Romania Reborn; 8 Things You Should Know About Romania’s Child Welfare System

8 Things You Should Know about Romania’s Child Welfare System

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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.

A chart from the ARFO report shows the decline in adoption.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Support the work of ARFO by giving to our “Romania Without Orphans” fund.

Romania’s Last Orphanages

http://www.hopeandhomes.org/news-article/economist-film/

@TheEconomist has visited @HopeandHomes projects in Romania to create a film examining how we’re finding families for the 7,000 children who remain in ‘Romania’s Last Orphanages’ https://buff.ly/2nn16YQ #FamiliesNotOrphanages

HOPEANDHOMES.ORG
Hard hitting film by the The Economist exploring the rise of the terrible orphanage system in Romania and explaining why Hope and Homes for Children is determined ‘Romania’s Last Orphanage’ should close.

Hope and Homes for Children’s work in Romania is central to a hard-hitting new film, released today by The Economist.

Available here. ‘The End of Orphanages?’ focuses on the transformation that’s taken place in Romania’s child protection system in recent decades.

Viewers are reminded of the horror of the Ceausescu-era orphanages that were discovered after the fall of the dictator in 1989 and goes on to explain how the majority of the county’s orphanages have now been closed by ensuring that children can grow up in family-based care instead.

Hope and Homes for Children has played a fundamental part in driving the process of child protection reform in Romania over the last 20 years. When we began work there in 1998, over 100,000 children were confined to institutions. Today that figure has fallen by more than 90% to less than 7,200.

The Economist film tells the story of Claudia, a woman in her late 30s who was born with one arm and abandoned to the orphanage system as a baby. She shares painful memories of the abuse and neglect she suffered as a child. She struggles to remain composed as she describes one incident where she was stripped and beaten with a rope as a punishment for playing in the wrong place.

“Effectively we belonged to no one. You were basically treated like an animal” she says.

Today Claudia works in the Ion Holban institution in Iasi County – one of the remaining orphanages that Hope and Homes for Children is working to close in Romania. The film shows some of the children who have already been supported to leave the institution and join families.

The Manole sisters spent five years in Ion Holban after their remaining parent died. Our team gave their extended family the extra support they needed to make it possible for all four girls to leave the orphanage and begin a new life together with their Aunt and Uncle.

Three of the Manole sisters with their Auntie Maricica

Stefan Darabus, our Regional Director for Central and Southern Europe, contributes to the new film, explaining “Any institution like Ion Holban should be closed. They do not offer family love. They do not offer what a child needs most which is to belong to a family, to have a mother and a father, to feel special.”

The film gives a balanced view of the process of deinstitutionalisation, pointing out the risks to children if the process is not properly supported but gives the last word on the future of the children in the Ion Holban to Claudia. “What they need is such a simple thing,” she says. “Parental love in the bosom of the family, rather than in the bosom of the State. But mainly they need to be accepted.”

E.U. Funds Used to Close Fifty Orphanages in Romania

EU funds will be used to close 50 Romanian orphanages

The Government of Romania has confirmed that it will use European Union funds to close 50 state orphanages and other residential institutions for children. The closures programmes will take place across the country, in seven out of eight regions, and include institutions for children with disabilities.

As part of Opening Doors for Europe’s Children, our pan-European campaign with Eurochild, Hope and Homes for Children has played a key role in securing EU funding for child protection reform across Europe and ensuring that the money is specifically ring-fenced for closing institutions and supporting families.

Adrian Oros, National coordinator of Opening Doors in Romania said, “This is an important step in the reform of the child protection system in Romania. The long-standing governmental declarations to close all institutions by 2022 are getting gradually translated into action. Especially commendable is the fact that a third of the old-type institutions in Romania that have been listed for closure by the Government in May 2017 include institutions for children with disabilities. This group of children make up almost 60% of all the children who remain in Romanian institutions. The time to ensure their right to live in more inclusive, supportive and caring communities is now.”

Although Romania has made great progress in reforming its child protection systems over recent decades, there are still 7,500 children living in the 191 remaining institutions. Johnny is one of these children. He loves football and being outside but he spends most of his time indoors because he uses a wheelchair and the orphanage where he lives has few ramps and no lifts. Johnny was separated from his younger brother and his father when his mother died and his family could no longer care for him without support.

Hope and Homes for Children is working to close the institution where Johnny lives by finding safe and loving family-based care for all the children living there. The news that EU funding is now available to support this and 49 other closure programmes marks a significant step towards the day when all children in Romania can grow up in families and not in orphanages.

Hope and Homes For Children; Romania. Deinstitutionalisation

In 2018, almost 6,500 children in Romania still live in institutions, which are inappropriate for their development.

Reports of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, child-trafficking and suicide, consistently appear in the media regarding the abandoned children in these institutions.

Over the past twenty years, Hope and Homes for Children, Romania, has closed 56 institutions, including the Nassau Foster Centre, and built and moved institutionalised children to one hundred and four family type homes.

http://www.hopeandhomes.org/news-article/mark-and-caroline-romania-honours/

 

EPIC; Tackling Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in Romania

EPIC publishes policy memo on using EU funding sources to tackle child poverty

08/05/2018

The European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC) has published a policy memo on the use of EU funding mechanisms to tackle child poverty and social exclusion in the EU. This memo is the first in a series of short policy memos aimed at policymakers, researchers and practitioners and focusing on topics relevant to child welfare.

Making use of structural funds and other funding sources to support investment in children

This EPIC policy memo, Tackling child poverty and social exclusion in the EU: How EU funding mechanisms can help, provides an overview of the various funding mechanisms available at EU level and how they can be used by Member States and NGOs to fund initiatives to help all children reach their potential.

Child poverty still remains a challenge across many EU countries. The latest Eurostat figures show that 26.4% of children in the EU were at risk of or experiencing poverty or social exclusion, ranging from 13.8% of young people aged 17 years or younger in Denmark, to 49.2 % of the same age group in Romania.

The European Commission Recommendation of February 2013 on ‘Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’ sets out expectations for the provision of services to children and recommends that Member States ‘mobilise relevant EU financial instruments’ in order to maximise available funding for child-centred initiatives.

Nonetheless, in 2015 the European Parliament noted that ‘the majority of Member States so far have given little attention to using EU structural funds to fight the alarming and still growing rates of poverty among children in the EU and promote their social inclusion and general well-being’, and recommended greater emphasis on the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to support implementation of the Recommendation.

In addition to providing an overview of the main funding sources, the memo also provides examples of the use of funding streams in different Member States and links to the managing authorities for Member States.

EPIC supports Member States to invest in children

EPIC also provides a wide range of content focused on tackling childhood disadvantage, including a collection of Evidence-Based Practices from across Member States.

EPIC’s Country Profiles, available in English, French and German, also provide an overview of measures taken in each Member State to support investment in children, including key data on childhood poverty and disadvantage and innovative policy initiatives.

Future policy memos in this series will cover the provision of education for migrant and refugee children in Europe, and the current provision of paternal and parental leave in EU Member State

Blue Heron Foundation; Scholarships for Orphaned and Abandoned Romanian and Moldovan Youth

Blue Heron Foundation; Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.

Our sixteen years of activity stand as proof of the organisations giant strides towards accomplishing it’s mission; improving the quality of life of orphaned and abandoned Romanian and Moldovan youth, through College Scholarships.

The enrolment period for scholarships is- 1st. May- 31st. August.

Blue Herron Foundation covers – Tuition fees.

Provides a monthly amount of money for personal expenses.

Provides access to a mentoring program.

Free participation in the Summer Camp.

http://www.blueheronfoundation.org.                                                                                Florin with his Bachelors in Marketing and Management.

Since 2002 the Blue Heron Foundation has dedicated its efforts to improving the quality of life of Romania’s orphaned and abandoned children by providing them with greater access to life’s opportunities. The organization awards them scholarships, training courses, mentors and counselling throughout their collage years. 100% of the donations go directly to the project as the founders cover all organizational expenses.

R. Todd Updegraff.

The Romanian Federation of Non-governmental Organisations; 51% of Romania’s Children Lives in Poverty

Romania: Children’s Ombudsman institution must be established

Photography: Silviu Ghetie

Source: The Romanian Federation of Non-governmental Organizations (FONPC)

The Romanian Federation of Non-governmental Organizations writes an open letter to draw attention to the importance of the Children’s Ombudsman in Romania, an institution that would guarantee effective protection for the rights of the child.

Dear Mr. President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis,

Dear Mr. President of the Senate, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu,

Dear Mr. President of the Juristic Commission on appointmens, discipline, immunity and validations from the Senate of Romania, Cătălin Boboc

Dear Mrs. President of the Commission for human rights and minorities,

The number of children in Romania is drastically decreasing: on the 1st of January, 2016, the number of children was 3976,5, 23,4 thousand lower compared to the previous year. Amongst these children 51% live in poverty and only one in 3 disadvantaged children finish middle school, 57.279 children in the social protection system, over 44 thousand of primary school age and over 48 thousand children or middle school are found outside the education system, over 2.700 children with severe disabilities aged between 7 and 10 do not go to school, 2 children on average are victims of some form of abuse every hour by over 20.000 children, amongst who 15.000 have been condemned.

The Federation of Child Protection NGOs FONPC, a common voice of 87 active organisations in the domain of welfare and protection of children draws attention to the importance of the Children’s Ombudsman in Romania as an institution that would guarantee effective protection for the rights of the child.

The UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, an international convention signed and ratified by Romania back in 1990 which set the foundation for the country’s child protection reform starting in 1997 mentions in its Article 3, Al. 1: “The interests of the child will prevail in all actions that affect children, undertaken by the public or private social work institutions, by the judiciary bodies, administrative authorities or legislative organs”. Given the fact that we are referring to the future of our country and the rights of a vulnerable category of individuals, the rights of children must be prioritized in Romania.

In this context, we ask you to support the establishment of a Children’s Ombudsman institution in Romania, guaranteeing verification and monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of the UNCRC requirements regarding the rights of the child and that would protect the superior interest of the child, even from state abuse at times.

The legislative proposal to establish the Children’s Ombudsman institution as an autonomous public authority, independent from any other public authority, which governs the respect for children’s rights as defined in the Romanian Constitution, the UNCRC and other legal provisions, can be found in Romania’s Senate.

According to ENOC standards, the Children’s Ombudsman institution has attributions and missions that exceed the sphere of competence of the current People’s Ombudsman, which is why  Romania lacks other adequate structures that fully correspond to the function of monitoring the rights and protection of children against violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation, as well as against social exclusion and discrimination.

In support for this proceeding for the establishment of a Romanian Children’s Ombudsman we recall the recommendations of the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child addressed to Romania back in 2009, from which we quote the following:

13. […] The Committee expresses its concern regarding the fact that the People’s Lawyer does not meet the criteria established in the Paris Principles and notes that the existence of this institution is not very well known. Consequently, this receives a reduced number of complaints with regards to children, a number that has been declining compared to the total number of complaints made. The Committee notes with concern that the Parliament’s rejection of a normative act project through which the desire to establish the Children’s Lawyer institution was expressed.”

14. The Committee recommends that, keeping its general commentary nr.2 (2002) with regards to the role of independent national institutions for the protection of human rights from the domain of promoting and protecting children’s rights, but also its previous recommendations, the state party ought to revise the statute and efficiency of the People’s Lawyer institution in the domain of the promotion and protection of children’s rights, equally taking into consideration  the criteria retrieved in the Paris Principles. This body has to benefit from all human and financial resources necessary for fulfilling its mandate in an effective and significant manner, especially in terms of capacity to receive and examine complaints from/on behalf of children related to the violation of their rights.

The Committee recommends that, in accordance with the previous recommendations, the state party continues to invest effort into the creation of an independent Children’s Lawyer institution”.

In the report finalized following Romania’s visit back in 2015, UN Rapporteur Philip Alston claimed that there is a need for a Children’s Commissary-type institution, a body that would have a clear mandate and the power to protect the rights of children, whilst also benefiting from adequate resources to promote and protect the rights of the child, as well as independence. At the European level the Child’s Ombudsman or the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child are identical institutions, with names varying from country to country.

The Federation of Non-governmental Child Organizations has been advocating for the establishment of the Children’s Ombudsman institution in Romania for more than 10 years.

We strongly believe that you will support the Children’s Ombudsman and the creation of an independent mechanism for the monitoring of child’s rights which will guarantee respect for all children’s rights and will protect them from abuse of all kinds.

With kindest regards,

Bogdan Simion

FONPC President

Daniela Gheorghe

FONPC Executive Director

Romania Reborn; Hands of Hope

Romania Reborn’s Director, Corina Caba, with a young man adopted through the Romania Reborn Ministry years ago.

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.

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!”

Give the Gift of Commitment

Your gift will help our committed staff keep passionately fighting for the children in our care, advocating for better government practices, and using our ministry headquarters as a training and counseling center for families. You can give toward the following staff and ministry needs:

$50: ONE WEEK OF GAS/TRAVEL EXPENSES (FOR SOCIAL WORK)

$250: ONE MONTH OF ELECTRIC EXPENSES (FOR HEADQUARTERS)

$600: ONE MONTH SALARY FOR A SOCIAL WORKER

Romania Without Orphans Alliance Report on Adoption

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.

Raportul ARFO cu privire la situația copiilor din sistemul de protecție