and town councillor of his village, Storo, in Val Giudicaria (Giudicaria Valley). He got married in 1980 to Maria Teresa, a professor of German language without problems of sight. Two years ago, the couple, who has no children, made an international adoption request. Last February, the Court refused their demand, because of a psychologist’s negative advice. Now, after a second examination, second degree judges approved the couple appeal, and declared the adoption was suitable. “I consider this sentence not only as a personal liberation, but as a liberation for all the blind men” he said. “With our specific case, me and my wife, we have showed that it is possible to win against the prejudices of our country. Italian people have good intentions, but, when they come to the facts, they get stuck at the first difficulties they meet with our incomprehensible and almost inhuman bureaucracy”. The two professors can now start a concrete research of their future child: a stranger minor who was “morally and physically forsaken” and who will go through a pre-custody phase. Two years ago – remember Beltrami with great emotion – we wanted to adopt a Columbian orphan, following the lucky example of two friends of ours. Now, all we aim to is giving a family to one of the many poor children in the Third World. White, black or yellow, we don’t care the colour of his skin, if he is poor. The rejection of the court, three months ago, seemed like an “humiliation” for the professor who, after years of commitment in the social field (assistance to blind, old and handicapped people), is today the President of Trentino Cooperatives’ Association: “Besides our personal pain, the problem was the negative message given by this sentence to all the couple who lived the same situation. It was very difficult and embarrassing to accept of staking my own handicap, to disclose a condition that is usually hidden. But it was absolutely necessary that someone should find the power to act openly, to make his own case an example for other people”. The appeal judgement, he explains, was solved thanks to “a favourable report by a psychologist from Verona who, after six talks, stated that blindness isn’t a resolutive condition; on the contrary, I seem to have developed, I reported her words verbatim, “a very well-balanced relationship with my own handicap”. And this is, in my opinion, a useful judgement for all the blind men”. The future father says in conclusion: “It is right that our state should control adoption procedures. Though, I wish that my case could help in demolishing the principle of the perfect couple, in favour of a normal family. Without forgetting that blindness is only a status, and not a disease, nor a shame to hide. THE RECORD July 1995 With a sentence reversing the Court of Appeal’s decision, the Supreme Court of Justice refuses the actress Dalila di Lazzaro the adoption of a child because she’s a single woman. March 1996 In Acireale (Catania) a nun wants to adopt a child she had brought up before he was adopted by a couple, but her request is rejected. June 1997 A Sicilian couple isn’t allowed to adopt a child. The reason: they already have an handicapped daughter. February 1998 53
In the province of Bergamo a father, separated from his wife, wants to maintain his three children, whose custody is granted to the grandparents, but the social services oppose this decision. April 1998 The Court of Cassation rejects an appeal made by an unmarried father who wants to adopt his deserted son. February 1999 A blind professor wants to adopt an orphan with his wife. The Court rejects his demand. Yesterday the sentence authorizing adoption was passed.
WITNESSES LUCIA’ S STORY: SHE GREW UP IN AN INSTITUTE “What I didn’t have” “I remember of bad people, but also of important figures in my life” Today Lucia is 40 years old, she’s married and she has got three children of 10, 6 and 2 years old. Her story is very particular, but she’ s telling it provided that she remains anonymous. She starts with the story of a child whose first memories are the great cold rooms and the beds of an institute. “My mother – she explains – was a nurse and my father belonged to a high class family. They had two daughters, but they never talked about marriage, because her father’s family didn’t want to. Then, he went away and inside myself, there was the image of a dead father”. Lucia’s mother died of cancer when she was only 14 and her sister 21. Today, 26 years later, Lucia often mentions her, she says she looks like her physically and she recalls the time when her mother used to go and visit her in the institute. “Her presents were regularly taken away from me. Unfortunately, a nun was always present at our meeting: as soon as I told her something that had made me sad, she intervened to mitigate my words and to reassure my mother. I’m sorry to say this, but I also recall bad people, who often ridiculed me by taking me to do shopping and using me in a pietistic way”. But institutes are not only associated with dramatic memories, in Lucia’s mind: “At ten years old, when I moved to the institute called “Stelline” in Milan, I met two people who were very important in my life: the headmistress and the psychologist. I remember I liked them very much since the first moment I saw them because they didn’t force me to do anything. They listened to me and they encouraged me. They helped me to canalize those “survival reactions” I learnt to have in a sort of positive power, to face pain and difficulties. I don’t know if I would have been able to withstand the loss of my mother without them”. There’s another important figure Lucia often mentions, an aunt who “hasn’t blood ties with her, but the relationship is strong anyhow”. This person is part of the family she lived with since she was eighteen.
“I was a nursery-schoolteacher, but I didn’t know where to go. Thanks to a series of coincidences I became part of this big family, who gave me the chance of living new experiences, without the deep solitude I lived in during my childhood. On the contrary, it’s impossible to forget: you can’t forget what you didn’t have, the everyday gestures, your mother waiting for you at lunch, your father wishing you goodnight, someone telling you off, asking how you are. r.m. - from “Famiglia Cristiana” 1999
WITNESSES A little girl covers the town walls with posters: “I’m looking for a family for Christmas Day” “I want a family”. It is difficult, for Santa Claus, to find such a compelling gift, at the bottom of his bag. But Mary Walker tried all the same. She’s sixteen years old, light blue eyes and she’s wearing fingerless gloves, like” the little match girl”; she has covered Blackpool walls with her appeal: “I’m looking for someone who smiles at me and loves me at Christmas”, Mary wrote on about one hundred posters. Then she coloured them, she rolled them, she took her bicycle and she had a ride in the centre, asking to shopkeepers if she could hang them up on the most exposed coins. So, the most economic and efficient advertising campaign of the century has been realized: this little girl has created, all alone, a message which could cut people to the quick more than an expensive spot could do. In these stressful time, with gifts and presents, there are people looking for taxies, champagne magnums and Volkswagen wheels. This girl, deserted by her family and left alone in an institute, is looking for a new family and is hurry: “Christmas is getting near, I am completely alone and sad” she said to the journalists. “But I know that out there there’s someone who could change my situation. I’ve decided to advertise because I wanted to quicken the meeting: maybe I can manage for Christmas”. Mary Walker lost her mother and nobody knows who’s her father. Since her birth, she has been looking for someone to hug and she has been living in an orphanage for eleven months: she had this idea just there! Even orphanages get empty during Christmas holidays: in the cold refectory with walls in beige formica, only five people are left to watch at the soup floating in the plate: Mary herself, her friend Diane and the three old maids who make both ends meet. The other 38 girls left from Friday to yesterday: Jane, with red plaits, was taken away by her uncle from London; the taciturn Francine has moved to her grandparents; Elizabeth, who scraped up some pennies by making beds, said goodbye to everyone by a friend’s car window. No calls for Mary, and yet she has relatives too. “My grandparents, on my mother’s side, are old and ill. For some time, they kept me with them, but social workers convinced them it would be better for me to stay here. They live in Lancaster and they already have a lot of problems, I have to manage by myself”. In Hollywood, in a situation like this, a butler looking like Peter Sellers would materialize and reveal to Mary that her ancestors were Pomerania princes. Then, they would leave for a castle in the wood, with violin music, tears in the hall and an ending Merry Christmas. Of course, it’s difficult that something like that can happen in Blackpool, a windy town on Ireland Sea, so sad and cold in summer, let alone with winter illuminations. 55
Social workers looking after her, have been looking for a family for Mary for long time and approve her advertising campaign. It’s like a last card to play. “It’s very important for her to have parents and we admire her for her determination” remarks Blackpool social service spokesman. Mary doesn’t seem to have preferences about the family characteristics. “I don’t pretend anything special about my adoptive family, I don’t care if they are old or young, with children or not, if they don’t live in Buckingham Palace... A little house is perfect, as long as it is a real house”. And if Mary’s campaign should fail? “Then I’ll have to spend Christmas time in the institute, together with the staff and Diane, the only girl remaining here in these days. There’s nothing wrong with them, but you see that staying here is not the same as staying in a family”. Every morning she goes round the town to check that posters are at the right place and she replace those which were torn by the wind and drenched by the rain. Then, she comes back to the institute and waits for hours staring at the phone. “There’s a solution out there” she repeats. Unfortunately, in these days, there are many people passing by out there, but only few of them read. “Il Giornale”, 1999
WITNESSES EVERYBODY AT HOME There are words which go out of fashion just before the ideas they represent. A lot of people talk about pain and sufferings: we would like not to pronounce them anymore, anyhow, so that we could cancel the concepts they stand for. Once people said ORPHANAGES and then they didn’t say it anymore. Today, they are called “charitable and educational structures”, as we can see from a survey by the “Centro nazionale di documentazione e di analisi per l’infanzia” (National Centre for Children’s research and analysis), but, after all, it’s the same thing. Because the times are changed, but the “innocent souls” (as orphans were called in one of the old institutes, the Florence’s innocents Hospital), we have to say it, they still exist. These nobody’s children, neglected and deserted, were called “guests”, and are today replaced by those children who are deserted by violent parents, who can’t look after them, by drug-addicted parents, by extra-Community mothers working as domestic helps, or by divorcing couples who use them as a sort of “weapons”, as objects to use and forget… They call this situation “new poorness”, but sufferings are always the same, even if structures have changed, (…). Who are these children? Where do they come from? These are open questions. At the moment, we can underline the importance of this first inquiry a lot of people press for. A number has been mentioned for long time: 40.000 children, while 25 years ago, they were over 200.000. Up to now, a sure data wasn’t available . The research, which took into consideration the period between the 1 st January and th the 30 June 1998, has found similar situations with different names and vice-versa, Stefano Ricci explains; he is a member of the above-mentioned National Centre for Children’s Research: “We have recorded about 1.900 structures. Our country’s reality, as regards this matter, is most diversified, though we have noticed that the number of big institutes has reduced. The 75 per cent of them takes in from 1 to 10 children, the 15 per cent from 11 to 20, while the remaining 10 per cent gives shelter to more than 20 kids. The number of orphans in the institutes on 30th June 1998 were 14.440. With the latest updating, these could become 16.000. 56
More than half is represented by children whose age is between 7 and 14, while young people who are fifteen-eighteen years old represent the 32 per cent; kids who are younger than six are the 14 per cent of the total number. The first data of the research also show great geographic differences, with peak values in the South regions (Sicily is the top: the 15,5 per cent of “institutionalised” children lives there) and in Lombardy (13,5 per cent). Nevertheless, if we compare these results with the number of orphans living in each region, the classification changes and Calabria region is at the top (with 0,27 per cent), followed by Sicily (0,20 per cent). This first estimate, Stefano Ricci explains, is then followed by a phase of inspection and comparison, that we are carrying out in the different regions, to see any connection between data; we also have to considerate that the survey doesn’t concern sanitary structures and boarding schools. Even colleges, where a lot of students live, haven’t been taken into consideration for clear reasons. It’s a methodological choice that, anyhow, doesn’t clash with the great number of psychologists, educators and pedagogists, stressing that some “orphans-parking” situations (however expansive and careful they are) can hide a “child abandonment” case. Lumping everything together could be dangerous, Ricci explains. On the contrary, if we start from the research data, it is possible to reflect upon the different types of educational and charitable residential structures and therefore clearly face both this matter and the quality of reception. Thinking about quality has been useful, in the last years, to encourage a great number of alternative solutions for orphanages. Someone has wondered: “If a child hasn’t got his own family, why can’t we give him another one? First of all, children custody. Easier and easier, it has become (in some Italian areas, at least) a noble service made by families, associations and local governments. Besides, sparing thousand of children a long childhood in the institutes is one of the most important aims of the Premiership Social Affairs’ Department. In the report about minors’ condition in Italy, we can read: “The institute, even the best, can’t satisfy all children’s needs. Sure, it can appease their hunger, protect them from cold weather, satisfy the orphan’s need to grow up fairly, to live in a properly hygienic environment and to be provided with a good school education. Though, it can’t satisfy children’s primary need: to carry out a complete and personal identification and socialization process”. A child often happens to be taken away from his parents for a short time. But it also happens that his staying in the institute draws out. The study shows that the 28 per cent of children live in these structures for a period that last for three months till one year, while the 21 per cent lives there even for two years, the 28 per cent from two until five years and the 12 per cent for over five years. From every point of view, as the National Coordination Department (“On children’s side”) has already shown, we come to the conclusion that institutions must urgently undertake to provide a “family environment” in favour of children. This matter, yet, needs absolute clearness, to grant every child a regular treatment, so that a kid isn’t considered unlucky for being born in a “wrong” area.
WITNESSES TOO MANY CHILDREN ARE PRISONERS OF OUR DELAYS 57
MILAN. Children left in institute waiting for an adopted family who can give them a “denied” childhood. Children deserted for years, waiting for their parents to sort themselves out and to love them. In the meantime, the most important years of a man’s life go by, and that leaves a mark. So, a lot of children, too many children living in orphanages grow up, sometimes they come of age, and this before Juvenile Court takes the decision that can change their life. Why? “Too many social operators passively wait for some couples who make an adoption request” says Rosalba de Luca, responsible for Catania’s Custody Office, “on the contrary, especially for the most difficult cases (such as ill or shocked children), social workers have to search for the right family and talk about a particular case; sometimes they accept, when they know that an orphan is completely alone…”. It should be a sort of mission, more than a job, but it isn’t always like that: there isn’t often the necessary collaboration between social workers and judges of Juvenile Court. So, it often happens that, when a dramatic case is reported, the adoption declaration takes place too much time later, and a child’s “mental health” is compromised. At best, we talk about one year. “Moreover, here, in the South of Italy – she adds – a wrong family culture at all costs risks to generate “chains” of wrong and inadequate parents. As a result, we have a series of mistreated children: we should know the story of these families to decide to bereave them of their children, but, in most cases, we try to salvage whatever possible. So, the chain goes on…”. It is right to try whatever possible to keep a family together, but not always: “Our Court doesn’t grant a long custody even if parents have permanent mental deficiency”. “Basically, we don’t agree about the concept of “abandonment”. Sometimes, people think that if a child has a mother, she is present, whereas actually she can be more absent than if she was dead”. Many other things don’t work: “Judges don’t require a detailed report from social service by a fixed time. Psychologists, on the pretext of privacy, don’t make their diagnosis. Social operators do the same and don’t perform their periodical checks…”. “People usually say that in the north of Italy things are going better – insists Liliana Carollo, a social worker from Vicenza who’s been engaged for years in the childhood field, “on the contrary, times are really long, not suitable for a child”. Here, there are many defective mechanisms too: “Apart from the difficult situations we have to face, social services are really disorganised: psychologists and social workers often go through a real turn-over; you know, our work is really stressful, we don’t work at fixed hours…”. It is a mission, anyway, but not all the people are up to this: “Every time the operator is replaced, the kid loses a point of reference, the family education starts from the beginning, the new reports for Courtyards clash with the old ones. Operators seldom work from the same point of view and interventions are not always timely”. Maybe it’s also judges’ fault, since they don’t organize the staff… “It depends on the different cases, but sometimes they don’t even meet operators, who asks to be received”. In Carollo’s opinion, in Italy there is, above all, a false childhood culture: “Before deciding to take a child away from an apparently negative family, we usually search for suitable proofs. We have to get to a forward diagnosis: if a mother or a father are good in some ways, it’s right to help them to mature, but otherwise we shouldn’t waste our time! While a parent grows up, his child (in the institute, or, even worse, in that house) is going to “die”! Moreover, future is not very promising: the new bills protect families rather than minors and the social services reform is unsound!”.
OPEN letter Cremona, 10th December 1999 To the President of Italian Republic Dr. Azeglio Ciampi Quirinale Rome Mr. President, My name is Cervi Gabriele (…), I’ m not going to bother You with the story of my numerous battles in favour of orphans, but, even though I asked our main authorities and our institutions to intervene in this matter, they didn’t listen to me and I applied to UNO to ask for a specific survey. On 19th February the Secretary of the Committee for Children’s Rights favourably replied to my enquiries. So, unfortunately, two of the three requests are, in our country, still unsettled even if politicians and institutions in charge have been already alerted. Believe me, my duty as a citizen is to prod institutions, I didn’t try, and I’m not now, in every battle I fight, to lay first claim. This is a “competence” of those who, through such methods, created and are now creating a sort of political façade to use during meetings and conventions that aren’t always efficient… But let’s come back to the subject, the first social crime (yes, I called them social crimes, because they are!) is that, nowadays, Italian orphanages should be “temporary reception centres” according to European standards and not charitable structures based on the inhuman and immoral logic of public subsidies. The second social crime is that juvenile judges in our country base their work on a 1934 Law by decree and that, for them, a specific preparation about childhood matters has not been provided yet. Some days ago, I sent to UNO’s Secretary an e-mail to inform Him about the result of my request. Unfortunately, He let me know that they will discuss this subject only within two years. Do You think it is right, Mr President? As You well know, we sometimes fight against the time and this is a sacred battle (now, social matters are a temptation especially for politicians and for their supporters, but forget it!). Everybody is good at speaking, nowadays, but actions are needed, not just words, to change something. That’s why, Mr President, I’m addressing to You (as You represent all Italian population), to humbly ask You to intervene to our Government to accelerate law procedures, for example: there are some bills introduced to Parliament that could give singles a chance to adopt orphans, but they have been laying there for years. Mr. President, as a citizen, as a parent, in accordance with my family, I’ve decided to fight against this wall and to spend the New Year’s Day in Rome, and precisely in front of Your Residence, the Quirinale. Yes, I’m going to sleep in the open. Believe me, my decision is not a thoughtless gesture, but it is the only way to feel cold and chill; unfortunately I will never feel the same cold and chill many poor children usually feel in their heart for a denied love. But I tell You something: the cold I’ll feel won’t be an enemy for me, on the contrary, it will be a friend, because he will remind me my past orphanage experience; You know, I was lucky, because I left when I was only three years old. I’m sure You’ll understand this modest, but significant act and I’m also sure that You, Mr President, will help these innocent souls with Your deeds, not just Your words, to give them a chance to love and to be loved, as they ask for… In conclusion, please excuse me for my long letter; I also wish You and Your family, Mr President, a Merry Christmas, hoping that the new millennium can bring joy and love to all 59
those (no matter how old they are and how they live) who are looking for a family, or somebody to love. Thank You. Gabriele Cervi --------------
THANK YOU, DIGOS 29th December 1999 Meeting with a DIGOS’ manager On 29th December 1999 I received a phone call from a DIGOS’ manager, in Cremona, who kindly asked me to meet him. (…) It was about a letter (dated 10 th December) I had spent to the President of Italian Republic Dr. Ciampi. This manager was very kind and I explained to him my motivations. There was nothing to my charge, in fact they know me thanks to my numerous articles published on the local dailies, which they consider interesting. At the end of the meeting, the manager offered me a coffee. I’m very grateful to this man, because he gave me very good advices… I almost forgot one thing: he also told me I can go to Rome to demonstrate, by previous written application to Rome town council to stay on a public property… Thank You, Digos!
2000 (Ciampi – D’Alema, Prefect of Cremona – The Holy Father) --------4th April 2000 TO THE PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIC DR. CIAMPI Rome Mr. President, For Your information, I’m sending You a letter (together with some articles drawn by local dailies) that was published on the local daily “La Provincia” dated 19 th March and that talked about an example of custody of a Rwandan child. National newspapers talked about this case too: records have been delivered by judge Dr. Angelo Tropeano from Public Prosecution’s Office in Cremona to the Minors Committee of the Prime Minister’s Office. This emblematic case points out that our country is not prepared at all to promptly solve abandonment cases, or custody situations like this. These are social problems concerning, unfortunately, about 20 thousand minors in our country and most of them don’t find a good family or custody environment because of regions’ abscondence, because of bureaucracy, but mostly because our structures, both public and with some particular agreements, are really incompetent. Hereby, I would like to give You my sincere apologies, for the harsh content of my open letter, I sent You on 10th December 1999, concerning orphans in our country.
(…) I realized that, besides the above-mentioned letter, I should have sent You also the copies of some articles I wrote and published on the local dailies, to show people my commitment. So, I’m now sending them to You, hoping that You can forgive me and You understand that I didn’t mean to be disrespectful to You and to the High Office You represent, Dr. Ciampi. I’m looking forward to hearing from You and I wish You and Your family a good Easter. Gabriele Cervi -------------(Rejecting my ballot paper to Mr D’Alema M.P.) Cremona, 31st March 2000 Mr. President, Dr. Massimo D’Alema, I hereby take advantage of a letter I published on the local daily “La Provincia” dated 19th March, concerning custody of a Rwandan child; since I knew, through the above-mentioned daily, that proceedings have been transferred from tutelary judge Mr. Angelo Tropeano to the Minors Committee of Prime Minister’s Office, I’m asking You, as a citizen, to personally intervene in order to solve this problem as soon as possible. It is a really tragic situation showing, unfortunately, that our country is not at the top as regards custody of children, but, most of all, as far as orphans are concerned. I’ve been fighting for years (as You can see from the documents here enclosed), by few and modest means, to awaken our society and the highest authorities to be responsible for this serious and unfair social problem. Associations about this specific sector have recently charged institutions (I’ve been charging them since 1995!) with incapacity and have launched a campaign for closing institutes. To face this “typically Italian” pathology ( a real social disgrace), I personally denounced our country to UNO, because it doesn’t respect both European standards and “Aia” Agreement. Many Italian judges have no competitions (but it’s not their fault) to get a file ready, a lot of social workers need a clear reform, but, most of all, too many children stay in the institutes for too long (a great part of them until they come of age), so that they become “institutionalised” children. Mr President, I consider Mrs. Turco MP’s law a really good thing, but, unfortunately, most regions haven’t conform their legislation yet… and years go by!! As a protest against these defaulting regions (and in order to avert a warning from UNO, who, in 1995, had already charged Italy with legislative default), I’m hereby enclosing my ballot paper for electing the President of Regional Council on 16th April, since I don’t want to vote (I’ve nothing against You or the Government You represent). I’m sure, Mr. President, that, after reading some witnesses I’ve here enclosed, You’ll agree with me the situation is socially unsustainable. Gabriele Cervi --------------Cremona, 8th June 2000 To the Prefect of Cremona Dr. Guido Palazzo Adriano Mr. Prefect, Following our meeting which took place on 6th June, I’m kindly asking You to thank the President of Republic for His personal interest, to the competent institutional offices, about the case of the Rwandan child called Fidencie. 61
So, I would like to thank very much for the beautiful words addressed to me, but, above all, for the President’s attention to the problems (yet still unsolved) concerning the great world of Italian orphans. Mr. Prefect, I heartily thank You for the great sensibility and humanity You showed towards orphans. Thank You so much. Gabriele Cervi ---------------Cremona, 7th December 2000 TO THE HOLY FATHER THE POPE JOHN II HOLY FATHER, I’m a citizen who’s been fighting for years in favour of orphans, speaking for those who can’t speak. I don’t want to bother You with the story of my long battles, but just think, Holy Father, that when I started all this, people didn’t even know how many children lived in the institutes. Holy Father, after these years of civil struggles, I’ve now decided to write a book in which I’m going to talk about all these struggles, with the hope that public opinion, institutions, but, above all, politicians, will soon be aware of this serious problem involving more than 20 thousand orphans. Holy Father, You recently declared that adopting children and treating them as natural children shows that the relationship between parents and children is not based only on genetic parameters. First of all, love is giving oneself up. A generation takes place through welcome, devotion, kindness. Your words filled my heart and if today, I’m happy to have my own family and to taste the sacredness of this institution, I owe it to my parents who luckily adopted me at three years old. They taught me the Real Christian Values. Holy Father, let’s come back to the above-mentioned book: I would like to ask You permission to use a photo of Yours carrying a baby in Your arms as a cover of this book. This wonderful and genuine image shows such a purity and a great love that every time I see it, I feel an indescribable spiritual power. (…) My best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Gabriele Cervi VATICAN’S REPLY
From Vatican, 28th December 2000 Secretary of State First Section Mr. Cervi, Through Your letter dated 12th December, You expressed the Holy Father Your real gratitude for His last words in favour of children’s adoption. In the meantime, You expressed Your wish to use a picture of Him as a cover of Your next book about orphans. His Holiness thanks You for Your kindness and for the good feelings that inspired Your action and encourages You to go on in Your human mission with great enthusiasm in the name of God; so, He gives You and Your family the Apostolic Blessing as a token of great celestial favours.
As far as Your matter is concerned, I’m glad to inform You that this Secretary of State, responsible for the fair use of the Holy Father’s image, has no problems in giving You permission to that and kindly asks You the send in a copy of the book. With my greatest devotion to God, Yours faithfully Monsignor Pedro Lopez Quintana The Councillor
- 20 THOUSAND CHILDREN ARE STILL WAITING FOR CUSTODY ASSOCIATIONS CHARGE INSTITUTIONS AND LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN FOR CLOSING INSTITUTES There are a lot of children, 20 thousand children in Italy who are still living in lodging centres or institutes. This happens because, in most regions, family custody is still unknown and all Italian law can do is discourage families who want to take care of a child. A solution? Parents must be supported and, at the same time, become social services and courts’ advisers. AN APPEAL TO EMPTY INSTITUTES THERE ARE TOO MANY CHILDREN STILL LIVING IN THE INSTITUTES (including both the old orphanages and the modern lodging-centres) and we know that by the census effected by the National Centre for Childhood and Adolescence Documents and Analysis from Florence. Forgotten children? Yes, they are, according to “Anfaa”, who talks about 20 thousand institutionalised minors, if we take into consideration 4 thousand children counted in the ministerial census dated June 1998 too. “Anfaa” also launches a great campaign for saying “No more institutes”: how? Aiming to custody.
WITNESSES A LONELY CHILDHOOD “After my father’s death, my mother decided to leave me in an institute and keep my brother with her: still today, I don’t know why”, C. F. remembers, “She also released the parental authority, so I could have been adopted: but thirty-five years ago, there were less adoptions than today”. C.F. is forty years old, is a trained nurse in Turin and he remembers two institutes when he was a child. He lived there from four years old until sixteen, when his custody was granted to a guardian family. “No child wishes to live in a place against his will: we all wanted to be anywhere else, nobody want to live with anyone else. So, my friends and I, we grew up in a situation made of padlocks and suspects. Institutes grant instruction, board and lodging: but, in exchange, it depersonalises and make people aggressive. I remember with pleasure only our flights from the window to play football: I knew they would punished me, but I didn’t care. I knew the meaning of the word “family” when I was sixteen, with the custody. And I relished my freedom for the first time when I served in the army. 63
From “Famiglia Cristiana”
ADOPTION IS NOT A SHOW VIEWERS CRITICIZE COSTANZO’S PROGRAMME: “TOO MUCH SUPERFICIALITY AND DEMAGOGY ON A DELICATE QUESTION” The TV programme “Maurizio Costanzo Show” has caused quite a stir last Tuesday night: it was based on the subject of adoptions, a topical argument for a lot of families. There were some respected guests on the stage. “Yet - pointed out Lorenzo Vigano, from Lecco – the man who knew a lot about adoptions for direct experience could have been on the stage, not in the stalls, instead of that blond arrogant and hazy presenter, who vindicated singles’ right to adopt”. If a lot of people appreciated that such a burning theme have been dealt with in this programme, other viewers criticized “contradictions expressed by Costanzo himself, who blamed middle-aged couples who want to be parents, but, at the same time, vindicated old people’s right to adopt children”, noticed Luigi from Milan. “Costanzo’s behaviour is demagogic, playing down to the crowd, beyond all practical and human considerations; an orphan, who lived tragic experiences during his childhood, obviously needs a real and fond affection that only a “normal” family can give, and not a single, however motivated he is” declared Ester Lomunno, a teacher from Naples. Anna Maria Sensini, too, points out that “Costanzo, with his populism at all costs, forgets that the real problem, as the spectator in the stalls noticed during the programme, is not about the babies who can be adopted (for each of them there are twenty requests), but that of bigger children, who, in most cases, have already lived sad experiences”, as remembers Marida Bolognesi too. And the difference required between the age of the child and that of the adopter, forty years old, guarantees that adoptions can be made also by older people. We would prefer considered and well-informed TV-programmes based on such themes, rather than confused and superficial talk-shows – say Lucia and Giovanni, Andrea’s adopted parents, who explain: “Costanzo showed his lack of preparation. It is a delicate topic that wounds families and potential parents to the quick: we must talk about it with delicacy and respect, without demagogical remarks that only risk to cause misinformation”. “I considered the exemplification provided by Costanzo to be poor and inopportune, because he vindicated old people’s right to adopt children too; for example, we shouldn’t prevent Giovanni Agnelli from adopting a child: that would mean preventing the kid from having a more comfortable life”. As if the problem – says Paolo De Nicheli from Novara –only regarded money values, and not affection and sincere love. “Avvenire – Lia Verde”, 28th September 2000
- NOT TO FORGET… “MAMMA ROSA’S CHILDREN” FOUNDATION WITH A BILL FROM MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR, WAS FOUNDED AS A NON-PROFIT CORPORATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIC WITH A DECREE DATED 12-05-1953 On January 1954, carabinieri of Pontedera, knew that custody of minors with parentage unknown, was granted to M., following a large advertising made through dailies and the “RAI”. 64
Instead of finding laboratories, typographies, workshops and schools… as well as favourable board and lodgings, they found malnourished and shabby children working in the fields and woods; they were completely deserted and helpless… they went around and pick up wood, to warm up. After obtaining custody of minors, “he” left them without help and control, took care about their correspondence and made them live without nourishment, clothes and suitable hygienic conditions. Their lodgings looked like stables, he forced them to do very hard and unhealthy works and, above all, to tolerate everything, with the threat of sending them to the approved schools. TURIN’S EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY INSTITUTE The kids were all aligned along the walls and seems to be a bit frightened ... we generally discovered great gaps in the hygienic and sanitary structures... Emma, a little girl, has been suffering from purulent otitis for a week and all the cares haven’t been enough for her, if we also consider her congenital cardiopathy... Another child, Francesco, seven years old, is suffering from bronchitis... Giovanni presents some rachitic marks, he’s suffering from enuresis and says they mistreat him when he pees in bed. In general, children wear untidy clothes and are dirty. As regards enuretic children, they are forced to stay in bed even if completely wet and their clothes aren’t changed until the next morning; on the contrary, it seems that social workers punish them, because they think this is the way to correct these children. According to the sentence, we know that many of these orphans were deprived of their meals, they were forced to stand up and to get down on their knees for long time, they were hit with violence: slaps, boxes, cane and sticks strokes. No doubt that all these punishments exposed them to great risks for their physical and psychological health.
Turin - CM Re-education Institute for orphans till the age of six. Defendant: Dr. S.F, director of the institute The defendant abused of school and education methods to the detriment of 15 children for a long time and until the summer of 1957. Besides, she hit them with sticks, carpet beaters and belt, she didn’t nourish them and force them to do hard works, often outdoors and in a rigorous climate; for this reason, many children suffered from physical diseases.
Merano Institute, 1970 Carabinieri held close investigations and reported that there was a group of… who made use of violence (pulling hair, giving pinches, spankings, and floggings). In particular, Elio, ten years old, and Primo, nine years old, told lies to their teacher; she, to correct them, took them to a room, forced them to lower their slips and trousers and repeatedly hit them with a carpet beater. Elio said that wounds kept on bleeding and the doctor who visited him at the hospital checked the presence of excoriations on the right thigh.
2001 (BERLUSCONI, POPE JOHN PAUL II) --------65
Cremona, 11th May 2001 To the kind attention of the President of “Forza Italia” Mr. Silvio Berlusconi MP Rome Mr. President, As I publicly announced on a letter published on the local daily “La Provincia” dated 8 th May 2001 (here enclosed), I’m sending this open letter to You to thank You, as a common citizen, for talking about adoptions in You own electoral campaign, speaking for those who can’t speak (…). I think that the reform recently rejected by Parliament is actually a pseudo-reform, because it wasn’t conceived for children. It is inconceivable, indeed, that we have to wait until 2006 to close orphanages once and for all and that there isn’t a specialization for juvenile judges and a requalification of social services. Another important question: institutes should be considered (as they are in Europe) a temporary passage for the minor, but, for many children, the institute is often a point of reference until they come of age. This is a social crime which is today very common, unfortunately, because there isn’t a real political will to solve this social scandal. I’m hereby addressing to You, Dr. Berlusconi, hoping that You, when You are named as the Prime Minister, will remember these poor innocent children (…). -------------Registered letter
Cremona, 13th December 2001 TO THE HOLY FATHER POPE JOHN PAUL II VATICAN CITY Holy Father, As requested by Mgr. Pedro Lopez Quintana (Councillor) by letter dated 28 th December 2000, in reply to my letter dated 7th December 2000, I’m sending to You a copy of my web-book: “Letters to a barbaric state (1995/2001)”. (…). Holy Father, on 20 th November 1989, UNO approved the Agreement on children’s rights. Last 20th November, they celebrated the 12th anniversary of the agreement approval. Yet, after many years, in Italy there are still first-class and second-class children, unfortunately. These poor orphans, despite the ratification of the agreement (even if late), have no rights, because Italian State preferred to institutionalise orphans by means of orphanages. I have been fighting for years in favour of these innocent souls, I’ve been fighting for years so that Italian State could understand that every child is a peerless human treasure and that we must invest in youth. Holy Father, You more than once showed (not only with words, but with actions too) to be on children and on family’s side and I’m very grateful to You for this, as a little believer. I wish You all my best, as well as a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Gabriele Cervi
( POPE JOHN PAUL II ) From Vatican, 22nd December 2001 The Secretary of State gives its regards to Mr. Gabriele Cervi and inform Him that the book recently sent to the Holy Father has reached its destination. We also thank You on His behalf for the kind thought and we bless You. The Secretary of State First Section – General Affairs --------------------ADOPTION LAW IS A REAL CHEAT. Mr. Editor, Lawyer Simona Bracchi, Fidencie’s guardian, tired of the controversy revolving around the case, has finally decided to speak “for the child’s good”. The famous lawyer started from “New York’s Agreement on children’s rights – 20 th November 1989”, ratified and executive in Italy with 176 Law dated 27th May 1991. I don’t want to talk specifically about what goes before, because press already wrote on it, but I would like to stress the time factor of the story. As Dr. Bracchi fairly pointed out, this situation has been going on for three years. That’s why (because of the time factor), on my turn, I committed myself through institutions by sending an open letter to the President of Republic Dr. Ciampi, where I informed him about the illicit trade that was taking place in the Italian orphanages. (…) I mentioned this episode (which will be described on my denouncing book about orphanages “business” entitled: “The denied family”) because all the battles in favour of orphans have always been motivated by time factor. It’s the same time factor the Members of Parliament, as perfect hypocrites, didn’t take into consideration with the recent adoption Law, so that orphanages will be closed only in 2006, leaving their place to their clones, the “family-houses”. Please, don’t tell me that this law was made in favour of orphans: this law is a trick, it’s only a palliative for the Status Quo and that’s disgusting for me! For this disgraceful law, as a common citizen, I’ll turn to UNO, to the Secretary for Children’s Rights. I’m going to send also an open letter to the leader of “Forza Italia”, Dr. Silvio Berlusconi, to thank Him for talking about adoptions during His electoral campaign, and speaking for those who can’t speak. Gabriele Cervi Letter sent to the daily of Cremona “La Provincia” and published on 8th May 2001.
WITNESSES “ CARLO GIUFFRE’: I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT EVIL ORIGINATED FROM MY SAD EXPERIENCE IN A BOARDING SCHOOL FOR ORPHANS IN NAPLES”. When I heard friends and acquaintances talking about depression, I was astonished, I didn’t almost believe it” says actor Carlo Giuffré. “I thought it was about some fixed ideas or manias, but I considered myself absolutely free of such diseases. But in 1991 depression hit me too. Crisis broke out when I reached a goal, a success, an important aim. 67
People generally feel satisfied on these occasions. On the contrary, I feel in a state of deep depression. I was terrified, I was afraid that success would suddenly turn into a catastrophe. I lived in a state of complete anguish which kept me awake at night, took away my appetite and my wishes. But with a doctor’s help and, after a long reflection, I got an answer to all this: everything depended on my childhood. When I was only 7, my father died and my life changed: no more peace, no more comfort, only absolute poorness. At that time, in 1931, pensions didn’t exist. My mother was left alone, with four children to feed!! And she decided to send someone of them to a boarding school. She chose me. But that wasn’t a normal boarding school, as those we are used to. No, it wasn’t. It was a miserable orphanage for the poorest children in the town. Suddenly I realized I was living in a sort of Lager. Terrible. Sometimes my mother came and see me. She brought me a puff pastry. The other kids received much more gifts from their families, I got only that pastry because my mother couldn’t afford anything more. So… my depression of 1991 originated from that bad experience as a child. How did I take care of it? With some sleeping draughts, with the help of a good doctor, but, most of all, with the support of my family!
WITNESSES MARIA DE FILIPPI: I’M GOING TO GET CUSTODY OF A CHILD Next 5th December I’ll be 40 years old. Journalist: “Did your husband Maurizio Costanzo ask you any suggestions about the gift to buy for your birthday?” Maria says that, anyway, this gift will represent a change. “You see – she explains – I’m going to get custody of a child and Maurizio agrees with me. He told me he is available to a solution of this kind and this, for me, is the best gift of all”. So, at 40 years old, maybe I still could be a mother, I know, but, honestly, I don’t feel like to. You know, the difference of age between Maurizio and me, twenty-four years old, is an obstacle, and I think it’s not our case. As far as adoption is concerned, the law system regulating the age requirements to adopt doesn’t allow us to be parents of a baby, nor of a child, but only of an eighteen-year-old boy: so, we didn’t go on. “What does the custody institution you want to undertake consist of?” “It means putting a child up for a temporary period, till his parents solve their problems. In most cases, they are drug-addicted parents or people who have any other sort of troubles, or people without the necessary means to bring their children up suitably. Of course, they don’t call you “mum” or “dad”, you become like a sort of guardian for them, but with another kind of responsibility. I realize that the psychological and practical path of a guardian couple is difficult: when he becomes part of the family, you love him and he loves you and you must accept the idea of losing him. A guardian parent has to prepare to this, as well as he follows him after he left his own house. I think this is the right practice to take for a couple like ours”. Interview given to Mimmo Pacifici and published on the weekly “Gente” dated 23rd August 2001. 68
WITNESSES One morning, many years ago, when Giuseppe was taken in the big institute, he was a sixmonth-old newborn baby. Today, he is a ten-year-old boy and he can say he blew his ten candles out in the same building. Here he cut his first tooth; here he pronounced his first words; here he learnt how to write, to read, to know the world around him and all its precious gifts, such as the family he couldn’t have. I wonder if Giuseppe will come of age in the same house with long corridors and dormitories. Nobody knows it. One thing is sure: that day he “will have to” go out of the institute and will be completely alone, facing life, searching for a house, a job and, perhaps, a special love. There are many “Giuseppe” in Italy, maybe hundreds, or thousands of people like him. They are 16.000, according to the first research, commissioned by Ministry for Social Solidarity and provided by the National Centre for Childhood Analysis and Documentation. There are a lot of different stories: some arrived late at the institute and stayed for a short time, others were taken there by their parents, others never knew them. But that’s not a reason to forget them there, where all this happens behind closed doors. From “Famiglia Cristiana”, 1999
WITNESSES the “ MARTINIT ” The flag that were hoisted every morning, in the middle of the courtyard, is now a grey little sheet which seems to be hung with spit. In the brick wall background there’s a big drawing, half a modern graffito and half a tender childhood memory: a Pinocchio with a blue long nose. Uniforms with little hats and pennons are remaining only in the old yellow photos hung on the walls.
Martinit children’s clothes, behaviour and language are very colourful nowadays: long-size trousers, worn-out gym shoes, hooded sweatshirts. Yesterday, Chamber of Deputies approved a revolutionary law for closing orphanages: children without a family must be taken to little lodging-houses which are as similar as possible to families. “Celestini Institutes” era has finished: no more children running away from orphanages at night to regain their freedom and to feel anxiety of “normal” children. LAW ABOLISHES ORPHANAGES BUT STRUCTURE ONLY CHANGES AND DOESN’T DISAPPEAR. SPARIRE. Here, only foreign children escape from the institute; by now, two thirds of children are extra-communitarian. But things change very little to Martinit Institute. Lodgings for orphans have been existing for 13 years; they are little communities made of seven children living in houses bequeathed to orphans by some rich Milanese. We have three houses for the youngest ones from 4 to 13 years old – explains the headmistress – three for male teenagers from 13 to 18 years old and one for young girls who are the same age. According to this law, Martinits don’t disappear, because, since 1987, they have been existing. As a matter of fact, in the pavilion dedicated to Angelo Rizzoli (one of the most famous orphans at Martinit’s), via Pitteri, the word “orphanage” has been abolished since quite a while: “I live in an institute” say the 50 kids left behind: they are from 4 to 19 years old and the same number of children are already outside, in the lodgings. But even the word “orphan” is not the right word to use in the orphanage owned by Ipab. These children have got a family, but this family rejected them, or mistreated them; or maybe they didn’t have a family capable of bring them up because of economic problems or the mother’s psychical diseases. Most of them had very bad experiences, as reported by schools or neighbours: for example, Chiara (it’s not her real name) is 7 years old and has been living in a Martinit lodging for three years. When she arrived, she was 4 years old and had been raped by her mother’s common-law husbands more than once. During a recent talk, she said to the psychologist: “Maybe, it is time to have another mum”. From the window, you hear them speak African, Russian, Slavonic languages: they are little foreigners. Twice a week, two cultural mediators, an Albanian and an Algerian, arrive at the institute to translate, for the nine educators, the dark little orphans’ language. From the daily “Il Giornale” – June 2000 My personal judgement: I hope this structure will become, as soon as possible, a place for temporary recovery; these unlucky children need a guardian family or, better, an adopted family. The nine educators, the headmistress and the rest of the staff, in their freetime, could be retrained for other skills… don’t you agree with me?!
WITNESSES LUIGI FADIGA’S CONTROVERSY “INSTITUTIONAL PRESSURES TO AUTHORIZE BODIES AND CORPORATIONS” ADOPTIONS: THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME Bologna – Even if he was one of the main supporters of the Italian turning point as regards adoptions, Luigi Fadiga, with his typical sensibility and respect, firstly as President of Bologna Juvenile Court and then in Rome, denies the paternity. “I’m only one of the many who operated so that our Country (the last in Western Europe, editor’s note) could ratify “Aia Agreement” and he points out that “it was an important and necessary step, because the rapid development of international adoptions had caused a progressive coming apart from the solidarity principles and from the original aims of 184 Law dated 1983”. POLEMIC RESIGNATION Luigi Fadiga, named as the President of the International Adoptions Committee last May, has already resigned, as he did in 1999 from the Watch Committee for the observance of TV and minors self-regulation code (because in reality they couldn’t control anything at all!). People who knew him are sure that he resigned because politicians intervened during the six-months period when the Committee worked for the constitution of the authorized bodies Register. These bodies, according to Aja Agreement, are the points of reference of international adoptions. Mr. Fadiga, even though he doesn’t deny it, prefers to talk about “institutional pressures”. While waiting for his explanation, maybe uselessly (the truth is, my job is being a judge, he says), he agrees with people who say that “46 authorizations are maybe too many”. A list updated last 16th November includes 7 authorizations given to societies constituted in the year 2000, one of them was even formed in June. Fadiga adds that “in all, requests were 84: we actually reduced them of 50%, but we should have reduced more. International adoption procedures in Italy had gone through a good period, but also through a great number of mistakes not to repeat. Joining to Aja Agreement represents the common effort made by both “origin” countries and “welcome” ones so that every orphan can find the most suitable family, first of all in his own country, then, if that’s not possible, even elsewhere. This Agreement was not born to grant more adoptions, or to speed them up, but to grant the rights of children who are adopted by foreigners and taken out of their country; at last, it was born so that a disinterested love deed, like adoption should be, doesn’t turn into an egoism and abuse deed”. The scourge of institutes is not wiped out, unfortunately, and “the only way to do this, together with that great treasure represented by adopted families, is rigorous education”. The Committee has surely a hard work to do from now on, and, for some reasons, it is also unexplored.
ORPHANAGE MARTINITT - MILAN
REFLECTION: Do you know what goodness is? Good feelings psychology. By Aldo Carotenuto (Professor of Personality Psychology; University “La Sapienza”, Rome) If we think in paradoxes, we could say that goodness (they say it roams over the air at Christmas time) is a virtue of weak people or people who, just like the ascetic, live far from the anxieties of the world, from the complaints of other people, from our daily and irritating dependences. For the contemporary western culture, the winning hero is active and resourceful, he builds up a great economic fortune, has the aggressive look typical of a conqueror and tends to become a boss, by both legal and illegal means. We often admit that means justified by the end show a Machiavellian craftiness, while the evangelic charity doesn’t. Maybe there’s still room for pity, pity for the vanquished, provided there is one! It’s the competitive role of “homo homini lupus”: a powerful one, devoted to success, almost a pirate! So, the good person is a good chap, destined to be compared to a sheep, to a remissive person, or even a coward! You can’t be pitiless towards the good chap, because he’s not hardened by sufferings, he’s worn-out. For him, we can only feel a generic compassion. We are absolutely sure that this poor man will never be an antagonist for us, but only an ingenuous person, who manages by himself and tries to keep going. To do good, on the contrary, a long life training is not enough. Goodness is feeling a sort of pleasure of the other person, it originates from the humility of those who know a lot, especially about themselves. A good man doesn’t only need another person, but he “wants” him and this wish becomes a real structure of his life. This image is maybe well-represented by Judaic-Christian ethic and our common living. So that the ideology of success doesn’t change the principles of universal ethics into a curtain raiser parody. But solidarity, generosity, altruism, typical virtues of those who do good works without exhibitionism, are turned into a Sunday show. A SLOW CONQUEST Relationships are the main human social structures all over the world. This is the only, true and inalienable nourishment and also the only aspect showing the quality of our life. Living and doing good works isn’t a natural gift, but a slow conquest we can reach through a deep penetration of the meaning of life. So, parameters of goodness are based on the single relationship considered as a structural and relational dimension which is indispensable for the agent himself but also between the agent and the receiver. Let’s consider how many times we have tried to do good, but we didn’t take into consideration the actual need of the other person to receive it. Goodness is an act of sincere participation and a need of real communication; then, we have to consider our motivations and the other one’s, the meaning of what we want to express and the way this person could interpret our action. The good child who never makes his mother lose her temper behaves with absolute compliance towards his mother, but in reality he is only obliging, he’s apparently available, because of a deep inhibition of his aggressiveness. We can’t mistake goodness for sentimentalism or generic compliance (which is strictly related to the sense of guilt). 73
Goodness is an active principle motivated by acknowledgement of human need and pain. Do as you would be done by, but maybe we should add something: do as you would be done by in order to create the right situation where goodness means balance between sense and sensibility.
NOTHING TO DO WITH INGENUOUS PEOPLE How many times did we mistake goodness for ingenuity, or weakness, because of hasty judgements? The person who seems to be available to do other people’s good rather than his own good is always laughed at and emarginated. Our community doesn’t often realize that the real essence of a good man is not weakness, but a strong and deep inward strength . So, the one who is good, is a person with a rich and vigorous psychic structure, which slowly developed through a fruitful investment of resources in social relationships. Goodness is an active dimension of human existence, it isn’t inert and dull at all! A good man is a wise man, the one who, says Ricoeur, gives up the wish of not feeling pain anymore, as well as the childish wish of immortality. It is wisdom the virtue Giobbe talks about in his Book: Giobbe could love God for nothing, so that he made Satan lose his bet. Only those who knew evil can do good works: the entry of man on the world stage is possible only after that God of Genesis, giving him pain, set him free. So, men need to be free to do good works; they have to be free of understanding the mystery of our fragility, of facing both pain and death; at last, free of having enough of ourselves to go searching the other one, with desire and love.
MORE CLEARNESS Between the steady purposes, there is surely the principle according to which “adoption has to be part of the great international cooperation project too, because this is Aja’s philosophy”. It is not only about the need of transparence that, anyway, drove Luigi Fadiga to “draw up a circular letter which will soon be sent to the authorized associations and that will prohibit donations directly made abroad by families”. Donations, which, in some countries, turned out to be a real form of bribe, will have to be examined only by authorized offices, for obvious reasons”. The ratification of Aja Agreement, according to Mr. Fadiga, compensates for the lacking of bilateral agreement, during the last years. In this sector, Italy has carried out only one ratification, with Peru. The main problems, abroad, are with the Eastern Countries; among these, only Poland and Czech Republic ratified Aja Agreement.
- NOT TO FORGET… TRENTO, INSTITUTE…- 1966 The debate showed that children, almost aged twelve-thirteen years old, were victims of violence by Mr. Di Piazza. Almost always they got slaps, sometimes punches and kicks, or they were obliged to be punished in a humiliating and painful way: to walk on their knees, to keep a lighted cigar in their mouth, to be hit on their gluteus, to get their hair cut by force. 74
Cesare was called “son of a bitch” by… in presence of other guys; he told Aldo, Vincenzo, Paolo: “You are nothing but puppets for me, I don’t care even of your parents!”. Vincenzo saw the defendant while he kicked the other guys and punched a boy who quaked and cried; Massimo tried to defend his younger brother who got strokes by… and, on his turn, he was hit with slaps and kicks; then, they prevented him from complaining to the rector. Severo saw the defendant pulling a young boy’s hair and banging his head against the wall; then, slapping another one and laughing at him for a nervous fit with the following words: “Here he is, the hero of the two worlds, look at the state he is in!”. Giacomo was recovered twice in the sickroom after being stroken: he was forced to keep a lighted cigar in his mouth, he got his hair cut by force, he was forced to repeatedly drink alcoholics until he got drunk, he was called “berk face”, he was told “I smash your face in” and he was also forced to run even if he got pains in his appendix (and even if he told this to the doctor…) PRIVATE RESIDENCE (SAVONA) - 1967 According to the verdict, every morning, Mrs. P. puts children up on the balcony, almost undressed, without a hat (despite the sun), indifferent to their tears and complaints… Sometimes, when grumbling increased, she opened the door looking on to the balcony and repeatedly hits the little orphans on their face with rags, or she forces some of them to keep their face against the wall for hours; she often was seen while catching a kid by the hair; then, she lifted him and drag him inside, while she insulted him with a stream of filthy abuses, such as “You bastard! You son of a bitch!”. Sometimes, children happened to play and get dirty with their own excrement. They were also left completely naked under the midday sun, some of them were covered with stains, their faces were swollen… If someone dared to complaint about this, he was dragged from the balcony to the lodging and was hit pitilessly… In 1971, the press shows the name of the private institution that still gives shelter to many children without any authorization. “La Stampa”, 12.09.1971 VILLAGGIO DEL FANCIULLO ( “THE CHILD’S VILLAGE”) (ALESSANDRIA’S PROVINCE) - 1966 On May 1966, Dr. V., as a private citizen, filed a complaint against Mrs. V. ... “I was passing by the “Villaggio”, when I heard some moans coming from the Village itself and from the courtyard. I went there and I saw Mrs. V. who, with a stick in her hand, was beating a child. I intervened and I complained to her about that, but she answered: “Do your own business!”, then I went to carabinieri. The judgement was justified as follows: “... the witness P. Said that defendant shut children up in the W.C. for a long time, indifferent to the fact that temperature there was very harsh, especially in winter, because of an open window. The witness named S., even though she denies that Mrs. V. beat children (showing too much objectivity or even obligingness towards her!), declared that children were punished and forced to stay out of the door, even during winter. The witness named O. said he personally noticed that Mrs. V. used to deprive them of food: this situation was also reported by children to their teacher (witness B.), who confirmed this during the debate. Children were hit with a cane too, according to the witness named V., who favoured the intervention of the competent authorities; this situation was confirmed by witness named S. too. For the defence, because of their personal situation, these witnesses could easily lose credibility. As a matter of fact, they are very poor people, with great economic problems. 75
So, Mrs. V.’ s condemnation wouldn’t have been accepted by officers who had to control the “Village”, which is practically financed by the administration itself. Verdict: acquittal. MY FINAL MEDITATION: The stories I’ve just told you, whose characters are some Italian institutes, finished mostly in favour of those tyrant: punishments, sometimes, were so slight that they didn’t change those CRIMINALS’ cruel methodology at all… Victims, on the contrary, lived experiences that left their mark ( like myself: I still remember when the teacher hit my hands with a stick, I dread to think of it!) and that influence their future psycho-physic behaviour very much. I don’t want to touch a sore spot, but I really wonder if such things can still happen nowadays..?? I am sure that something like that is still happening in some institute… however, since some months ago, our Government didn’t even know how many orphans are living in the institutes… This is a bitter conclusion, but is an indisputable and unconfuted fact.
- FROM CARITAS ALL THE BEST TO FIDENCIE FOR HER COMING HOME Mr Director, Caritas of Cremona wishes all its best to Fidencie, the Rwandan child well-welcomed in Italy by San Vincenzo de’ Paoli Organization in Cingia de Botti (one of Cremona’s little villages) and given for custody to a good family from Cremona, the Simi’s. While expressing its best wishes to Fidencie, Caritas of Cremona hopes that institutions responsible for minors’ guardianship (Province, Asl, Courts) have achieved all the necessary steps to protect the little girl until she comes of age. This controversial event has revealed some still open procedural questions concerning custody of foreign minors without support in Italy, their coming back to their country and the necessity, through a seminar which is going to take place in the near future, to deepen the procedures and the conditions to assist minors in our country. A full collaboration between Institutions, volunteers and tertiary sector is obviously required by law. Caritas of Cremona From the daily“La Cronaca”, Saturday, 3rd November 2001
WITNESSES Final judicial act DECEMBER 2001 JUDGE: “FIDENCIE WILL STAY IN SWITZERLAND. HER PARENTS ARE REFUGEES. TUTELARY JUDGE TITO PREIONI HAS RECENTLY PUT AN END TO FIDENCIE’S CASE, BY SIGNING AN IMPORTANT AUTHORIZATION DECREE: ACCORDING TO THIS, FIDENCIE’S NATURAL PARENTS CAN BRING HER WITH THEM. PROOFS COME FROM SWITZERLAND, WHERE THE GIRL SEEMS TO HAVE REINSTATED HERSELF IN HER NATURAL FAMILY VERY WELL. OF COURSE, THIS STORY COULD BE A STARTING POINT FOR FURTHER REFLECTIONS AND QUESTIONS. IT WOULD BE IMPORTANT TO DEEPEN WHAT WAS SAID ABOUT CHILDREN WHO DISPAPPEAR AFTER BEING GRANTED TO A FAMILY. IN THIS CASE, THERE WOULD BE A LOT TO DO. 76
CHIAPPARI ASSOCIATION: THOSE WELL-DESERVING CITIZENS WHO GIVE GREAT VALUES. Mr. Director, In November, Chiappari Association celebrated 76 years of its orphanage foundation. As association. About one year ago, I went to the head office of this Association at its President’s invitation, Mr. Scazzoli, who phoned me to express his personal satisfaction for one of my articles (published on the daily “La Provincia”), where, on my turn, I congratulated him for the independence of his Association towards the local political power. The meeting was very profitable to me, both on human side and informative one. For example, I didn’t know that children who were taken into orphanages in Scazzoli’s time, were left orphans by their fathers. We all know that once, the head of a family was the only one who worked and could support his family (which was very numerous, besides!). After the father’s death, his wife (who didn’t work), for survival, had to leave their children to the orphanages, where, besides having a house, they could go to school and have a hot meal every day. Today, luckily, things have changed: poorness still exists, but institutions try to help, somehow, the neediest families. Despite this, our orphanages (or better, now they are usually called “family-houses”!) are full of children who need love. This phenomenon is not due to 77
poorness (which caused so much pain many years ago): the real reason for this are the family hardships, an emblem of our modern but inhuman times, without any values. Our Nation, as regards social matters and, above all, children’s rights, has always acted like Ponzio Pilato, and now, like a real aseptic bureaucrat, just hands on the hot potato to associations, sure that this social problem can be solved by children institutionalisation. So, it is jointly responsible for this institutional gangrene that, instead of being temporary and curable, mostly becomes an irreversible pathology. In this chaos of family problems, Mr. Scazzoli’s Association, in my opinion, is very important because a great number of ex-students (who lived a life full of sacrifice and values that now seem to have disappeared) help these children by giving them wisdom and humility: two values that, nowadays, are two of the rarest things to find in our society. Of course, as an ex-user, I am against institutes, because I think, or better, I am sure that children (especially those who were never been acknowledged by their natural parents) have the sacred right to have a family; if today, most of them are rotting there, this is due to our hypocrite political class. In conclusion, I feel bound to publicly express my own deep respect and admiration for these people who offer to help children: children who don’t ask to be institutionalised, but to be helped for building a family they never had. Gabriele Cervi Letter published on the local dailies: “La Provincia” and “Cronaca Nuova”.
2002 LAWS Juvenile Courts: here’s what is changing Last week the Cabinet has passed two bills introduced by Minister of Justice, Dr. Roberto Castelli: they reorganize laws on juvenile justice, both on penal side and on civil one. In the first case, Government introduces a more severe sanction procedures for minors who commit a crime. In the second one, the Parliamentary Bill aims to reorganize juvenile matters in civil courts. Now it’s the Chamber of Deputies that must evaluate. Castelli’s Bill concerning civil side provides a delegation to Government to create special departments for families and minors in every Court and Court of Appeal. The aim is to give authority on these subjects to a pool of qualified judges. The report on the bill says that, up to now, this matter was very fragmented and assigned to ordinary courts, juvenile courts and tutelary judges: this aspect caused unjustified delays and a lower accuracy of decisions due to a deficiency in specialization. This legislative measure fixes methods for assigning judges to the specialized sections: naturally, judges with a greater experience in this field and with a deeper knowledge of juvenile matters will be preferred. Every department will be made up of four stipendiary magistrates. The joint body, as the report explains, seems to be a guarantee of reliability and pondering. Honorary judges, such as psychologists, criminologists, psychiatrists and social workers, who, till now, have supported magistrates for what concerns minors questions, have been excluded because it was necessary, according to the report, to give professional magistrates the entire judgement authority, which is institutionally peculiar to them. On the contrary, the specific competences of private subjects could be useful to judges to form the necessary elements for whatever decision.
Moreover, this measure provides for operating aspects of passages between the different jurisdictional bodies, and considers staff supplies and available funds. Another important aspect: the president of a specialized department will be the competent body to deal with the procedures of evaluating parents who are separated or divorced and he has the exclusive authority to take temporary and urgent measures in favour of parents and minors implicated. From the weekly “Vita” – 15 March 2002
NUMBERS Juvenile courts in Italy are 29 and were founded in the 26 Courts of Appeal and tree branches. Decisions are taken by a panel made up of two professional judges and two honorary judges who are experienced in human sciences. Sentences are impugnable to Juvenile Departments of the Courts of Appeal. Here are ISTAT (Central Institute of Statistics) data for the year 2000: 1.716 national demands for adoption out of 11.856 were accepted; 3.115 international demands for adoption out of 7.579 were accepted; 1.172 children were considered suitable for adoption; 3.797 proceedings for adoptions were initiated; 3.847 pre-adoption custodies; 811 custody procedures were initiated without parents’ consent; 2.278 administrative provisions for custody to social services.
ALEX’S CHILDREN THE ARTIST’S COMMITMENT He was the man. Thank you, Alex, for what you gave us, for your humanity, for your helpfulness, for your love for children, for understanding the importance of custody and propagandising it. Many people came close to us thanks to your spot. Thank you very much, Alex. We hug you with all our love. Riccardo Ripoli greets his great friend Alex Baroni through the chat line of the web site www.sos-affido.it. The singer died last Saturday, the 13th April, after a terrible accident and a deep coma lasted about a month. It was a great supporter of Amici della Zizzi Association, which was founded by Ripoli in 1986, to help minors in trouble. We met on Internet – remembers Ripoli, who is the creator of the site too. Alex had immediately replied to our contacts. After some time, we personally met, after one of his performance in Cecina: he was at dinner with some friends and when I arrived, he just left them to come and talk with me about our projects. I’m not surprised that his family asked his fans to continue his social commitment with solidarity works. The singer’s brother, as a matter of fact, encouraged people to give donations to Emergency Association, to Bambin Gesù’s Hospital in Rome and to stimulate remote adoptions, as Alex himself did. Till the end of March, even when Baroni was fighting against death in the hospital, all the radios broadcasted his spot in favour of Zizzi’s Friends, the background of his most famous song, “Pavimento liquido”, and a slogan on the importance of custody and the association’s commitment. He was immediately willing to give us his song for the spot and to record the radio slogan – adds Rispoli. The last time I saw him, I asked him if he wanted to help us, once again, for a short film about custody. I said he certainly could, he was very glad for it and he urged me to let him know when we would be ready to start. We had thought to ask him to prepare the soundtrack, it would surely be fantastic! Benedetta Verrini - from the weekly “Vita”, 26th April 2002
Whoâ€™s going to make me free?
MINORS IN INSTITUTE FOR “AIBI” INFORMATION ARE NOT RELIABLE 16th May 2002 MILAN – Over 13 thousand children seem to have disappeared, according to “a worrying discrepancy between data about orphans living in the institutes”. Marco Griffino, President of AIBI (“Associazione amici dei bambini” – Children’s friends Association) remarks that, according to Ministry of Justice, minors living in the institutes have been, in 2000, 14.954, “an unlikely demographic increase”. “We wish – he says – that the Family Day makes people reflect upon serious matters like this”.
APPEAL POPE JOHN PAUL II: NEW POLICIES FOR PROMOTION Institutions must promote the family values with policies aiming to develop its high function. That’s what Pope said yesterday, during the general audience, to the Family Association delegation in S. Pietro’s Square. The meeting took place on the occasion of the Family’s World Day, designated by UNO in 1994 and that is celebrated in Italy for the first time this year. Pope John Paul II has pointed out “the fundamental social role of family institution” and expressed his “great appreciation for the generous commitment” of religious associations in this matter: “the future of mankind and of the Church – he said – depends on the family”. From “Avvenire”, 16th May 2002
THE CASE “I DON’T KNOW WHO MY PARENTS ARE” “A curiosity that never passes away, and when we are old, either” I don’t know who my natural parents are. Once newborn babies were often abandoned by unmarried mothers, for example, who didn’t want to cause a scandal”. Tino, 63 years old has lost his adopted parents since long time. He calls them “my father and my mother” because they were his natural parents in all respects, a childless couple who looked after him since his childhood. “I had a real family, it was such a perfect family that I never felt like being someone else’s son. I received love and affection, and I lived the normal family dynamics. They always made sure that I lacked for nothing”. Though, I’ve always had the curiosity to know who my natural parents were: you wonder why they left you, you imagine situations and people, but you cannot know anything. Maybe once, it could have been possible to meet them, but now, too much time has gone by. And maybe, that was the best for me!”. From “Il Giorno”, 23rd May 2001
ADOPTIONS: WHAT A FINE MESS! Do you remember Serena Cruz, the three-year-old child who was taken away from her adopted family because they pretended to be their natural parents to take her from Turin to Philippines? A tragic history, really. The entire public opinion was shocked by that, first of all Natalia Ginzburg.
On one hand, the importance of feelings: Serena was happy to be part of that family, with her little brother (he was adopted too); on the other one, the pursuance of the law, with its blind severity. We don’t know anything about Serena anymore, nor about her brother, but we believe that even now, 13 years later their leaving from that family, they are both two well-balanced children. But we still remember the face of that violated girl, because Minister of Justice Dr. Roberto Castelli announced an important reform: all the matters concerning minors, that till now have been shared between Civil and Juvenile Court, will be entrusted to a pool of competent judges. Minister of Justice, according to anticipations on his bill, aims to streamline the role of social workers, psychologists and all the so-called “experts”. If the bill is passed, judges will be the only one to pass sentences about custody of children in case their parents get separate, about loss of parental authority, and about the delicate matter of adoptions. “The question of creating a single court for all that concerns minors has been under discussion for over twenty years – says Ernesto Caffo, President and Founder of Telefono Azzurro (see Introduction). The project originates from a general need of having more competent judges, whereas, till now, magistrates who were responsible for bankruptcy and administrative law had to judge such a delicate and complicated matter like adoption. The question is that neither Law Universities nor Csm (“Council of Magistrate”, translator’s note) have been able, up to now, to form a qualified staff. Not all the judges have the required suitable qualities. A proper magistrate must know his own limits and, above all, he has to address to experts and service agencies for a help. If Ministry’s proposal goes this way, I think that a serious debate is needed in our country. On the contrary, if this is only a way to make a judge all-powerful, then it will be a disaster. I won’t go deeply into the magistrates’ capacities, but public opinion has always been shocked by some sentences that, for laymen like us, seem to be cruel. The last one concerns a father who was unfairly charged with paedophilia; after he was exculpated, he couldn’t anyway set himself against the judge’s decision of making his daughter suitable for adoption. It wasn’t a chance that Mr. Castelli’s reform and this last story took place at the same time. Minister doesn’t charge only judges, but also the questionable experts. “These judges will either be prepared on childhood psychology or they will need the experts’ support – says Anna Oliverio Ferrari, professor of Development Psychology at Sapienza’s University; she has just published her book “Il cammino dell’Adozione” (The adoption path). She argues: unifying competences is the only way to speed time up, and we all agree on this. Between the presentation of the adoption demand and the entrance of a child into a new family it shouldn’t pass more than nine months, but a psychologist is essential to evaluate the family suitability. Here too, the problem is not easy to solve. I’ve seen so many parents renouncing a child because they feel to be judged… Evaluation has to be made with great sensibility, not as if it was an exam. Now Turco’s law provides that, at 25 years old, the adopted boy (or girl) shall go searching for his (or her) origins, and this may be traumatic sometimes. In this case, the help of an expert, preferably the one who know his whole story, could be important. Livia Turco herself is very shocked; as Minister for Social Policies, she ratified new adoption laws, such as: the difference of age between the younger parent and the minor has been increased till 45 years; in this way, the number of aspiring parents has increased too. This is crazy – says Minister Castelli – the judge would become all-powerful! But it’s a nonsense: we can’t blame social workers for this, because they are often better than magistrates themselves. Instead of attacking the different classes, we should create a system of relationships between all the competent subjects: judges, social workers and services. The law exists, and must be applied. 82
Brunetta Schisa, from the weekly “Il Venerdì” – June 2002
My short considerations: I don’t agree with ex-Minister Livia Turco at all. Nowadays, most judges are not prepared for judging minors, because they haven’t a particular specialization… as regards social workers… well, honestly, they had and have now a big power, that untrained judges gave them… Many social workers base their work on obsolete knowledge… to solve the situation they should integrate them into a working contest providing a continuous training, a real updating… These are the only basis for helping minors; Turco’s law is not bad, but tends to delegate without a real control. Town councils, regions and provinces, often go into hiding because they are not interested in demolishing an institutionalised status quo, which is a source of profit and benefit (such as political votes, labour supply, etc.), involving the same institutions.
ON THIS SPECIFIC TOPIC, THAT I CONSIDER FUNDAMENTAL TO HELP MINORS, I AM WAITING FOR YOUR OPINIONS, REFLECTIONS, PROPOSALS. THEN, ALL YOUR LETTERS WILL BE SENT TO THE MINISTER AS REAL PROPOSALS.
A BORROWED CHILD INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS’ COSTS TWENTY-FIVE MILLION LIRE FOR AN ACT OF LOVE Treviglio’s bank Cassa Rurale Credito Cooperativo was the first to think about it. This bank of Bergamo got the idea of a prime rate loan for international adoptions about one year ago, because associations responsible for adoption cases abroad had been in urgent need of helps since long time. One of the bodies authorized by Ministry, the Conventino of Bergamo, which is responsible for adoption dossiers in five eastern states and in four Latin American’s, informs that costs come to 20-25 million lire on average. They include – says don Eugenio – the translations, the cases we deal with and the staying of a family, that sometimes lasts over 45 days. They are all certified and tax-deductible at 50%. Well, what I say is: if a couple has got 30 million lire to buy a new car, they have money to have a child too. Anfaa, the adopted families association claims: We are not going deeply into the matter of prime rate loans, but for us it’s important to find a family for a child, not a couple for a child. The President, Mrs. Donata Micucci Nova, stresses the importance of more concrete questions: adopting children abroad is not as easy as it seems. Demands have grown, that is true, but this happens only because the new law has reduced the difference of age, and that doesn’t mean being automatically suitable for adoption or finding children easily. In USA, for example, black kids are rejected also by American aspiring parents. And for what concerns demands for war orphans in Afghanistan? Argentina government showed that there are no guarantees during wars and little orphans could even have difficulties. Cooperation with nations for adoptions is now better codified: Numbers 50.000 adoption demands in eight years 15.000 foreign children found a new family during the latest eight years 83
21.000 international pre-adoptions custodies 34% of decrees was definitely issued THE MOST ADOPTED Russians 32,3% Bulgarians 13,5% Romanians 11,2% To know more about it: www.commissioneadozioni.it www.adozioneinternazionale.net www.nadiaonlus.it From “Il Giorno”, June 2002
A newborn baby left in a religious institute MILAN – That man spoke halting Italian and the nun could hardly understand him. But everything was clear when he put that little bundle into her arms: a newborn baby on a pillow. That poor little thing was only five days old and she was wearing a stained playsuit. Like the man who was deserting her, she had Asiatic features. Last Saturday that man knocked at the Centre for Children’s Assistance’s door, a social structure in 22, via Pusiano, in the province of Milan. His left arm carried his little daughter, with the right arm he was carrying a bag containing his baby’s past and next future: three stained playsuits and some napkins. The Asiatic man, 45 years old, maybe from Philippines, only explained that he couldn’t take care of his baby and didn’t know, or, better, didn’t want to say anything about her. Sister Beniamina is the institute’s Mother Superior. With three other Benedictine sisters and 90 people, she carries out charitable works at CAM (Centro Assistenza Minori – Centre for Children’s Assistance). “I’ve been working here for 27 years – says the nun – and this is the first time something like that happens to me”. She recalls that strange figure: “When we asked him who he was and who was that baby’s father, he didn’t answer to us. We tried to explain to him that he couldn’t leave her here, but he answered – No, no! I leave her here. I can’t look after her! – He left without giving us his name and told us she was 4 or 5 days old”. The little girl was taken to the hospital. She was called Margherita. While police is working to identify the man who deserted Margherita and to know who her parents are, the Juvenile Court of Milan granted custody of the child to CAM, where she is now being nursed and cuddled. The Centre looks after further 35 children till the age of six. Most of them were deserted and, like Margherita, will have to go through a difficult phase of their life. From Corriere della Sera, 24th April 2002
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A CHILD? CLIC ON THE PHOTO The case of the two twins bought on the web in Galles shows the world of on-line catalogues. We are talking about American agencies that make adoptions easier by means of a search 84
engine for all tastes. So, in England they changed the rules. And in Italy? Is it possible to “put” a child on the web? Easy and fast. The ideal place is a sitting room, but the office is suitable too, better if during the lunch break. Or the Internet Café, while sipping a coke. Search engine, key-word. You look the photo, you read the details and you clic E-shopping. That’s all. The only inconvenience – but somebody is surely working to improve the service – is that merchandise is not delivered home. You have to go personally to an adoption agency or to the Social Services. Well, you have understood: the merchandise is a kid. He can be an orphan or a poor child, but he’s always looking for a family. He can also be handicapped, like Darrell, 6 years old, Afro-American, who was a premature infant and now is deaf and blind in the left eye. But he smiles at you anyway…
ADOPTIONS ABROAD ARE TOO EXPENSIVE: GOVERNMENT CUTS DOWN ON RATES Last year 1470 families out of 7000 suitable for adoptions, could have a child. A limit will be fixed for every country. “Notes of counsel’s fees are unacceptable to couples, who have to give up the idea or they plunge into dept”. Rome – adopting a foreign child is still too expensive: a jungle of price fluctuating from 5-8 thousand euros, a reasonable cost, to 25 thousand euros. The only arbiter can’t be the market, so some price control measures have been taken. Just yesterday, the bodies authorized by the government to manage the families’ dossiers have been charged with the cut down of rates. A table shows the top limit of prices. Costs change depending on the child’s place of origin. Let’s make a few examples. Not more than 6.300 euros for a little Ukrainian, 4.700 for an Albanian, about 9.000 for an Hungarian or a Polish, 4.000 for an Haitian, 5.600 for a Moroccan. To adopt an orphan from Moldavia, the poorest land in Europe, one should pay 7.600 euros. And so on. Despite the drastic cut, prices are still too high. Especially in the East of Europe, where a great number of not very reliable lawyers require exaggerated fees. Melita Cavallo, president of the International Adoptions’ Committee, doesn’t allow any excuses: “We made a very accurate survey to our embassies abroad and to our foreign diplomatic seats in Italy to get some information about fees for translations, lawyers, interpreters and guides. We interviewed couples who had been authorized to adopt children on their own. The result of this is that competent bodies ask for unacceptable sums of money, especially for overheads, like rent, secretary, staff and users. Prices are from 155 euros to 3.600; it’s a really painful situation for aspiring parents. Costs are “often exorbitant” and the risk is to discriminate the poorest couples who, on the contrary, are the best from the affective point of view and accept more easily teen-agers or handicapped kids. In 2001 7.041 couples were considered suitable for adoptions by juvenile courts but only 1.470 could realize their dream “and it’s legitimate to suppose that the economic side has been one of the greatest obstacles”. We know that a lot of parents contracted a loan, sold valuable objects, asked a loan to their families and obtained a prime rate loan from a bank Yet, one of the reasons why, from November 2000, they stated that adoptions procedures had to be carried out only by registered bodies (the end of do-it-yourself) was to avoid an increase in the price of adoptions. According to the report “operative procedures achieved by bodies aren’t always respectful of cheapness and sobriety, principles that are more suitable to non-profit organizations. Some saving strategies could be easily found”. The finger is pointed at counsels and intermediaries’ fees abroad, who require more and more: they ask even 4000 euros for their services, even if income levels are low. Mrs. Cavallo warns the competent bodies not to give in to blackmail, to keep a professional ethics and not to tolerate 85
immorality. Since November 2000 till last March, 2.595 foreigners came to Italy. In the classification of original countries, Ukraine is the first with 636 orphans (24% of the total number). It is followed by Colombia, Bulgaria, Romania and India, then Brazil, Bielorussia. Eastern countries take the lion’s share. In June, though, dossiers with Ukraine have been stopped: they were lacking of clearness as regards assignment of orphans. It was a hateful trafficking. The suspensive decree shows a sad reality: couples have to choose their children on catalogues with old photos. Margherita de Bac - “Corriere della Sera”, 4th September 2002
THE BUSINESS CONTINUES …
THE DENIED FAMILYA SOCIAL CRIME DOSSIER and LETTERS TO A BARBARIC STATE (1995-2002)