Court awards Greek children’s charity custody of Maria

A court in Larissa, central Greece, ordered on Saturday that the children’s charity Smile of the Child should have custody of Maria, a five-year-old girl found at a Roma camp in nearby Farsala last October.

The court ruled that it was best for Maria’s upbringing that she remain in the care of the charity rather than be returned to the Roma couple that had unofficially adopted her or be handed over to social services in Bulgaria, where her birth mother lives.

Maria’s discovery sparked an international search for her biological parents and led to charges of abduction being brought against the Roma couple, Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, who were looking after the girl. It then emerged that the couple’s assertion that a Bulgarian Roma had given them her child was correct.

The court noted that Maria’s biological parents had not made an effort to get in touch with her or to request that they be granted custody.

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