The Tragedy of Babies Abandoned in Romanian Hospitals

 

Tragedy of children left in Romanian hospitals continues: 245 newborn babies were abandoned in the first three months of 2017

According to data published on the website of the National Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Adoption (ANPDCA), 245 children were left in maternity wards and other health care facilities during the first quarter of 2017. According to the same data, last year about 1,000 children were abandoned in hospitals.

Out of the 245 children left in medical units, 164 were abandoned in maternity wards, 71 in pediatric wards, and 10 were left in other hospital departments.

Also, of the 231 children discharged from medical units between January and March 2017, 100 returned to their families, one was placed with the extended family, 7 were placed with other families/persons and 102 were placed in foster care.

At the same time, 6 children were placed in placement centers, 4 children were placed in emergency reception centers, and 11 children are in other situations, according to ANPDCA, quoted by Agerpres.

Almost 1,000 children (977 to be exact) were abandoned in Romanian hospitals last year. More than half of them have been left in maternity wards. This results from data centralized by the National Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Adoption (ANPDCA).

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Associata Catharsis- Adoption Advocacy

The President of Romania has sent a signed decree to parliament promoting some changes to the adoption law. adopției.

The adoption law, although said to be “new”, is in fact the “old” law with some minor changes. But the lack of transparency and the discriminatory nature of the law currently in force has not been changed. That law, nr.273/2004 has been very slightly modified three times since 2004: in 2009, in 2011, and in 2015. And all of that was due to pressures from society as a whole.

The modifications made by the National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and for Adoption have not really modified anything substantive, including adjustments made in April of 2015. Those adjustments really did nothing in favor of the children who find themselves “imprisoned” [apart from a permanent family] since the day that they were born.

There is really noevident hope for a permanent family for more than 23,000 institutionalized children in approximately 1500 placement centers. The new legislation really does not offer them one bit of hope.

The modifications do NOT foresee a way to truly reduce the number of institutionalized children, but rather foresees only a reduction in the time frame of adoption and also a leave time for parents to get to know the adopted child.
The modifications also allow for a subsidy of 1700 lei per month (about $425) for a time period of 1 year for one of the parents who adopt a child over the age of two years. And that’s about it.

The law continues to discriminate against children for whom a family in Romania or for whom a Romanian family cannot be found. Usually this has to do with the health of the child, the child’s ethnicity, and/or the child’s age.

The adoption law also continues to discriminate against Romanian families and non-Romanian families who live in countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention. The adoption law currently requires either Romanian citizenship, or the establishment/reestablishment of residence in Romania, i.e., to live continually in the country/territory of Romania in order to receive the evaluations and attestations necessary to adopt.

The adoption law does NOT in any way guarantee every child’s right, and particularly the right of abandoned children, to a permanent family in which to grow up.

We will protest these injustices even in the streets of Romania, and we will militate for the rights of these children.

Asociatia Catharsis Brasov- Registered Adoption Agency.

Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Brasov, Romania.

From 15 to 29 July this year, together with the Directorate-General for social assistance and the protection of the rights of the child, we organised the third course of this year, to prepare families who want to adopt a child. We are glad that other 13 families of brașoveans are prepared to receive a baby from romanians in their lives.

For three weeks, the participants received detailed information about abandoned children, about abandonment issues, about the biological family, and in particular about the role of foster foster family. This time, I put the emphasis on children with hard profiles and their needs.

The theme, well-structured in three sessions, was supported by an interdisciplinary team composed of Alina Bedelean, Cathy Ross and ioana lepădatu, clementina trofin and silvia tișcă – social workers, Eva Pirvan-Szekely, lawyer. I also invited the adoptive parents, who opened their soul and shared the learners aspects of their experience.

At the same time as the theoretical knowledge of the role of a parent, which lasts three weeks, the psychological and social evaluation is also done. All these procedures take 90 days, after which the cursanții will receive the family attestation fit to adopt one or more children.
Currently in brasov, more than 100 families want to adopt a child and their number is increasing. We hope so that our efforts to provide a family of their own and permanent to an eligible child will contribute to the higher interest of abandoned children, to say mommy… Daddy… Home…

The training, and development of parental capacities this year are financially supported by our traditional partner, onlus Oikos Italia, President, Don Eugenio Battaglia.

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Asociatia Catharsis Brasov

Asociatia Catharsis Brasov

As of January 2005, when the current adoption law came into force, the number of national adoptions dropped sharply from 1.422 in 2004 to 313 in 2016, and the number of international adoptions dropped from 251 in 2004 to 2 in 2006, one in 2007, 8,, 10, 11, 12, 12 At the same time, it increased the number of abandoned children from 44.000 in 2004 to 70.000 in 2010. Irony. Although it increased the number of families qualified to adopt one or more children, there were very few national adoptions. It also increased the interest of romanians established abroad for adoption of a child. But adoption law allowed international adoption only to grandparents residing abroad. That’s just so they don’t make international adoptions! No grandfather has ever adopted an abandoned nephew, not even in Romania. In addition, adoption sets between the child and the foster family, an affectionate connection, while between grandpa and child there is already a blood link. We’ve managed, hard, very hard to replace grandparents with third-degree relatives, then four and the result of adoption was still zero. Hard, unimaginably hard to obtain the right of romanians abroad for adoption. We had to fight the legislature, because the number of romanians residing abroad was always growing. And I did. Children’s drama harassed by foster homes after growing up in foster families and the statistical data provided by the Romanian media gave us the courage to start the adoption crusade. And we’ve managed with other ngos to amend three times the articles that have made the national adoption difficult, but we haven’t yet here the international adoption-only chance for sick children in an adoption family. Still no international adoptions. The Romanian state still prefers institutionalisation instead of the foster family. The adoption law still humiliates romanians who make extraordinary efforts to adopt a child. Of the total 57.581 children, only 3250 are adoption. And 5 children were adopted international last year, although it was adoption 534. The adoption law humiliates families of romanians in the country and abroad who want to adopt, destroy dreams and kill hope. For impossible reasons, adoption law makes the lives of romanians who want to adopt the future of abandoned children. Romanian abroad are required by law, article 3, to leave her husband alone at home, to give up work and income and a comfortable life with her husband, whether it is all romanian or foreign .. The future mothers were bound by the law of adoption to live effectively and continuously 12 months in Romania, before submitting the adoption request. Many ladies got sick, depressed and gave up. The loser was the kid, and the family, and the state, but nobody cares! I asked for the repeal of article 3 that provides such nonsense. Instead of being repealed, this article has been amended, reduce to 6 months in the territory of Romania… Crazy… and a lot of other bullshit calls for adoption law three times in the last 8 years. For example: Romanians are obliged to make a statement that they have lived effectively and continuously in Romania, before submitting their adoption application!!! Another 90 days, three months, must stay in the country to Participate in the parenting class, the evaluation procedures. After, he has to stay a while to sign the psycho-Social Evaluation Report, the last document required to get the statement. Then get the certificate. And there goes the year. After obtaining the statement, families are registered in the national adoption registry, after which, there is a very long wait, which sometimes leads to even quitting. What sadness, such disappointment, only the Romans know. And all that while tens of thousands of abandoned children want a family.

Child Abuse in Romania

Home / SOCIETY & PEOPLE / SOCIAL / 771 children died during 1966-1990 in the Romanian foster homes, IICCMER says
foster homes

771 children died during 1966-1990 in the Romanian foster homes, IICCMER.

The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of Romanian Exile (IICCMER) has filed a denunciation to the Prosecutor’s Office for inhuman maltreatment over children admitted to foster homes during the communist regime in Romania. The case mainly refers to the sick or disabled children who used to be admitted in the hospital foster homes in Cighid, Pastraveni and Sighetu Marmatiei.

According to IICCMER for Gândul online daily, a total of 771 children died in there during 1966-1990, most of them due to medical causes that could have been prevented or treated. The IICCMER experts and legists say the cases revealed that children were submitted to inhuman treatments and aggressions. Overall, there were over 10,000 such victims in the communist foster homes.

These children used to be considered irrecoverable from the medical point of view, suffering severe handicaps, but many of them were orphans or abandoned by their parents and reached those centers without having serious diseases, IICCMER says.

One of these children abandoned in the foster home in Sighetu Marmatiei was Izidor Ruckel, now aged 37. He escaped the center after he has been adopted by an American family, right after 1990. He told his tragic story to the IICCMER experts.

They used to beat me and another boy with a broomstick so badly that I thought I was going to die. They used to sedate us, they kept us isolated,” Izidor recounted, as quoted by Gândul.

Romania’s Institutions For Abandoned Children Cause Life-Long Damage

Romania’s Institutions Cause Untold Damage

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Romania’s institutions have a history of neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse which still continues to this day and causes emotional, physical, and mental scars.

Institutionalized care, according to Dr. Victor Groza, the Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, causes problems with developmental, physical, psychological, social and brain health. Dr. Groza stated, “The regimentation and ritualization of institutional life do not provide children with the quality of life, or the experiences they need to be healthy, happy, fully functioning adults.” They are also unable to form strong and lasting relationships with adults, leading to severe problems with socialization, primarily building trust and lasting relationships amongst adults and children alike.
This article, kindly provided by Dr. Victor Groza, is an easy to follow guide to the risks inherent to children institutionalised at an early age. Dr. Groza has been developing social work education and promoting best practices in child welfare and domestic adoptions in Romania, since 1991.
Victor Groza; PhD,LISW-S Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies, Director; Child Welfare Fellows Program Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.http://msass.case.edu/faculty/vgroza/  – Faculty website for further reading.

https://www.facebook.com/adoptionpartners/?fref=ts  – Website about Professor Groza’s post-adoption practice.

57,581 Children Abandoned in Romania.

3,436 adoptable children recorded in Adoption Register at March-endBY 

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.

Peter Heisey; Missionary to Romania. Poverty and Prayers

I asked Peter Heisey what he was doing in Romania and how long he had been there. He said that the Lord had sent him there eighteen years ago to plant New Testament Churches amongst the ethnic Roma. Following is one of Peter’s most recent newsletters and prayer requests. Peter is based in Timis; a county in Western Romania on the border with Hungary and Serbia.

Peter writes;
Dear Friends,
We are still getting used to writing and believing 2017 is here. This winter has been unusually cold… It’s been like this in all of Europe- the Venice canals froze for the first time in history! We thank the Lord for a warm house and warm boots for our services. Though Ion starts our fires and it is really very warm, the cement floors seem to suck the heat right out of our feet!
Services are going well. There has been a lot of sickness, but the faithful ones are usually here. Also Ana ( not the saved one but an older lady who’s been coming fairly regularly), is back after some sickness. She still does not understand her need for Salvation and sometimes we wonder why she comes, as she seems oblivious to the preaching. Still, God’s word does not return void, so we pray for her understanding and salvation.
The children have been quite unruly and just plain rude lately. Several families have returned from begging in Spain and these children are quite bad. One girl though, Alina, has been quite receptive to the lessons and comes faithfully. At times, she is giggly and disruptive, but for the most part, settles down when spoken to. Please pray for these children who come so often but still don’t understand their need for a Saviour.
We ask prayer for our teens also. There has been a nice group of them the last two weeks. Ionel has come and so has his brother. Pray for continued interest and faithfulness, and mostly for them to allow the Lord to change their lives and for them to serve Him.
Around Christmas time, a Romanian family gave us money to buy things for the children. We usually don’t like this kind of thing, but we were able to use this to buy a very nice wheelchair for Marian, a very handicapped little boy who can’t sit up in a regular wheelchair (which also had broken and he had nothing). He comes to services when the weather is nice and even prayed to receive Christ. He says ”Amin” at the preaching and is quite sweet. He and his parents were quite thankful and excited about the new wheelchair. We made sure they understood it was not from us. Please pray for Miki and Tina to be saved. Marian and his sister, Bea, come to our school classes too. Pray for their salvation.
Thank you for your prayers for us- God bless you as you serve Him.

Please also pray; For Sewer Connection.
For Safety
For Physical Health
For Fruitful Ministry
For Souls to be Saved.

poheisey@gmail.com

Unicef in Romania; Minimum Package of Social Services.

 

Social aid brings renewed hope to families in Romania.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Romania/2016/Cybermedia
(Left to right) Ionel, Luca, Ionuț and Arabela sit on their bed in their home. Since Ionel became ill, the family has been unable to bring in the same level of income.

By Roxana Grămadă

In the village of Horgești, Romania, a social worker visit families door-to-door to make sure they’re receiving the healthcare and education resources they need.

HORGESTI, Romania, 10 February 2017 – It rained all night in Horgești, Romania, and the village is muddied through. The road smells of wet grass, damp earth and blossomed apple trees.

Arabela Corciu rushes to the gate wearing a pink flowery scarf and some worn out galoshes. “Come in, do not take your shoes off, we’ll clean up…” she says. A cat sleeps near the doorway, undisturbed by all of the visitors.

Arabela and her husband Ionel live in a small house with their three children: Ciprian, 12, Luca, 6 and Ionuț, 4. Ionel used to do odd jobs, mostly in construction, until he was diagnosed with a hernia. Arabela takes care of the house and kids. She raises a few Muscovy ducks and even a lemon tree. “I planted the seed and it grew,” she says, matter-of-factly. The tree is over a meter high and has its own place by the door.

Today, their oldest son, Ciprian, is still at school. The two younger boys sit watching TV on a bed in the family’s main living space – a tiny room of about 8 square metres. Their bed is a multipurpose thing: a couch for guests, a pad to sleep on, a desk to write homework and sitting area for munching. There is no table in sight, but a pleasant fire is cracking in the clay stove where beans are cooking for dinner.

Arabela and Ionel built the house together, when they got married, on land gifted by their parents. They were making ends meet then. Now, since Ionel got sick, it got harder.

Although he is entitled to social aid, Ionel was unaware of this until he met with a social worker, Mr. Arvinte.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Romania/2016/Cybermedia
Luca and Ionuț wait for the sun so they can play outside. The family’s social worker is helping them get a computer grant for the boys at their school.

Mr. Arvinte is blue eyed and looks like Ion Creangă, a storyteller known to many generations of children in Romania. He is soft spoken and people say he’s kind.

While the family’s doctor only occasionally makes house visits, mostly for vaccinations, Mr. Arvinte visits more than 1,170 of the 1,200 homes in Horgești. He works at city hall on a programme financed by UNICEF that reaches 45 communities within the county of Bacău. The programme is called Minimum Package of services, and he does just that.

“I knew they were living there, getting by somehow. I did not know exactly how, but I found out at the census,” he says of the Corciu family. “They needed a medical certificate from the labour medicine department. When there is a virus or a hepatitis outbreak, about 40 people come for consultations at the general practitioner every day. When is he or she to go for field trips?”

Mr. Arvinte helped the Corcius get a medical certificate and put together their social aid file. That is how Ionel now gets his medication, “Not entirely free, but almost half.” With the social aid, the family also gets insurance. “We got him prescriptions before, but he is still hurting, and he’s too afraid of shots,” says Mr. Arvinte.

The social aid programme also helps families connect with other resources available to them. Mr. Arvinte tells Ionel which specialists to see for his condition, and he provides guidance on education grants for the children.

“Have you filed for the computer allowance?” he asks Arabela. “There’s a grant in school, you are given 200 euros for a computer. Let’s do it, let’s do it.”

Arabela completed 8 years in school, and is so happy that her children get to go. Luca loves to colour and “got many stars” – little circle, clover and heart shaped pieces of coloured paper that are now neatly pinned to the curtains, like trophies. He received the stars for reciting poems.

“Here comes spring, / All throughout the country…” Luca’s voice is warm, his cadence like a song, as he recites the words from memory.

There are many other children like Luca and his brothers in the county of Bacău. They all need the same things: to grow up healthy, to go to school and to see a doctor when they’re sick. The Minimum package of services is invaluable to these children and their families, who may not have the resources to seek help.

The Minimum Package of Services the Corciu family receives is available to all families, but was created for the most vulnerable children and their families in particular. The services include healthcare, social protection and education that could prevent, at a fraction of the cost, many of the issues that generally affect these families: separating children from their parents, lack of minimum welfare payments, violence, early pregnancies, illness, school dropout or absenteeism. For these services to reach all families like the Corcius, a social worker, a community nurse and a school counsellor must exist in every community in Romania.

UNICEF in Romania is currently testing this Minimum Package of Services model in 45 communities in the county of Bacău, with financial support from Norway Grants, UNICEF and the private sector. The pilot model is independently evaluated, and the results are shared with decision-makers to develop new legislation, norms and standards and to mobilize state and European funding for national implementation and scaling throughout the country. The pilot aims to ensure that all children in Romania will be more protected, healthy and educated.

 

Updated: 10 February 2017

Half a Million Abandoned Kids; Moving Forward From South East Europe’s History of Shame

One Baby Abandoned Every Six Hours In Romania.

Report on Child Protection by Ioana Calinescu. Photos by Petrut Calinescu.

Looking at results in child protection can show an “X-ray of regional mentalities”, says Andy Guth. Child Pact.

“There is so much more to do for the children of Romania, but you need to know where we started from,”  Daniela Buzducea, World Vision.

“When the Police find a new child on the street, they call me first,”  Zini Kore, All Together Against Child Trafficking.

“These youngsters are so hungry they would eat the corner of the table,” Mariana Ianachevici, Child Protection NGOs Federation, Moldova

Hoping to increase the age that children in Romania are institutionalised, from three to six years old, Daniela Gheorghe, FONPC

Half a million children were left abandoned in eastern Europe following the collapse of Communism that began in the 1980s.

After more than 25 years of democracy, many of these countries’ record on child protection is now mixed. 

In 1997, while global concern focused on abandoned children in Romania, 1.66 per cent of the country’s kids were separated from their families.

By 2013, this had dropped to only 1.52 per cent.

This means 60,000 children have been recently cut off from their parents, according to the new Child Protection Index, a cross-border instrument launched this week in Brussels.

Most southeast European nations – including Romania – are fast to reform their laws, but changes are slow to improve the life of every child.

 

Belgrade, 2016. A tiny conference room, packed with civil society activists who have fought for children’s rights from the wider Black Sea and Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism.

Armenians, Georgians, Bulgarians, Serbians, Moldavians, Romanians, Albanians, Bosnians and Kosovars look at the findings of a comparative study as though they were the pass, dribble, tackle and assist of a football match.

A whisper rises up from the Bulgarian delegates.

“Romanian really undid us on this one,” comes a voice.

Despite the collegiate atmosphere among the members who all put the needs of children way above national interest, there is a still time to entertain rivalry between the EU’s two poorest countries.

The study has been developed in nine nations and shows how the lives of these “invisible” children changed over the last twenty-five years.

Romania was the country with the largest problem – with its abandoned kids running into the 100,000s.

The images of abandoned children after the fall of its Communist regime remain scars on the European collective conscience.

To stop the population decline in Romania in the 1950s, due to more working women and a fall in living standards, the Communist Party aimed to boost the numbers of Romanians from 23 million to 30 million.

In 1966, in a move to raise the birth rate, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu de facto declared abortion and contraception illegal.

This resulted in parents abandoning children in hospitals after birth. The state then placed the kids in overcrowded institutions.

With the break-up of communism in 1989, the doors opened to a humanitarian crisis.

Today ChildPact is the only regional alliance that includes more than 600 child rights organizations. For the ten national members, ChildPact is the friends they grew up with; with whom they shared the same playground and the same stories. They know the group dynamics, the pacts and rivalries, the sensitivities and small victories.

Romanian doctor Andy Guth pours over comparative charts showing which child protection reform models  worked in spite of the east European national systems, and which tend to be corrupt and underfinanced, with low levels of economic development, bad laws and zero methodology of implementation.

 

Child outside block in Ferentari, Bucharest (copyright: Petrut Calinescu)

Child outside block in Ferentari, Bucharest (copyright: Petrut Calinescu)
“At the back of the institution: an image that still haunts me”

Spring, 1990, in Romania. Guth was a recent graduate from medical school and fledgling director of an orphanage in Onești. Here he was signing two of the first transfers to a hostel for ‘irrecoverable’ children, the official term for mentally or physically disabled minors.

These children were clinically healthy when they were admitted.

“Two weeks later, we received the first death certificate,” he says. “I immediately went to the hostel. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car was the graveyard behind the institution. They had their own graveyard!”

For Guth, this was ground zero – the initiation point for the child protection renaissance that would follow seven years later.

“It’s an image that will haunt me for the rest of my life,” says Guth.

Guth was one of the doctors on the frontline of humanitarian convoys in the nineties, facilitating the programs drawn up in offices abroad. They were known as ‘The White Guard’.

Many became civil society activists, who still play an active role in the reform of child protection.

Why did doctors take on such a role?

During Communism, medically-trained personnel were tasked with raising deserted children in unheated buildings that served as town hospitals. This abandonment was seen as a public health issue.

Twenty-five years later, Guth is presenting the results of the Child Protection Index, an international instrument whose development he dedicated four years to, coordinating the collaboration of 71 child protection experts from nine countries. He has worked on the project together with Jocelyn Penner Hall, World Vision’s Policy Director.

This has some disturbing information.

 

“One baby abandoned every six hours”

In Romania, the number of children separated from their families in 1997 was in the range of 100,000 for six million kids.

By the end of 2013, the number hovered around 60,000 for a total population of four million.

Taken together this amounts to a statistically insignificant change, from 1.66 per cent in 1997 to 1.52 per cent in 2013.

One reason for this is a gap between reforms on paper, and those on the ground.

For instance, between 1997 and 2007, Romania was pressured by the EU integration process to accelerate reforms. Now – according to the Index – Romania scores highest when it comes to public policies and legal framework, but still hosts the greatest number of institutionalised children in the region.

Armenia and Moldavia follow closely behind. At the other end of the spectrum, the Index results show that of all countries surveyed, Kosovo has parents who are least likely to abandon their children.

Meanwhile, in Romania today, a baby is abandoned in a maternity hospital every six hours.

What does the tiny decrease in infant abandonment say about child protection efforts over the last twenty-five years?

“This says that one cannot change the mentality of the public by responding to EU pressure alone,” says Penner-Hall.

“It’s been said that the year Romania joined the European Union marked the burial of [child protection] reform. With no external pressure, nothing remarkable happened. However, I believe that after 2007 smaller, more meaningful things occurred. The worst day ever was the first day of democracy in Romania; it was that day when the public conscience started to blossom.”

Guth also believes that the Index can also be seen as an X-ray of regional mentalities.

“For instance, the results prove that in Armenia 97 per cent of disabled children are taken care of by the state, while only three per cent grow in real families,” adds Guth.

“The Index also shows that in Georgia the exploitation of children through labour is not considered an issue. They think it is normal for some children not to go to school.”

 

Romania: number of kids in rural areas going hungry “doubled”

Back in the conference hall, Guth cautions that the results he is about to present are not part of a competition.

But he knows that the moment he opens the diagrams comparing the nine countries, the Romanians will look at where the Bulgarians stand, the Albanians will check Serbia’s scores and the Armenians will want to know if they have outrun the Georgians.

According to overall Index country scores, Romania is placed highest, followed by Bulgaria and Serbia. At a continental level, Romania has some of the most efficient child protection legislation. “The law is built upon the structure of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” says Guth. “In theory, Romania rocks.”

But in practice, the Eurostat data shows is that, as of 2013, the child poverty rate in Romania exceeded 48.5 per cent.

A 2014 World Vision report stated that eight from 100 children in Romania face extreme poverty, living on less than 3.5 Euro per day. The same study testifies that one out of eight children in rural areas go to bed hungry.

This percentage doubled between 2012 and 2014.

“There is so much more to do for the children of Romania,” says Daniela Buzducea, Executive Director of World Vision Romania. “Then again, to see how far you’ve come, you need to know where we started from.”

Daniela is part of the first “free” generation of social workers in Romania. Only in 1994 did Post-Communist Romania have its first graduate promotion in this field. Before this moment, this occupation did not exist.

In the 90s found Daniela in the homes of some of Romania’s most vulnerable children. She was trying, on her own, to prevent the separation of children from their families.

“To me, the Romania of those years is HIV positive children who got infected in hospitals,” she recounts.

In the late 1980s, thousands of children in Romanian institutions contracted HIV due to blood transfusions from syringes infected with the virus.

“The real moment the reform started is encompassed in a scene when I was visiting a young mum with an infected baby,” says Daniela. “She had no form of support whatsoever. She was going through hell. I also had a small baby at home, and apart from visiting this woman just to reassure her that she was not completely alone, there was not much else I could do.

“One day, she was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair because of the treatment. When I went to see her, on the wall of her house was written the word: ‘AIDS’. She had locked herself inside. She could not even take her child to the hospital because people would throw stones at them. In reforming its social protection system, this is the point from which Romania started.”

 

“If I had not been there, the kid would have been lost”

Albanian Zini Kore represents the national child rights network “All Together Against Child Trafficking” (BKTF). For almost twenty years Zini earned respect on the streets of his country’s capital Tirana. Not just with the homeless kids, but also with the cops.

“When the Police find a new child on the street, they call me first, to pick him up and only after that do they contact the authorities,” says Zini.

Kids know they may not have much in this life, but at least there is someone fighting on their behalf until the end, no matter what kind of end that may be.

Zini never drives. No matter where duty calls, he always crosses town on foot, searching through the labyrinthine streets, scanning for homeless children.

There was a time when his phone rang incessantly – at day and night. The terrified voice of a street child on the line. No one knows the magical and subterranean paths his phone number travels to reach the kids in the city who need him most. He always grabbed his clothes and left.

“Had I not been there the exact moment the Police accosted a child,” he says, “the kid would have been lost in the inferno of the correctional institutions. From there, there is no way out.”

Today, his phone rings less often. Thanks in part to Zini and his organisation, who work hard to compensate for the state’s lack of involvement, the lives of street children have improved. But the underlying problems persist. The Child Protection Index shows that only Bosnia surpasses Albania when it comes to neglecting the situation of street children. It also demonstrates that the region has a major problem regarding the involvement of authorities in effective protection solutions.

When asked about his kids, Zini proudly mentions his boy, who is still not legally his son. He will soon turn 18 and then Zini will start the adoption procedures. It’s easier this way because at this age the young man can make his own decisions. He is one of those street children Zini fought for.

Child Protection “Mall” in Sofia

George “Joro” Bogdanov doesn’t talk much and when he does he fishes for the right words in English.

He is not a born public speaker. But he is a man of big ideas. He succeeded in putting child protection on the public agenda with an annual gala event where The National Network for Children in Bulgaria recognize citizens whose work improved Bulgarian children’s rights and prosperity and awarded them with the statue of a Golden Apple.

Now he has a new vision: The Children’s House in Sofia. This will be something like a child protection “mall” with conference and meeting rooms for child protection events and workshops; offices for the coalition’s NGOs; playgrounds for children and an educational centre for children with special needs; accommodation and a restaurant for international and local guests. Following a social enterprise model, he wants to hire disadvantaged young people to run the place.

Everybody has told him that he was crazy to even think he could raise the huge amount of money necessary to carry out his idea, but Joro went ahead and did it anyway.

He is now building the House.

 

“How am I supposed to feed a teenager with one Euro a day?”

Among the group gathered in Belgrade, Moldovan Mariana Ianachevici’s laughter is the loudest. It’s contagious, the kind of laughter you want to cling to in the midst of a large and unfamiliar gathering.

If one can still laugh like that after twenty-five years of helping victims of trafficking and abuse, and if one can still talk about taking home the last ten unwanted teenagers from a closed orphanage in Chisinau, there must be a parallel world better than the statistics suggest.

Mariana Ianachevici is a three-time President – she is President of ChildPact, the President of the Child Protection NGOs Federation in the Republic of Moldova, as well as the President of her own NGO, which has assisted more than 1,200 children over twenty years.

“The future President of the country,” she laughs, before relating stories about surviving the winter with canned vegetables and frozen fruits harvested from her NGO centre’s tiny orchard.

“How am I supposed to feed a teenager with one Euro a day? This is all the state gives me. When they sit down… these youngsters are so hungry they would even eat the corner of the table!”

And the story continues, about Valentina, the Centre’s long-time accountant, who never comes to work without a homemade cookie. Just to have something nice to give the kids.

About another lady, Rodica, an older employee of the center, diagnosed at infancy with polio and brain paralysis, of whom all the children are so fond, because she hands out gifts of pretzels, nuts and kind words.

 

“If only every child had an adult to protect them”

Daniela Gheorghe is executive director of the Federation of NGOs for the Child (FONPC). Blonde, tiny and delicate, Gheorghe wrote history by strengthening the role of civil society in Romania. Her eyes brighten when she adds that “in all these years, we mostly fought the Government.”

Her mission has been to forbid the institutionalisation of children under three years old, and she now hopes to increase this age to six.

The Index shows that institutions taking on children under two years old occurs most often in orphanages in Bulgaria, while the countries most protective of this age group are Kosovo, Georgia and Serbia.

Gheorghe earned her psychology degree in the nineties when the humanitarian convoys opened the doors of the Romanian orphanages.

She enrolled in salvation missions, and was part of the first teams to work with abused children in orphanages. At that time, she had no idea she was joining a battle that would change her life.

“After five years, I fell into a depression that would last for six months,” Gheorghe recalls. “I couldn’t distinguish colors anymore, I was seeing only black and white.”

She was representing abused children in lawsuits with the aggressors and, during her last trial, Gheorghe experienced a miscarriage. She was never able to have another child.

Nevertheless, she developed a bond with three of the girls whose own trauma of abuse she helped overcome, and today she considers them her daughters.

“I am not a mum, but I am some sort of a granny,” she says, as she flicks though pictures of the beautiful girls on her Facebook page.

One of them is a hairstylist and has two children of her own, another is studying physical therapy and the third is working with children diagnosed with autism.

Gheorghe has found joy in seeing the girls develop into independent women.

“It’s no big deal,” she says. “I just fought for them. If every child had an adult to protect him or her, we would change the world.