Newly updated for 2020, This revised and updated book documents Adele’s experiences with her daughter since the book was first published in 2013, and Adele’s ongoing involvement in highlighting the plight of Orphans in Romania. In 1991, unable to have a second child because of a medical problem and struggling to cope in a failing marriage, New Zealander, Adele Rickerby, decided to take her future in her hands by adopting a child from Romania. The misguided policies of the recently deposed Ceausescu government on family planning had led to the birth of an estimated 100,000 unwanted babies in that country. The Promise I Kept is Adele’s story of her nightmare journey halfway around the world to find and adopt a baby, to negotiate her way through the barriers created by red-tape and corrupt officialdom, and finally to carry her tiny new daughter safely home to a life where she could be properly loved and cared for.
Toni Tingle, Mereo Books, an imprint of Memoirs Publishing, Gloucestershire, U.K
Orphan advocacy and child welfare in Romania; Community facebook page; thepromisekept.co
A heartfelt autobiographical work, The Promise I Kept chronicles the journey to adopting a child from post cold-war Romania. With incredible honesty, Adele shares her lifetime with Endometriosis and the resulting surgeries, her amazing first daughter, Melannie and the desire for Melannie to have a sister- leading to the decision to adopt and a difficult trip to Romania to meet baby Natasha and bring her home. It is a book that is equal parts relatable and eye-opening, at times confronting, but ultimately showcases a woman’s incredible determination and love for her child.
In November 2017, the Romania Without Orphans Alliance (ARFO) published its annual report on the condition of children living in Romania’s child welfare system. An English-language version came out in January.
The 24-page report—beautifully designed with photos, charts, data, and analysis—provides a devastating look at the state’s care for parentless children. We’re quite proud of this body of work as a reflection on ARFO, which we helped found, and which our supporters have helped fund.
Here are eight quick takeaways from the report;
1. Child abandonment is an ongoing and serious problem.
Although Romania’s population is declining, the number of children entering its child welfare system has stayed steady at around 10,000 per year. ARFO uses government data to show that it’s not just poor areas driving this problem. The capital counties of Bucharest-Ilfov made the top-10 list for both numbers of children in the system and for percentage of children in institutions. One sector of Bucharest had an alarming 59% of children in its system housed in institutions.
2. Most children who enter the system remain there until adulthood.
Of the 10,000 children abandoned each year, around 6,000 will stay in state care. “On paper, Romania’s Child Protection System offers a child temporary intervention until they are reintegrated into their biological family, or placed in an adoptive family,” ARFO president Liviu Mihaileanu writes. “In reality, this ‘temporary intervention’ usually lasts until they become an adult.”
3. Adoptions are all too rare.
A chart from the ARFO report shows the decline in adoption.
In 2016, only 788 children were adopted in Romania—a mere 1.3% of children in the system. This was the second-lowest number on record since at least 2000, but numbers are abysmal across the board. ARFO cites an anti-adoption bias from many state workers, who look askance at the practice of putting children in legal placement with families who want to adopt them.
4. Even when families are available, the state keeps children in orphanages.
State workers often view children in orphanages as “solved cases,” with no further intervention or family placement needed. Sometimes they actively fight the removal of children from institutions. The ARFO report contains a firsthand account from one NGO worker who requested to take a child from an orphanage into placement. Not only was she denied, but her NGO’s work at the orphanage was threatened.
A 2016 law requires the government to declare abandoned children legally adoptable after 6-12 months, depending on circumstances. Yet this law is simply being ignored by case managers. Over a year later, only 1.5% of the children in Romania’s institutions have been declared adoptable.
Adoptability stats from the ARFO report. The number of adoptable children in institutions is especially troubling, given how clearly institutionalization is proven to harm children.
“Case managers usually work for the same local government agency that is receiving funds to house the children,” ARFO notes. “Therefore, one may conclude that such a practice is intentional to secure staff and funding.” ARFO calls for legal sanctions against workers who fail to carry out the law, and who misinform and intimidate families seeking to remove children from institutions.
5. Children suffer from moves within the system.
ARFO decries the trauma of moving children in state care from place to place. They are especially concerned about the practice of placing children in foster families until age 3, then moving them to orphanages. Under Romanian law, no child under 3 may be placed in an institution, so the government often “rotates out” children when they get older. ARFO recommends a ban on moving a child from family care to an institution, except in exceptional circumstances.
6. The state has no minimum standards governing family placement.
The government was supposed to publish standards in 2012 for family placement, the practice where children are placed with an unpaid foster family or birth relatives. Five years later, there are still no standards. Failing to evaluate and oversee children placed with birth relatives is dangerously negligent. ARFO recommends that the state create minimum standards as quickly as possible.
7. The state holds charities to strict standards its own agencies don’t meet.
The report notes: “While NGOs are not permitted to function in Romania without a license, only 17% of public social services are licensed. The rest function without meeting the minimum standards that all NGOs must meet to provide the same services.” ARFO decries the state’s monopoly over child welfare, where NGOs’ contracts can be canceled at will. The report calls for greater cooperation between the state and charities.
8. A number of positive developments have laid the groundwork for change.
It’s not all bad news. First, the number of families certified to adopt is rising (currently over 2,600 families), indicating a growing interest in adoption. Second, the state has developed a list of “hard-to-place” children, allowing prospective families to view their profiles, which humanizes the process and encourages adoption of hard-to-place children. Third, the growing number of adoptions to Romanians abroad could provide the foundation for re-opening intercountry adoption. With real reforms, Romania could do much better for its children.
Just a few years ago, Romania started a dirty and illegal business; they banned the adoption of the children abandoned by irresponsible people and put them in the hands of other irresponsible people!
At the age of four weeks after birth, I was abandoned at the No.4 Children’s House in Lugoj, Timis County. I was born on July 6, 1994, in the city of Jimbolia, Timis. My mother, Lili, wanted to get rid of me- she had postpartum. Mama, (Liliana’s mother), gave me to the children’s home.
At Lugoj, a Danish foundation annually organised a series of visits to families in Denmark, who wanted a child. I was one of the lucky ones in the project. I was admitted to a family in Copenhagen, the Elgard Jensen family, both employees of the Royal Danish House. The family had two sons, one of whom was a student in medicine. A very beautiful family who started my adoption. I was four years old. I knew that I was going to be theirs. I knew that I was going to be Danish. I wanted to get rid of the 120 kids in that ugly house, dirty and administered by bad people who beat me for no reason.
I was deluded. A family promised. I was sure that I would be adopted. I was in the courthouse or in the courtroom. I do not know exactly. I was asked if I wanted to be adopted by Eva and Flemming. I said my first ”da” and they took me out of the room. After a few minutes, I was told to return to Lugoj for a while. It was a short time because in December 1999 I was visited by the Herbold family from Germany who wanted to open a family home in Checea. They got me in their house. It was very nice. It was hot and I had food and I did not have to hurry when I ate. I could sleep without being touched by the older boys and I said for the first time, ”mother”. Unfortunately to a person not worth it.
At Checea, the Children’s Safety Foundation in Romania became my home. It became the place where I feel safe and appreciated for what I do.
I am twenty-four years of age. I graduated from the Social Assistance Faculty and I only have six months to complete the dissertation. I want to study more. I decided that after graduating the Mastership, I will enrolled in the PhD.
In 2017, helped by two friends, we set up an ong; YouHub Association, and in December 2017, I was elected President of the Institutionalised Youth Council, the national representation of children abandoned in Romania.
My mission is to promote and protect the rights of the child. Adoption is a fundamental right through the right to family. The Romanian government, encouraged by a Baroness, blocked International adoption on the grounds that it had become organ-trafficking. Checks, inquiries, and other inquiries and …nothing!!
I don’t understand Tiriac’s involvement in this story! But one thing is certain. Romania boasts about 57,000 abandoned children. 19,000 in children’s homes.
Are we a statistic or are we people who could change our story if we were supported towards an independent, dignified and better life.
In January, Adoption Law should be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, was voted unanimously in the Senate. I hope that the article on the reopening of International Adoption from Romania is voted for and so gives the chance of a family to all abandoned children.
The love and care of his adoptive parents changed the world for Alex Kuch, but he also gives credit to the University of Auckland, which “opened up so many opportunities” to learn and then to apply the knowledge he has gathered.
The story of Alex Kuch, a recent University of Auckland graduate in Politics and International Relations, begins half a world away in an orphanage in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Given the basics of life but deprived of any affection, warmth, stimulation or love, Alex suffered from a condition called hospitalisation.
He habitually rocked, had no language and could not make eye contact with another human being.
His life changed forever when his adoptive parents Heidi and Walter Kuch rescued the 18-month-old and gave him a second chance at life in Germany, later relocating to New Zealand when Alex was 11, attracted by our education system.
“When I met Alex he was very quiet,” Walter says, as he recalls the “basic and overcrowded” institution where some 200 children were housed.
“He had a black mark on his cheek. We were told it was from another child who bit him when he tried to pinch an apple. There was not enough for them to eat so they fought over food. Alex couldn’t walk. Nobody cared for him.”
Walter bundled Alex up and took him to Bucharest for three nights while paperwork was finalised, while his new mother Heidi waited anxiously in Germany for their arrival.
“On the first morning in our hotel he woke up and I dressed him and he started rocking. That was a scary moment, it was a symptom of hospitalisation. We didn’t know if he would recover, but regardless I thought ‘he is our child and I will take him home’.”
After a few weeks in a loving home with responsive parents, the rocking stopped and never came back. But the long-term outlook for Alex was grim. A psychologist advised that he would never lead a normal life, complete high school, or have the social skills to integrate into society.
With the help of intensive speech and fine motor therapy, Alex walked at 22 months and began to talk around the age of five.
This year Alex completed a Bachelor of Arts degree and is now an accomplished public speaker, researcher and adoption advocate.
My parents weren’t going to let a prediction determine who I was going to become.
“My family is really proud of me, especially as I’m the first person in my family to have gone to university. It has been challenging; however the University has been very supportive. I had a writer for exams as I still have some fine motor challenges such as not being able to write neatly and quickly. But coming to university has opened up so many opportunities for me.”
Alex’s full list of achievements is lengthy and constantly growing. Standouts are speaking twice in Romania’s parliament, the first time when only 18 years old, being named a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year, and completing research looking at the experiences of adoptees.
He is also an advocate for re-opening Romania’s borders to international adoptions. After the overthrow of the Ceau?escu government in 1989, thousands of abandoned children were adopted by overseas families, but corruption was rife and the world’s attention was drawn to the terrible conditions. Romania closed its borders to international adoptions in 2001.
“Just because there have been bad instances, entire countries have closed international adoptions as a result.
It’s like saying just because a small proportion of a population has inflicted violence towards children then everyone should be prevented from having children. What we need is to develop better policies to protect children during the adoption process.”
To this end, Alex is helping to establish a framework for global adoption policies at the third Asia-Europe Foundation Young Leaders Summit on ethical leadership, and will work with other global adoption experts at the International Conference on Adoption Research in 2020 in Milan.
He will also share his joint research with Dr Rhoda Scherman from AUT, which compiles the experiences of other adoptees published on the New Zealand based ‘I’m Adopted’ website.
“I’m Adopted is a place where adoptees from around the world can connect and share their stories,” says Alex. “With the permission of the adoptees, we have gone through dozens of stories to pull together the common themes of what adopted children go through. It’s valuable knowledge for agencies and families, for example knowing when to intervene or what to expect, and to provide better support.”
In an unusual twist in Alex’s own story, he met his birth mother three years ago on a live Romanian talk show.
Alex has visited Romania twice to advocate for reopening international adoptions, but has never sought to connect with his birth parents. While he was speaking on television about his advocacy work, the show’s producers blindsided him by bringing his birth mother and half siblings onto the stage.
“It could have been done more professionally, but things are a bit different over there,” Alex says.
“After I visited some orphanages and was then surprised by my biological family, I began to recall some visual impressions of my time in my orphanage. It was very emotional.”
Alex has chosen not to stay in contact with his birth mother.
“Why would I? I have a mother and father in New Zealand,” he says.
Heidi, his adoptive mother, says there was never an expectation that Alex would attend university. His younger brother Colin, also adopted from Romania two years after Alex, is more hands-on and has started a building apprenticeship.
“Alex just loves to learn. Once he learnt to talk, whoosh, it was like a waterfall that never stopped. He was always asking questions,” Heidi says.
“But we never put pressure on him to go to university. We just supported him in whatever he wanted to do. We didn’t spoil the boys or give them lots of toys, but we spent lots of precious time with them playing games and doing activities as a family.”
But Heidi says Alex was a challenging student and the German schooling system held him back.
“The New Zealand school system has been very good for Alex. When they discovered he was good at maths they pushed him, and then he was away.”
Alex was a top student at KingsWay School, on the Hibiscus Coast where he grew up.
Now back living in Europe, he has begun an internship with children’s rights and development organisation, Aflatoun International, based in the Netherlands. He also plans to return to Romania to continue to advocate for the re-opening of international adoptions, and is writing an autobiography chronicling his journey from the orphanage to New Zealand.
“Alex’s background, interests and experience will help us to scale up our focus on children that are living in alternative care and will have to stand on their own feet as they reach the age of 18,” says Roeland Monasch, director of Aflatoun International. “We want to make sure this specific group of children are empowered with these essential social and financial skills in order for them to be resilient and successful in their adult life. Alex will be a great resource for us.”
By Danelle Clayton
Ingenio: Spring 2018
This article appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Ingenio, the print magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Auckland.
Alex was only eighteen years of age when he made his first trip to Romania to speak to the Parliament to advocate for the reopening of International Adoptions from Romania.
When Romanian orphan Alex Kuch was adopted at age two, his new family was told he would never finish high school or lead a normal life.
This week, Alex finished his final semester of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and International Relations with a minor in Sociology at the University of Auckland.
Now 23-years-old, Alex is an established children’s rights advocate and is invited to speak around the world. Next month, he will co-present research into the experiences of adoptees at a major international conference in Canada.
“My parents weren’t going to let a prediction determine who I was going to become,” Alex says. “While never pushing me, they always encouraged me to give my best in everything I did. My family is really proud, especially as I’m the first person in my family to go to university. I’m really looking forward to using my degree in the real world.”
His research, completed with Dr Rhoda Scherman from AUT, analyses the stories of other adoptees shared on the New Zealand-based I’m Adopted website.
“The stories have helped us to pull together the common themes of what adopted children go through. It’s valuable knowledge for agencies and families, for example knowing when to intervene or what to expect, and to provide better support.”
Alex was adopted in 1997 from an orphanage in Cluj- Napoca, Romania by a German couple. He also has a younger brother adopted by the same family. The family moved to New Zealand in 2006.
At the time of his adoption, a German psychologist advised Alex’s family that the emotional damage from spending his formative years in an orphanage meant he would never lead a normal life, complete high school, or have the social skills to integrate into society.
“The conditions weren’t the greatest. My parents were told that I had started to rock backwards and forward due to a lack of emotional and physical stimulation and I could not look people directly in the eyes.”
Alex received specialist support such as speech and fine motor therapy, and against all odds, has now completed high school and university.
“It was challenging, however the University of Auckland has been very supportive. I had a writer for exams as I still have some fine motor challenges. Also many of my assignments were tailored to reflect my advocacy work.”
Alex is passionate about lobbying the Romanian Government to re-open international adoptions, which were closed in 2001.
In an unusual twist, Alex met his birth mother on live television during a lobbying trip to his birth country. While speaking on a talk show about his adoption experience, producers blindsided him by bringing his birth mother and half siblings onto the stage.
Alex is now concentrating on his long-term aspiration is to establish a children’s rights consultancy that collaborates with different sectors to have a positive impact on the wellbeing of children.
Izidor Ruckel was born in 1980. When he was six months old, he became ill and his parents took him to a hospital where he contracted polio from an infected syringe. Later, the hospital doctors encouraged his parents to drop him off at an orphanage. From 1983 until 1991, Izidor lived in the Sighetu Marmatiei orphanage.
No one knows how many children were in Romanian orphanages at end of communism. The number is estimated to have been somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000. What we do know is that child abandonment was actually encouraged by the Romanian government as a means of population growth by discarding children who could not be productive workers for the state.
Sighetu Marmatiei is located in Sighet, a small city in northern Romania. It is the hometown of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
The Sighetu Marmatiei institution is located on the western edge of town behind a 6-foot wall. The sign above the entry reads “Camin Spital Pentru Minori Deficient,” which translates to the “Hospital Home for Deficient Children.”
In 1990, shortly after communism fell, ABC News’ 20/20 producer Janice Tomlin visited Sighet and produced the awarding series “Shame of a Nation.” Tomlin’s photos and videos brought the world’s attention to Romania’s horrific child welfare practices.
Dan and Marlys Ruckel of San Diego watched the 20/20 broadcast and went to Romania with the intention of adopting a child. On October 29, 1991, Dan and Marlys adopted Izidor. He was one of many Sighet orphans to make San Diego their new home.
In 2016, Izidor moved back to Romania, where he has committed his life to children without families and finding the means to support the 60,000 orphans of his generation who were never adopted.
I recently met Izidor at the Cluj train station to talk about his life, why he moved back to Romania, and the current state of child welfare.
TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND
From 3 until 11, I was in a hospital for children, not an orphanage. But back then, and still today, there is no difference between how a kid is treated in a children’s hospital or a state orphanage. They are both institutions.
Two years after arriving in the US, I started to miss the institution in Sighet. Nobody in the US had the answers that I was looking for, and I took out my anger on the people that loved me most, my adopted family. I was a child from hell.
Then a Romanian family came to San Diego for Easter and I heard about Christ. I wrote down tons of questions and began to find the answers I was searching for. People ask me how I overcame this. It isn’t because of my parents or anything I did, it was because I allowed Christ to tell me who I really was.
As my anger subsided and family life improved, I was asked to write a book to help families who adopt abandoned children. The book, Abandoned for Life, was published in 2003 and sold over 30,000 copies.
For 17 years, since 2001, my primary life goal has been to tell people what happened in my institution and make sure it stops happening to other children in Romania. I have spoken hundreds of times, including on the BBC, in the Washington Post and recently in an interview with Morgan Freeman that will be aired this October in 176 countries on National Geographic.
DESCRIBE LIFE IN THE ORPHANAGE
We woke up at 5, stripped naked, since most kids wet themselves in bed, and went to another room for new clothes while the floor was cleaned. We ate breakfast, washed up and were put into a clean room where we just sat there rocking back and forth, hitting each other, sleeping or watching someone cry until they were drugged. After lunchtime, we went back into the clean room, repeating the same things as the morning. Then we were fed, bathed again, put into clean clothes and into bed for the night.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE?
First, that the children suffered more than anyone knows. No reporter can capture the suffering. The abuse was worse than anything reported. If you were handicapped like me, you were hidden and never allowed outside the institution.
Secondly, despite all trauma and emotional wounds, no life is ever lost. If we give these kids, now adults, some opportunity, with love, nourishment and development, they can function in the world and develop independence. I stay in touch with the kids I grew up with and they can be helped. They still have dreams.
WHY DO YOU KEEP RETURNING TO SIGHET ?
There are many reasons. First off, it was my home for 11 years and believe it or not, there are memories I cherish. The few times I was allowed out of the institution, I was in awe of the natural beauty of Sighet. Romania to me was the beautiful land outside the institution, not the evil inside the institution.
I like to visit some of the nurses. I call them my seven angels. Their love and compassion was the only source of hope I had.
There is also a specific memory that reminds me that God was with me even though I did not know who He was. On one of my trips outside the institution, I saw a dead man hanging on a cross. The nurse said it was Jesus Christ, but without any explanation. I actually thought he was some poor guy from Sighet.
I kept feeling sorry for him when I got back to the institution. Now I take a picture of that cross every time I am back in Sighet.
I go back to reconnect with the kids I grew up with. In 2014, four of us went back to the institution. Dolls, furniture and clothes were lying around like it just closed. Crows were everywhere like in a haunted house. But it was remarkable that each of us remembered things that the others had forgotten. It felt really good for us to share our common experience. When I asked them if they missed this place, we all said ‘yes’. It was our only childhood home.
But the biggest reason is to find out what really happened there. Even though the place had been closed for 11 years, it is still filled with records and supplies. When I was seven, a kid named Duma was beaten so badly that I hid under the sheets, fearful that I might be next. In the morning, I saw Duma’s naked bruised body and by lunch he was dead. Last year I found his medical records. His official cause of death was “stopped breathing.”
There was another kid named Marian who was hyperactive and was often given medicine. His father visited him every weekend and I would jealously look out the window as they sat on a bench. In time, Marius stopped eating and lost the will to live. I remember looking out the window on the Sunday when he died in his Dad’s arms. His Dad was crying and praying to heaven.
In 1995, there was a media story that Romanian orphans were given rat poison. Three years ago, a nurse from institution confirmed that Marius and many other kids were given rat poison.
Many former orphans are returning to Romania for answers. For me, it is all about forgiveness and making sure Romania stops sweeping the child welfare issue under the carpet. Children’s rights and interests are still being ignored.
On June 1, 2017, the state-funded Investigation of Communist Crimes (ICCMER) submitted a criminal complaint to the Ministry of Justice for the deaths of 771 children in the Sighetu Marmatei, Cighid and Pastraveni orphanages between 1966 and 1990. Investigators say this is just the tip of the iceberg for a much wider investigation that is needed into Romania’s 26 orphanages.
ICCMER investigators and archivists say official records list pneumonia and brain disease as the main causes of deaths, but witnesses say the causes were exposure to the cold, poor hygiene, starvation, lack of healthcare, rat poison, and violent physical abuse.
Investigators say Communist records classified children into 3 categories: reversible, partially reversible and non- reversible. Children in the latter two categories were thrown into centers to die.
Radu Preda, director of ICCMER says “My plea as a father is to ensure that these things never happen again. Let us do something on the media level and at the institutional level in order to ensure that no child in this country who has a handicap, or illness, or has been abandoned will ever be slapped, starved, tied down or left to die in their own feces.
We need to acknowledge the utterly uncivilized society of our communist past and rid all traces of this sickness from our child protection system.”
TELL ME ABOUT THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION YOU ARE A PART OF?
I agreed to help bring attention to a criminal investigation led by the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes (ICCMER). This investigation focuses on the deaths of children in Sighet Marmatiei and two other institutions.
I asked the investigators if they were going after nurses and they said “No, only the people who dispensed medicine and managed the facilities.” Once I knew that, it was okay with me.
But I am less interested in putting people in jail than I am interested in getting financial resources from the State to support the 60,000 orphans of my generation that were never adopted. Most of them have no means to support themselves as adults and are homeless. My hope is that this investigation will lead to a much larger class action suit on behalf of these 60,000 citizens. There needs to be a cost for gross neglect or things will not change.
TELL ME ABOUT HOW THE ROMANIAN MEDIA COVERS CHILD ABUSE AND WELFARE
I could not believe all the Romanian media at the June 1st press conference announcing the criminal investigation. This was history! Romanians finally fighting for something that we failed to do all these years. I always challenge the Romanian media since all of the stories on orphans and child abuse come from international news organizations. Even today, all the footage of child neglect comes from international organizations.
For years people were embarrassed and scared about this issue. But now it seems young people are waking up to the fact that this is still going on.
IS THERE STILL ABUSE IN ROMANIA INSTITUTIONS
Yes there is. I do not know from firsthand experience, but I have heard so from people I know and trust. I am trying to get access to more institutions to help kids and social workers. I am not living in Romania to embarrass or destroy people. But the government officials in Parliament seem to have no clue what is really happening in their institutions.
DO YOU THINK ROMANIA SHOULD OPEN INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION?
I am fighting for international adoption for children with special needs or those that have no chance of being adopted in Romania. Most of the people in the government reject this idea on the basis that children will be damaged by losing their culture and identity if they get adopted outside of Romania.
That’s a horrible excuse. From the moment these children enter the institution they are stripped of everything. Their dignity, freedom and their brains become mush. Tell me, what culture are they losing by being adopted abroad?
The issue in Romania today is all about money and jobs for political patronage. The State pays institutions, residential homes and foster care a stipend for each child. If the State found adoptive families for 20,000 of the 60,000 children in State custody, they would lose 33% of their funding and the jobs they often give to family and friends.
In my generation, the government wanted to dispose of the children. Today, they want to profit from them.
WHAT BOTHERS YOU THE MOST ABOUT THE CHILDCARE SYSTEM TODAY?
I am actually impressed with how many good social workers want to change the system. I get lots of emails from social workers and was shocked to see how many social workers showed up at the Romania Without Orphans conference last November. It is a great joy to see all of the Romanian families that have adopted and want to adopt.
We all know that institutions are not the answer. But I am not in favor of just shutting down the institutions. Simply putting kids on the streets is even worse. At least institutions provide a bed, food, clothing and shelter. Our train stations are filled with homeless.
The biggest problem we have today is that the workers who worked in the institutions in the 1980’s through the mid-1990’s still work in the system. You can’t expect change by renovating buildings when you have the same people and same culture.
I visited 6 orphanages 2 years ago. Most of the kids saw my story on television and were comfortable talking to me. I asked each child, “Do you like living here?” They said “See that lady over there? She still beats us.” I asked “how long she has been working here?” They said “from day one, since this place opened.”
It is constantly the same response. And I thought “Wow, there is the problem.” These people need to be replaced.
I want to work with the system. I want to stay in Romania. I can see that people are really looking for answers. I am getting a powerful response when I speak to the new generation of Romanians. I believe the time is right to confront our past and create a system that works in the interests of children.
I was moved by Izidor. He travels around Romania on filthy trains. He carries his suitcase without complaint, despite a partially paralyzed leg. He does not have much money and is not motivated by fame or public attention. What he has is a passion and purpose.
Romania in 2017 reminds me of growing up in Germany in the 1970’s. I remember talking to my German teenage friends about Nazism and the Holocaust. They had no answers, no ability to comprehend the horror, just a deep passion to fight any legacy of Nazism. I feel the same sentiment among young Romanians today as they feel deep anger towards any abuse or injustice towards children.
It is cliché to say that our future is in our children. But in Romania the numbers speak for themselves.
Every decision made in our homes, communities and government, needs to be made in the context of “Is this a good place to raise healthy children and are we doing our best to find every child a loving family?”
Izidor is in desperate need of a new leg-brace for his polio damaged leg. Please see the link and share or donate if you can.
She grew up during the darkest days of Communism, the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher. She remembers being mocked for her faith every day at school. She remembers peeking under her bedroom door at night, watching the boots of the soldiers who had come to take her father away for interrogation. She remembers what it was like when Communism finally fell, and she learned that the government had hidden hundreds of thousands of children away in terrible orphanages. And that was when Corina Caba knew what God wanted her to do with her life.
Photo- Corina Caba holding a malnourished baby.
She founded her orphanage in a tiny apartment in 1996, taking abandoned babies from the hospital and caring for them until she could find adoptive families. Gradually, she added to her staff, paying their salaries however she could. After Romania Reborn was founded to support the work, she built a bigger facility, hired more workers, and took in more babies. As the years passed, Romania’s laws and child welfare system evolved, but God always made a way for Corina to help abandoned children.
Today, Corina is the adoptive mother of four children and a mother figure to hundreds more, whose lives she has forever changed. She is also an emerging national leader in the field of orphan care, traveling to speak at conferences, helping advise the government on policy, and (reluctantly) speaking to national media. And she’s still fighting for individual children every day. “When the pain is too much, God taught me to trust in Him,” she says. “One day, He will restore all that seems lost, redeem all that seems hopeless, repair all that seems destroyed. Our God owns the last reply!”
The degree of declaration of adoptability did not increase at all one year after the revised law on adoption was implemented, keeping it below 6% of the number of children in the system.
In March 2016, there were 57,581 children who had been abandoned by their families and entered the child protection system.
This report is the result of an analysis of the situation of abandoned children in the child protection system, carried out by the Romania Without Orphans Alliance.
The report was made public at the start of the A.R.F.O Summit, held in Bucharest, November 2017.
The report shows that the declaration of adoption for children where there is no possibility of being reunited with their biological families, is hampered by over exaggerated legislation and poor implementation of legislation.
The very small number, only 1.5% of children being adopted, highlights a worrying practise to keep children in institutions.
Another aspect highlighted by the report is that, whilst private organisations are not allowed to provide services unless they are licensed, 83% of public services do not have a license and do not meet mandatory minimum standards.
3,436 ADOPTABLE CHILDREN RECORDED IN ADOPTION REGISTER AT MARCH-END
3,436 adoptable children recorded in Adoption Register at March-endBY NINEOCLOCK
A total of 3,436 adoptable children were registered in the National Register for Adoption, at the end of March 2016, of whom 3,069 (89.32 percent) benefited from special protection measures in family type services and 367 (10.68 percent) benefited of special protection measures in residential type services, according to the statistics published by the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Protection and Elderly People.
Also on 31 March 2016 there were 57,581 children in the adoption system with special protection, out of which 20,156 children (35 percent) benefited from special protection measures in residential type services (16,224 children in public residential type services, 3,932 children in private residential type services) and a number of 37,425 children (65 percent) benefited from special protection measures in family type services (18,815 children were in fostercare, 14,158 children were in the care of relatives up to grade IV included and 4,452 children were in the care of other families or persons.
The representatives of the Labor Ministry signals that, starting 1 January 2005, public services of social assistance created inside the city councils are the main in charge with the growth, which on 31 March 2016 offered services for 42.83 percent of the children that benefit from this sort of services, the accredited private bodies provide services for 19.65 percent and 37.52 percent are beneficiaries of prevention services provided by the Directorate General for Social Assistance and Child Protection.
On 31 March 2016 there were 1,135 public residential type services and 342 residential type services of accredited private bodies. These services include: classic or modular orphanages, apartments, family type houses, maternal centers, emergency reception centers, other services (the service for the development of independent life, day and night shelter).
From the total of 1,477 residential services, a number of 352 (public residential type services and and private residential services) were designed for children with disabilities. The number of children that benefited from a special protection measure in these services provided for children with disabilities was, at the end of March, 6,586 children, recording a decrease of 705 children compared to the same period of 2015.
On 31 March 2016, the Directorates for Social Assistance and Child Protection in every county/sector of Bucharest, the “Child Protection” departments counted 32,655 employees, 31 people more towards the end of the first quarter of last year, and 51 people more versus 31 December 2015.
In the total of 32,655 employees, 4,439 (13.59 percent) were hired in the DGASPC’s own structures, 12,016 (36.80 percent) were fostercare professionals, 12,398 (37.97 percent) were employed in residential type services and 3,802 (11.64 percent) were hired in daytime care services.