Girl Found In Greek Roma Camp Put Into Foster Care

The photo of a young blonde girl set off an international hunt for her biological parents, who turned out to be Roma from Bulgaria.

Eleftheria Dimolpoulou (left), her husband Christos Salis (right), and a girl found living with them in central Greece, nicknamed Maria. Handout / Reuters

The young blonde girl nicknamed Maria who was found during the raid on a Roma camp in Greece and thought to be “stolen by gypsies” has been moved into foster care in Romania, The Daily Beast reports.

The couple caring for the child, Eleftheria Dimopoulou and her husband Hristos Salis, are still in jail after being arrested for kidnapping.

Photos were circulated worldwide in a hunt for the girl’s real parents, and DNA tests eventually confirmed another Roma woman, Atanas Ruseva, as Maria’s biological mother. Ruseva came forward and said she “gifted” Maria, formerly known as Stanka, to the Greek couple in 2009, when she was unable to care for her. The Bulgarian woman is said to have seven other children and a mentally-ill husband, and she told Bulgarian reporters that the entire family lives in one room.

What complicates things is that Maria’s “adoptive” parents in Greece were getting state aid for her and another dozen children, some of whom didn’t even exist. As such, the couple is still in jail facing charges of benefits fraud in addition to a charge for falsifying documents and the kidnapping charge, which the court is expected to modify. Because of this, Maria has been placed in foster care.

The children of Roma woman Sasha Ruseva (not pictured), found by DNA tests to be Maria’s biological mother, rest inside their home in a southern Bulgaria camp. Stringer / Reuters

Ruseva fled when police threatened her with criminal charges and social services swept in and nabbed some of her children. According to Diana Kaneva, head of the Bulgarian Social Services Agency that manages the Nikalaevo camp where Ruseva lives, the woman’s 2- and 3-year-old toddlers will be given to one foster family while the 6- and 7-year-old will go to another. Two other children were deemed mentally unfit and will be sent to a facility for kids with special needs, and her 15-year-old daughter, who is engaged, will stay in the camp.

Neighbors also told police Ruseva may have birthed another child shortly after Maria and left the baby with a Roma family in eastern Europe.

The children will be returned to Ruseva if she can prove to be a provider, Kaneva told The Daily Beast, but added that it’s unlikely. “Once they get out, these children rarely want to go back,” she said.

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