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).

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 Caused Life-Long Damage

Romania’s Institutions Caused Lifelong Damage

Screen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.32.46 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.42.42 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.40.22 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.43.35 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.44.40 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.46.34 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.47.27 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.47.04 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 3.16.31 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.49.37 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.52.59 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.51.23 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.50.16 PMScreen shot 2016-02-04 at 1.53.31 PMScreen shot 2016-02-06 at 12.46.19 PM

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)
“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.

Hope for Institutionalised Children; Adoption Support

Screen shot 2016-04-19 at 4.02.38 PM

The Romanian Prime Minister, Dacian Colios, pays tribute to the dedicated work of ” Hope and Homes for Children”.

He says that there are still 57,000 children not in their families and that the problem of institutionalised care, caused by poverty, is the most critical problem facing the country.

The governments objective is that by 2020, there will no longer be any children in institutions. The government is putting a framework in place to implement new laws to provide families with financial assistance and prevent poverty.

Sunday, 10 April
Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș attended the Hope Concert organized by Hope and Homes for Children Romania Foundation

Address by Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos at the Hope Concert

Dacian Ciolos: Good afternoon. Congratulations, Olga, for the strength you found to continue your way in life despite what people offered you and congratulations to those who found the wisdom, by that time and ever since then, to demonstrate that nothing is irreversible and that along with funds and laws, we can find in us the force and love, and the determination to overcome the most critical moments that this country was confronted with. This issue of institutionalized children was and is one of the critical problems our country is confronted with, and this is why, we should demonstrate that we are able to solve it, and find a resolution for it through ourselves and not just pushed by those outside. Congratulations “Hope and Homes for Children”, for what they achieved and those who helped us that way, but, first of all, we should find the determination in ourselves. I am sure that this problem of institutionalized children is like a test for us, so that we can demonstrate that beyond the love we can find for the one close to us, the family, we can find love to take our children home, as these are our children, are the children of the country, and the way in which we are able to care for them and help them find their way in life, proves that each of us is able to give this country and this nation a path as we want and we wanted it back then, in December 1989. Romania started in 1990 with 100,000 institutionalized children in over 700 centers and, slowly, things have changed. Unfortunately, today, we still have 57,000 children who, in one way or another, are not in their families; for much of them, solutions were found in other families or are cared for by social workers or are in centers that are more welcoming, but the problem still is not resolved. And that’s why I want to tell you that the objective that we take as a state – and here I speak for the government – and I am convinced that this objective will be fully met, regardless of who will be prime minister or the Government that will be in office. The objective we have set is that in 2020, we no longer have children in institutionalized centers. Those 8,000 children Mr. Dărăbuş was talking about – to be able to take them into families and to find them a place to find love around them, to find the wisdom of caregivers so as these children are able to find a way in life. But this is not enough. It is important to have the strength and wisdom to stop the bleeding, so that other children do not add to those whom we wish to see in families, and see them with a purpose in life. These are the two objectives that we meet through this package of measures against poverty which the Government released, and that bring together more financial resources from various sources, several measures, in order to create a safety net for those most vulnerable among us, to be able to overcome difficult times in different stages of life, to reach to be able to go to kindergarten, to be able to go to school despite the difficulties that some families may face and then, they should find a job, find housing. Therefore I wanted to put various measures – which were disparate and were treated coldly, institutionally – in a package for those people determined to find solutions, and who will also have the instrument for it, as many times, we have laws that can be good, we have money, but we do not find the structure, the framework whereby all these put together meet with the determined people, who are able to use these instruments so that we avoid reaching such problems, or to resolve emerging problems. Other objective that we meet is that over the next months, we find solution that these measures that the state makes available, can benefit and be used not only by state institutions –which have already changed, turned by a lot in good, but they still need further development to boost their efficiency, but also non governmental organizations that have demonstrated lately that they know to use these resources efficiently, and that alongside funds and laws, they find love to care for these children. I want to tell everybody who is in this room, representatives of NGOs, that “ yes, we need you”. The state needs you so that we find lasting solutions together for such things not to happen again in Romania and for us to be able, as of 2020 onwards, to look into these children’s eyes and to promise them a future. It is also important to find resources for families in difficulty to receive the support they need to keep their children, because I am sure that no parent wants to abandon their children when he has the means to provide him a future. Therefore, congratulations “Hope and Homes for Children”, congratulations to all who initiated this law and once again, I am leaving from here hoping that we will all find in us the love that would allow us to find solutions to the problems we are facing. Thank you.

Children in Romania Live in Extreme Poverty

United Nations Human Rights – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Albesti Roma children living in dump.
Source: Love Light Romania Daily Diary – http://www.facebook.com/groups/334926736647996

This extract is from the End of Mission Statement on Romania by Australian Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Human Rights Council Special Reporter on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

4. Children

The situation of Romanian children, especially those in rural areas, warrants serious attention, for the levels of poverty, social exclusion and material deprivations to which they are exposed are simply unjustifiable in an upper middle income country like Romania. Among the Romanian population at risk of poverty, children are the hardest hit group. According to the Eurostat, 48.5 percent of children are at-risk-of poverty or social exclusion, which is the second worst score in the EU, and 34.1 percent reportedly suffer from severe material deprivation. The situation of children in rural areas is dire and the risk of poverty for those children is three times higher than those in urban areas. I have personally witnessed the conditions in which children in rural areas live in and the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

What I believe is crucial in reversing this trend is access to education, which is not only a fundamental right of the child, but also a crucial premise on which other related human rights, such as the right to work and the right to participate in public life, may be realized. However, the percentage of Romania’s GDP spent on education is revealing. The low level of expenditure on education has ripple effects. While the authorities maintain that compulsory education is provided to all children for free, there are consistent reports on “hidden costs” of education, which effectively hinders access to education by families with limited financial resources. Such costs may include, for instance, supplementary tuitions, school supplies such as textbooks, notebooks and pencils, and school uniforms. The burden is particularly onerous on families living in rural areas, given the large disparity between rural and urban areas in terms of budgets allocated and spent on education.

Children living in poverty have much less chance of remaining in the school system and acquiring quality education. According to the highly-respected National Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Adoption, the drop-out rate for children in compulsory education is 2 per cent year, but this figure does not provide an accurate picture as it is based on an analysis of the number of children at the beginning and the end of compulsory education. I received reports suggesting the early school leaving rate is as high as 17.3 per cent and the rate is particularly high for Roma children. Even worse, I have met children in the heart of Bucharest who have never been to school for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a birth certificate or an identity card, poverty and illness. From the State’s perspectives, those without birth certificates are “invisible” children who do not exist. They have never had a birth certificate or identification document in their lives, never been to school or never been offered support from the State. The legal procedures to obtain a birth certificate are extremely cumbersome, time-consuming and costly, often requiring a lawyer and a range of documentation including forensic evidence to prove the age of the child.

What is paradoxical is that while there are a large number of children who fall through the cracks of the education and social welfare system, institutionalization of children seems to play a significant role in filling the gaps. The families that I spoke to in Bucharest often spoke of the fear that the local council may take away their children and I have also received information indicating that poor families are often persuaded to send their children to residential institutions so they are adequately fed and taken care of. According to the official figures, there are 37,126 children in family-care settings, 20,887 children in public residential institutions, and 4,043 children in private residential institutions. Strikingly, 40 per cent of those children enter the institutions because of poverty. Furthermore, although Law No. 272/2004 prohibits institutionalization of children under the age of three except those with a “severe” degree of disability, the information that I gathered suggests that the definition of “severe” disability is often discretionary in practice and many small children with minor or no disabilities are often institutionalized. The children in the institutions often end up staying there until they become adults, at which point they may be transferred to residential institutions for adults. There is a critical need to prevent children from entering into the institutions in the first place or to at least ensure that institutionalization is a temporary measure of a last resort.

Recommendations

a) In view of the fiscal space available, the Government should increase its spending on education to reflect both EU standards and domestic law. Increased spending should be allocated to local authorities, particularly focusing on those with limited resources with a view to reducing the regional disparity.

b) The process of issuing a birth certificate should be simplified, so that it is a straightforward administrative procedure that can be undertaken on a free-of-charge basis.

c) The local authorities should provide services and support to the families at the community level in order to prevent the institutionalization of children. The central Government should allocate more resources to the local authorities for the purpose of enhancing the capacity of social workers and providing professional training so they could provide effective early intervention services.

d) The Government should consider the establishment of a Children’s Commissioner, who is tasked with a broad mandate and power to protect children’s rights and equipped with adequate resources and capacity to maintain his/her independence.

5. Fiscal policy and poverty

It would be reasonable to assume that the inability of the Romanian Government to deal adequately with these challenges is a result of budgetary constraints. But the fiscal reality actually tells a very different story. With a flat rate income tax of 16%, Romania has the most regressive tax system in Europe. In other words, a political decision has been taken not to increase the net effective tax rate for individuals with higher incomes relative to those with lower incomes. Thus the opportunity to increase tax revenue to support increased spending on anti-poverty measures has been foregone. In addition, effective tax collection rates are low and widespread tax evasion and corruption further reduce revenue intakes. Even in successful anti-corruption contexts, the amount recovered from the proceeds of corrupt conduct is estimated at only 5-15% of the assets subject to a court order. This undermines the impact of sanctions and does not generate the appropriate revenues for the state. Moreover, Romania has only been able to make use of available European structural funds at a relatively low level, thus leaving much funding untapped.

Despite all of these missed opportunities, Romania could have had even greater fiscal space to fund social reforms. Instead, it has adopted inadequately evaluated and questionable policies of reducing VAT from 25% to 19%, and doubling the child allowance, which have eliminated much of the space for broader, more progressively targeted, reforms. In other words, the dismal state of social inclusion is a result of deliberate policies that reduce funding that could otherwise be available, while channeling what is available to the better off in the society.

The paradox is that Romania has, on the one hand, under the influence of external funders, adopted a plethora of strategies designed to put in place the building blocks for a social democracy, or welfare state. Some of these strategies are excellent and almost all are necessary. But on the other hand, the state’s macro-economic policies seem to signal a rather different orientation. Some of my interlocutors spoke of neo-liberal assumptions aimed at minimizing both taxation rates and social protection, while facilitating wealth generation without regard to redistribution. Instead of social or citizenship rights, the dominant discourse was one of equality of opportunity, as opposed to affirmative action.

– See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16737&LangID=E#sthash.SqRe5H4u.dpuf

Up-date; 10-02-16 Romania’s government today launched an anti-poverty package, which aims to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty by at least 580,000 by 2020.

According to the Prime Minister, Dacian Ciolos, some 1.7million children are currently at risk of poverty.

The New Zealander Who Went Through Hell To Adopt

http://www.romania-insider.com/new-zealander-adoption-comunism-romania-adele-rickerby-promise/158933/

By Diana Mesesan.

The New Zealander who went through post-communism hell twenty-five years ago to adopt a Romanian baby.

Adele wrote in her memoir, ”The Promise I Kept”; You wake up one morning to the sound of history knocking loudly, impatiently, persistently at your door. To answer it is to take a leap of faith into your future.

 

Adele Rickerby went through the hell of early post-communism to adopt a girl from Romania.

As the plane was flying over Brisbane, an Australian city set on a wide, beautiful river, one of the mothers gathered at the playgroup pointed out to the plane and told her little daughter: “We came on a plane like this one when we returned from Romania.”

The woman was one of Australians who adopted a kid from Romania in the early 90s. Several people living in Brisbane, whose kids were born in Romania, started a playgroup, so that the children would get together regularly. They’ve never kept it a secret from them that they were adopted.

Adele Rickerby, a New Zealander who moved to Australia after she got married, would also bring her daughter to these playgroups. She felt like she had a special bond with the couples that went through the same experience. They were an extended family for each other. For Adele, adopting a child from Romania was not an event from the past that simply went forgotten as years went by. Instead she would think every single day about her six weeks in Bucharest in the early spring of 1991, as she was struggling to adopt a baby girl. After she semi-retired, due to a surgery on her back, she found the peace and time to sit at a table and write down her thoughts. This is how “The Promise I Kept”, her book on adopting a baby girl from Romania, was born.

Romania allowed international adoptions until 2001, when it placed a moratorium on the practice. It officially banned these adoptions four years later. But even domestic adoptions go through only with great difficulty. Last year, only 840 children were adopted in Romania, despite that fact that the country had over 58,100 children in the special protection system at the end of March this year. The big problem lies in the complicated laws which define when a child is “adoptable.”

Adele Rickerby herself had to overcome a number of limitations to adopt the baby, she tells me during our first Skype discussion. Her voice is very warm and a bit nervous. It is the end of summer here in Bucharest, but the beginning of spring in Australia. Her Romanian-born daughter, who is now in her 20s, helped her install Skype. Adele laughed about it. “I have a reputation for being bad with technology.”

When Adele came to Romania to adopt the baby, after she had seen the terrible images of Romanians kids in orphanages, it was late winter. Bucharest, which had just come out of the Communism era, was gray and felt unsafe. Many kids were sold illegally in those early days of freedom, and the rumours about a moratorium were everywhere. Adele was afraid that she would not be able to get through with the adoption. But spring was slowly making its way.

April 1991: The winter train ride between Budapest and Bucharest

In April 1991, Adele Rickerby took the plane from Australia to Frankfurt. She had a luggage full of documents, which were necessary for the adoption. Back in Brisbane, she left her 6-year old daughter, which she hugely missed, and her husband. Their marriage was kind of falling apart. She was planning to take the plane from Frankfurt to Romania, but when she arrived in Germany, there were no free seats for that weekend. Instead of waiting a few days for the next flight, she booked a train from Germany, which passed through Austria, Hungary and then reached Romania. She had this strong sense of urgency, that she needed to get faster to Bucharest.

Everything went well through Germany and Austria. However, soon after the border with Hungary, Hungarian soldiers got on the train and asked for her passport. Then they ordered her off the train and threw her luggage out of the window. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and she didn’t wasn’t sure where she was.

Adele had no choice but to get off the train, and the train left without her. “I was just standing there in the afternoon, not knowing what was going on.” She went to the wooden train station and waited. Then a man who spoke English and was well-dressed approached her and told her that he was the local taxi driver. He could help her get a visa for Hungary, then take her to the train station in Budapest so she’d catch the same train. “We will get to the border and we will get a visa for you. The same train leaves Hungary at nine o’clock at night. I will make sure you are there on time,” the man told her. She then paid 350 dollars to this stranger to drive her across Hungary. She had the feeling that the man and the soldiers which got her off the train knew each other and were part of a scheme. But what could she do about it?

“I got in the taxi. It was getting dark and we started to drive through the back streets of this village. Where are we going, I asked him. I need to get petrol, he replied, which was fair enough. I had no choice but to trust him.” She sat in the back of the car. The man started talking about his wife and family, while Adele was looking out of the window. The Hungarian villages and town they were driving through looked particularly disheartening in the dim winter light. After she finished her nursing training in Australia, Adele did a lot of travelling around the continent with her husband. “I was like, I’ve done a lot of travelling, I can cope, but nothing could prepare me for the shock of Hungary and Romania.”

It was just getting darker and colder, but they made it and arrived at the railway station at Budapest. They found an empty carriage, the man threw her suitcases and her sleeping bag, and then he left. Within 15 minutes the train left too.

She spent all night just travelling the rest of the way into Bucharest. It was very dark, and every time the train passed through a little town, officials would get on the train, come to her carriage, look at her passport, at her visa, then go through her luggage, searching for contraband.

“We’d go through villages that were very poor; a light bulb in this village, a soldier with a rifle just walking on the platform. It was still a lot of snow on the ground, the end of winter; a peasant man’s jacket made out of of sheep’s skin.”

At about 8 o’clock, when the train was getting closer to Bucharest and Adele was tidying up her belongings, taking her sleeping bag off, three well-dressed man came into her carriage. One of them was an engineer for the railway station and was on his way to a meeting. He could speak English and asked her was what she doing there. “I said I was adopting a baby girl.”

She remembers the main saying: “Our country is poor, but our hearts are rich.” Then the train finally arrived at the Gara de Nord railway station. It was early in the morning.

May 1991: The promise
The only person Adele knew in Bucharest was a Catholic woman called Mihaela, who had hosted other couples from the US, New Zealand and Australia willing to adopt babies from Romania. Adele knew that going through the whole process would take about six weeks. The law gave the adoptive mother the opportunity to change her mind within this period. She was planning to do the adoption as a New Zealander, because the Australian Department of Immigration had rejected her request to adopt from Romania.

She phoned Mihaela, who was in holiday, but luckily hadn’t left Bucharest, so she picked Adele up from the railway station. After so many hours of uncertainty and fear, Adele felt desperate for a shower, a hot meal and conversation with English-speaking people. She found another couple from Australia in Mihaela’s house. Adele wrote in a diary during her six-week stay in Bucharest, describing her experiences. It later became the source of her book “The Promise I Kept.”

In those speculative days after the fall of communism, Romania had several people who worked as intermediaries between foreigners wanting to adopt kids and state institutions. Some were willing to intermediate sales of children. With 20,000 dollars one could buy a baby on the black market. Some were decent people, who spoke English and grabbed the opportunity to make some money. The man who helped Adele get through all the process was a doctor, who was well-educated and spoke English. She paid him a small fee. But these go-between persons weren’t the only ones asking for cash. Sometimes even the birth mothers would demand money, even if they had given up their children. However, Adele didn’t go through that. The mother of the girl she adopted was a very young girl herself, living in a small apartment in Ramnicu Valcea, with her parents, a brother and a sister. They had no money and no way of supporting the newly-born kid. It was also the stigma attached to being a single mother. Poverty and the blame passed on to single mothers forced many women to abandon their children during communism and afterwards.

Adele met the mother and her family in their apartment, where they had a meal. It was very emotional for both parts. Adele thinks that maybe the grandparents were even more distressed about the whole thing, because they understood the enormity of it, while the mother was still very young. But the girl did tell Adele that she wanted her daughter to have a future, so Adele promised her she’d give her daughter a future. “And that’s the promise I kept,” she said. “25 years later, the daughter is very beautiful, has a wonderful partner. She is a pharmacy assistant, and she has a lovely family and home.”

Then she met her future daughter, who was in an orphanage. A nurse held the baby up to the window. “She was four-month old and she was really cute,” Adele said. The judge, who had the final word on the adoption, said yes, and Adele finally had the little girl in her arms.

The Mother
One year after returning to Australia, Adele divorced and had to raise her two daughters by herself. “I had whole sentences that I wanted to write down, but I was really busy and I didn’t have the opportunity.” But two years ago, she had to give up work, due to a surgery on her back. She rented a little unit and went away by herself for several months to write her book. It was really difficult revisiting the whole experience, she said. “It was one stage where I couldn’t finish it. And I had to leave it for about 6 weeks before I ended it.”

After she finished the book, Adele was approached during book launches by Romanian adoptees, who didn’t understand why they were left and abandoned.

Several Romanian kids who were given for adoption are now trying to find their families. There are even Facebook groups, where they share their experiences. The media has immediately picked up the topic, searching for emotional stories. But for some of the adoptees, this can be a traumatic experience. They discover all sorts of terrible situations and they are tormented by the question of why they were given up for adoption. “They are trying to pull their lives together but in the meantime they also feel this burden of responsibility towards their birth families,” Adele said. Her own daughter was once approached by a newspaper interested in her experience. But she said no. “I’m not gonna do that so that they’re gonna have a story.”

Adele lives with her Romanian-born daughter, so she still gets to hear “Mom, can you do my washing?” or “What’s for dinner tonight, mom?”. The girl works a lot, but she has Fridays off and they go out and have coffee together. Her older daughter now lives in another city, but not too far away.

Adele shares a very close bond with the other adoptive couples from Brisbane. They’ve organized trainings about adoption, they’ve set up this playgroups for kids, they’ve spent Christmas together over the years. Adele was once talking with a couple from England, who also lived in Brisbane. “When do you get over Romania?” they asked themselves. “But you can’t get over Romania. You can’t have an experience like that and not change your life. You can’t live superficially,” Adele said.

Adele has now been living in Australia for 30 years. She is not very close to her family in New Zealand. “My mother died when I was not even 13. I don’t think we were close when we were growing up. I like to say that mothers have a glue that bind us together and when my mother died, the family fell apart. I think that’s the truth,” Adele says. Then she pauses for a while, and adds: “Maybe that’s why it meant so much to me to adopt a child. I know what it’s like not to have a mother.”

 

” The Promise I Kept” is available as a kindle edition from your Amazon.com store. https://www.amazon.com

 

Also available as a paperback from the Book Depository. https://www.bookdepository.com