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

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

ARFOreportcover.jpg

In November 2017, the Romania Without Orphans Alliance (ARFO) published its annual report on the condition of children living in Romania’s child welfare system. An English-language version came out in January.

The 24-page report—beautifully designed with photos, charts, data, and analysis—provides a devastating look at the state’s care for parentless children. We’re quite proud of this body of work as a reflection on ARFO, which we helped found, and which our supporters have helped fund.

Here are eight quick takeaways from the report;

1. Child abandonment is an ongoing and serious problem.

Although Romania’s population is declining, the number of children entering its child welfare system has stayed steady at around 10,000 per year. ARFO uses government data to show that it’s not just poor areas driving this problem. The capital counties of Bucharest-Ilfov made the top-10 list for both numbers of children in the system and for percentage of children in institutions. One sector of Bucharest had an alarming 59% of children in its system housed in institutions.

2. Most children who enter the system remain there until adulthood.

Of the 10,000 children abandoned each year, around 6,000 will stay in state care. “On paper, Romania’s Child Protection System offers a child temporary intervention until they are reintegrated into their biological family, or placed in an adoptive family,” ARFO president Liviu Mihaileanu writes. “In reality, this ‘temporary intervention’ usually lasts until they become an adult.”

3. Adoptions are all too rare.

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

In 2016, only 788 children were adopted in Romania—a mere 1.3% of children in the system. This was the second-lowest number on record since at least 2000, but numbers are abysmal across the board. ARFO cites an anti-adoption bias from many state workers, who look askance at the practice of putting children in legal placement with families who want to adopt them.

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

4. Even when families are available, the state keeps children in orphanages.

State workers often view children in orphanages as “solved cases,” with no further intervention or family placement needed. Sometimes they actively fight the removal of children from institutions. The ARFO report contains a firsthand account from one NGO worker who requested to take a child from an orphanage into placement. Not only was she denied, but her NGO’s work at the orphanage was threatened.

A 2016 law requires the government to declare abandoned children legally adoptable after 6-12 months, depending on circumstances. Yet this law is simply being ignored by case managers. Over a year later, only 1.5% of the children in Romania’s institutions have been declared adoptable.

Adoptability stats from the ARFO report. The number of adoptable children in institutions is especially troubling, given how clearly institutionalization is proven to harm children.

Adoptability stats from the ARFO report. The number of adoptable children in institutions is especially troubling, given how clearly institutionalization is proven to harm children.

“Case managers usually work for the same local government agency that is receiving funds to house the children,” ARFO notes. “Therefore, one may conclude that such a practice is intentional to secure staff and funding.” ARFO calls for legal sanctions against workers who fail to carry out the law, and who misinform and intimidate families seeking to remove children from institutions.

5. Children suffer from moves within the system.

ARFO decries the trauma of moving children in state care from place to place. They are especially concerned about the practice of placing children in foster families until age 3, then moving them to orphanages. Under Romanian law, no child under 3 may be placed in an institution, so the government often “rotates out” children when they get older. ARFO recommends a ban on moving a child from family care to an institution, except in exceptional circumstances.

ARFO5years.jpg

6. The state has no minimum standards governing family placement.

The government was supposed to publish standards in 2012 for family placement, the practice where children are placed with an unpaid foster family or birth relatives. Five years later, there are still no standards. Failing to evaluate and oversee children placed with birth relatives is dangerously negligent. ARFO recommends that the state create minimum standards as quickly as possible.

7. The state holds charities to strict standards its own agencies don’t meet.

The report notes: “While NGOs are not permitted to function in Romania without a license, only 17% of public social services are licensed. The rest function without meeting the minimum standards that all NGOs must meet to provide the same services.” ARFO decries the state’s monopoly over child welfare, where NGOs’ contracts can be canceled at will. The report calls for greater cooperation between the state and charities.

8. A number of positive developments have laid the groundwork for change.

ARFOadopterschart.jpg

It’s not all bad news. First, the number of families certified to adopt is rising (currently over 2,600 families), indicating a growing interest in adoption. Second, the state has developed a list of “hard-to-place” children, allowing prospective families to view their profiles, which humanizes the process and encourages adoption of hard-to-place children. Third, the growing number of adoptions to Romanians abroad could provide the foundation for re-opening intercountry adoption. With real reforms, Romania could do much better for its children.

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

The Stolen Generations; Healing Old Wounds

Between the 1890’s and 1970’s, Aboriginal babies and children were forcefully removed from their parents. Few records were kept, but it is estimated that between 20,000-25,000 children were stolen. These children are referred to in Australia as The Stolen Generations. By doing so, white people hoped to put an end to the so-called Aboriginal problem and put an end to Aboriginal culture within a short time frame. The Stolen Generations were taken by Governments, churches and welfare organizations. Because few records were kept of who their parents were and where they had been stolen from, many never saw their parents, relatives, or siblings again. The children were raised on missions or with foster parents. The girls were raised to be domestic servants, the boys to be stockmen. Many were physically, emotionally and sexually abused and neglected. Leaving a legacy of trauma and loss. A cycle of generational abuse and neglect has been born out of a history of racial wounds.

Forcible removal of black children from their families was part of the ideology of assimilation. Assimilation was founded on the notion of black inferiority and white supremacy, which proposed that black people should be allowed to ”die out” through a process of natural elimination. The Stolen Generations were taught to reject their culture, their names were changed and they were forbidden to speak their native language.

Healing Old Wounds.

Acknowledging the wrongs of the past as a means to healing old wounds and reconciliation.

The first National Sorry Day was held on 26th. May, 1998 and Australia holds a National Sorry Day every year.

Formal Apology

On the 13th. February, 2008, the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, tabled a motion in Parliament apologising  to the Australian Indigenous peoples, particularly the Stolen Generations and their families and communities, for laws and policies which had ” inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians”.

 

The Stolen Generations/Australians Together

http://www.australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/the-stolen-generations

Australian Law Reform Commission | ALRC
http://www.alrc.gov.au/‎

16. Aboriginal Customary Laws: Aboriginal Child Custody, Fostering and Adoption
An Aboriginal Child Placement Principle?

349. The Child’s Welfare as ‘Paramount Consideration’.
In general, decisions on the custody or placement of children are based on a
single undifferentiated rule, directing attention to the ‘best interests of the
child’ as the paramount consideration. The ‘paramount consideration’ applied in
all cases of child custody can be illustrated by a clause common to State and
Territory adoption legislation. The Adoption of Children Ordinance 1965 (ACT) s
15 states that: ‘For all purposes of this Part, the welfare and interests of
the child concerned shall be regarded as the paramount consideration’.[35]
This principle (commonly referred to as the ‘welfare principle’) is also
applied under the Family Law Act 1975.[36]
and in cases in State courts involving custody disputes over children. It is
also relevant to decisions on fostering and placement of children in
institutional care under State child welfare legislation (although it is not
always spelt out expressly in the legislation).

350. An Undifferentiated Criterion. There can
be little dispute that the overriding consideration in all cases of child
custody should be the welfare of the child. The problem is that the relevant
legislation usually fails to define or specify the matters to be considered in
determining this.[37]
In practice it rests with the authority involved — whether judge, magistrate,
welfare officer or public servant — to decide what constitutes the welfare of
the child. Just as the forums for considering child placements vary from State
to State, so too, we may expect, do the values and standards of the persons
applying this principle in custody decisions. The Full Family Court of
Australia has pointed out the open-ended nature of the principle:

In determining a custody application the court must regard
the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration … Each case must be
considered in the light of all the facts and circumstances particular to that
case …[38]

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Occasionally, some of your visitors may see an advertisement here
You can hide these ads completely by upgrading to one of our paid plans.

UPGRADE NOW DISMISS MESSAGE

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.

My Russian Side, By Alex Gilbert

This is Alex. He is adopted. He has a story to tell.

”My Russian Side” is Alex’s story of bravely undertaking a search to find his Russian biological parents and to uncover the truth about his past.

Alex longs to find the answers to questions. Questions he has held hidden in his heart for many long years.

Global warming hasn’t reached Russia. Alex’s sunny disposition and bright smile are in stark contrast to the dreary skies and decaying buildings of Rybinsk, where his birth mother is now living. A six hour drive from Moscow. Alex does not harden his heart against his birth mother and father when he learns the truth about his past. He doesn’t judge them.  His New Zealand adoptive parents would no doubt be very proud of their son.  Alex is grateful for a better life in New Zealand. Sadly, very few abandoned children are so lucky and International adoptions from Russia are now banned. Conditions in Alex’s old orphanage in his birthplace of Arkhangelsk are harsh and hopeless. Alex wants to provide comfort and hope to the hundreds of abandoned children left behind.

He is the founder of ”I’m Adopted” which is a Registered Charitable Trust in New Zealand.  You can find them on facebook helping adoptees around the world connect and find biological parents and siblings.

Please help Alex’s dream of a better life for abandoned children living in his old orphanage in Arkhangelsk. Visit the website; http://www.imadopted.org and donate.

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 State Of Orphanages In Eastern Europe and the Post-Institutionalised Child

This article talks about four key areas-  The Physical Effects on the post-institutionalised child

The Effect on socio-emotional intelligence.

The Effects on Linguistic Development

The Legacy of Institutionalisation on Mental Health.

The Effects of Institutionalization on Children

Introduction

Institutionalization of orphaned and unwanted children has been a long-standing Western tradition, and only in the last century has society begun to realize the damning ramifications of the practice on children. This form of care still remains common in a few former Soviet countries, tragically condemning children to a life of stunted development. This article, then, will tackle the effects of institutionalization of children in former Soviet countries in particular, starting first with the history of institutionalization practices the typical institutionalization experience is like in former Soviet orphanages, and then its profound effects on physical well-being, intelligence, and socio-emotional development.

The State of Orphanages in Eastern Europe

Historically, orphanages in Western cultures have followed the “medical model” approach to childcare—namely, that good caretaking consists of meeting a child’s basic physical needs, with little emphasis on caregiver affection and the attachment needs of children. Most developed Western countries moved away from this model in the 1950s, after the pioneering work of John Bowlby’s attachment theory and Harry Harlow’s work with monkeys showed that healthy attachment is essential for normal development. However, both institutionalization and the medical model approach remains prevalent in former Soviet countries, with several hundred Russian orphans still living in orphanages. Infants in these orphanages are fastidiously kept for, well-groomed and well-fed, but human interaction is minimal. Infant-to-staff range anywhere from 8:1 to 35:1, meaning that infants receive only a bare minimum of human interaction. Frequently, they are frequently left in cribs for a good majority of the day and only receive interaction with staff when their basic needs, like feeding and bathing, are met at predetermined times, and the rest of the time, they must lie in their own feces and urine. Staff members rarely hold or cuddle infants, and they routinely ignore crying, both due to policy and due to the sheer number of other children they must attend to. With so many children to manage, individual needs are ignored, prompting a report by Case Western Reserve University to call the orphanages “warehouses.”

The actual orphanage environment is no more stimulating. Groza, Ileana and Irwin described typical orphanages as “colorless, shockingly quiet and devoid of any of the usual visual or auditory stimulation,” and recalled one orphanage in which the 4-year-old children there had never once left the room assigned to them. Many orphanages lack proper schools and provide no educational or entertainment material for the children to peruse, meaning they must provide their own stimulation. Punished for being “hyperactive,” many children end up simply doing nothing at all. The sight of children staring blankly into space for lack of anything better to do is tragically common.

The Physical Effects of Institutionalization

The physical effects of such a deprived environment have been long noted. The noted nineteenth-century pediatrician Henry Dwight Chapin, for instance, discovered that there is a significantly higher infant mortality rate in institutions, even when infants were otherwise healthy, and this mortality rate was so high in 19th century orphanages that the term “hospitalism” was coined to describe the common plight of orphaned babies. At one Romanian orphanage, most children were below the 20th percentile for height and weight, rendering them more vulnerable to disease. Officials there estimated that mortality rates in the winter could be as high as 40%, and on any given year, about half of the children died within the first 24 months after arriving at the orphanage. Children who do manage to survive typically suffer stunted growth, generally at a rate of one month’s delay for every three months spent in an orphanage. Growth stunting for some children is so severe that they can be diagnosed with “psychological dwarfism,” a phenomenon in which emotional or abuse disrupts the secretion of growth hormones and stunts normal growth. It is not unheard of for such children to grow three to four inches in just a six-month time span after being adopted. While most health problems resolve within a year of adoption, children nonetheless remain smaller than their non-adopted peers throughout childhood. The longer the orphanage stay, the shorter the child tends to be for their age.

Complementing this physical stunting are motor skill development problems, like possessing low muscle tone and not demonstrating age-appropriate motor skills. One study found gross motor delays and fine motor delays in 70% and 82% of Russian children, respectively. Like the other physical effects mentioned above, these motor skill problems resolve themselves in more stimulating environments.

The Socio-Emotional Effects of Institutionalization

Of course, the effects of institutionalization do not limit themselves to merely physical development. Indeed, the greatest legacy that institutionalization leaves is on children’s socio-emotional development. Perhaps the most well-documented effect is on attachment. John Bowlby noted that all children need a stable, responsible caregiver to attach to; without one, a child is set up to have difficulty with relationships later in life. By definition of being institutionalized, however, children in orphanages do not have a caregiver to attach to, as staff members work on shifts, may switch jobs, and have other children to care for—there is no one dedicated long-term to an individual child.

Generally, children who are institutionalized after the age of two and have had quality care during their infancy are not terribly affected by this indifference, but children who enter institutions before the age of one tend to do quite poorly. These children realize early on that no one particularly cares about them. Infants in nurseries are eerily silent, a direct result of learning early on that their vocalized distress will never be rewarded with attention. They frequently fail to attach to anyone, and, unused to physical contact, are highly sensory and tactively defensive and recoil from human contact if it is given. Unlike normal children, they become even more upset when someone tries to console them and prefer to “cry it out” by themselves, as that is how they are accustomed to doing.

Infants who present ambivalent and avoidant attachment to caretakers often go on to present characteristic disordered attachment styles later in life. The most common relational style seen in institutions is known as “indiscriminative friendliness.” Starved for affection and used to an ever-changing rotation of caretakers, these children seek affection inappropriately from everyone and anyone, including complete strangers. However, other children completely give up on soliciting affection from unresponsive caregivers and cease to be social altogether, instead developing what is known as “institutional autism.” Although not actually autistic, these children develop stereotypically autistic behaviors, like rocking, head-banging, stereotyped behaviors, and bizarre rituals, seemingly as a way of providing some stimulation in their own, otherwise sensually barren lives. Unlike autistic children, they stop this sensory-seeking upon placement in a more enriched environment.

These disturbed attachment styles, unfortunately, frequently persist after adoption. A full third of adopted Romanian children demonstrated avoidant attachment to caregivers, and an even higher percentage had only ambivalent attachment. Often, the most indiscriminately friendly children violently unravel in a post-institutional environment and become aggressive and controlling, deregulated by the lack of structure and the constant showering of warmth and affection they were denied for so long. Many attachment disordered children do eventually recover, but a significant minority of cases is eventually diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder. The prognosis for reactive attachment disorder is generally fairly poor, especially for older children. After a certain critical point of development, it seems, children simply cannot develop the capacity for normal, warm human relationships.

Related to the problem of attachment is social skills development. According to John Bowlby, if children are institutionalized for too long, the child will lose the ability to interact with other humans in a normal way. In one study of Romanian children, it was reported that while most parents were concerned that their children were too withdrawn and avoidant within the first year after adoption, after a few years, children’s greatest social problems were externalized. Parents frequently complained of aggressive, manipulative behavior and difficulty getting along with peers. The longer children had lived in an orphanage, the greater parents reported their difficulties to be, and the worse the impairment in intelligence, the worse the child’s social skills tended to be. Another study on Romanian children found that an astounding 55% of preschool-aged children were unable to demonstrate developmentally appropriate social skills like meaningful eye contact. Some children are so profoundly deficient in social skills that they arguably lack any sort of conscience or feelings for others at all and instead present symptoms of sociopathy.

The Effects of Institutionalization on Intelligence

Yet another well-documented, deleterious socio-emotional effect of institutionalization is intellectual disability. By school-age, a majority of Russian children living in orphanages are diagnosed with “oligophrenia,” a vague descriptor in Russia for “general mental deficiency,” and a study of internationally adopted children showed that upwards to 50%-90% of preschool-aged children had developmental delays upon arriving in their new country. Many children had multiple delays, usually in motor and language skills. Similarly, in another study of Romanian children, every single child in the study was developmentally delayed upon arriving in Canada and frequently tested into the borderline mentally retarded range. The more time a child spends in an orphanage, the more profound the intellectual impairment; for every year that a child spends in an institution, his cognitive development will be delayed by about six months.

Some of this damage is observable at the biological level. Total brain volume is significantly negatively correlated with time spent in an institution. The hippocampus in particular shows markedly decreased volume, which research has demonstrated is due to overproduction of cortisol, a hormone released in stressful situations. Repeated release of cortisol in stressful situations, like that of neglect in orphanages, destroys the hippocampus, which is central in learning and memory. Damage is not limited to the hippocampus, however; FMRIs of formerly institutionalized children have revealed that the prefrontal cortex tends to be both immature and reduced in volume, which leads to problems with impulse control and decision making. Accordingly, then, children do particularly poorly on tests measuring visual memory and attention, learning visual information, and impulse control.

Fortunately, most children usually make rapid gains in intellectual development upon removal from the institution environment. However, the legacy of institutionalization often lingers, as the precipitous drop in intelligence institutionalized children experience is not entirely reversible even after being placed in an optimal adoptive family environment. Three years after adoption, children in one study had only very modest gains in intelligence, and most scored in the low average IQ range. The longer a given child lives in an institution, the worse his intelligence tends to be, especially if the child has lived there since infancy.

Linguistic Development in Institutionalized Children

With no one talking to them, it hardly comes as a surprise that linguistic development is severely retarded by institutionalization, too. Language delays, in fact, are the most commonly diagnosed problem in post-institutionalized children. Children learn from interacting, not from passively hearing others, but this is exactly the opposite of what institutionalized children doing. Glennen discovered in an observation of a Russian orphanage that when language was spoken in the presence of children, it was usually between caregivers, and on the seldom occasion a child was spoken to, it was typically in the form of simple commands. Most activities, like meals, were conducted in almost complete silence. Accordingly, with no opportunity for actual practice, about 60% of 2 1/2 institutionalized children in one study had no expressive language whatsoever, and at age 3 1/2, only an astounding 14% were capable of speaking two-word sentences. Nonverbal communication skills are often no better; children’s skills tend to be either minimal or negative in nature, like hitting. Deficient language development is one of the hardest effects of institutionalization to undo; after certain critical linguistic periods are missed, no amount of intervention will ever fully remediate a child’s language deficits. A child’s rate of acquisition, then, literally determines his capacity for language later in life.

The Legacy of Institutionalization on Mental Health

Finally, institutionalization leaves individuals with a significantly hiked risk of mental illness and disturbed behavior. So common is disordered development that a specific mental disorder has been suggested specifically for post-institutionalized children, known as Developmental Trauma Disorder. This disorder is hallmarked by what is known as “mixed maturity,” in which children demonstrate normal maturity in some areas, but act like a much younger child in other areas. Academic skills, depth and appropriateness of relationships, and social skills tend to be more representative of those of a younger child. Frequently, these symptoms will mimic those of ADHD and PTSD’s, with poor social skills and hyperactivity. The stress of repeated traumatic events, such as institutionalization, changes the make-up of the central nervous system in such a way that children are biologically conditioned for a heightened fear/stress response. Children are maladaptively hypervigilant as a result, and because they frequently misperceive totally innocuous events as threats, they present immature, aggressive, and socially inappropriate behavior. The inability to pay attention and the hyperactivity is directed related to the degree of neglect, and is unrelated to low birthweight, nutrition, or intellectual disability.

Unsurprisingly, the prospects for children who are not adopted from these institutions is often grim. Of the approximately 15,000 children who grow out of Russian orphanages every year, the Russian Interior Ministry University estimates only about 20% are successful post-institution—10% commit suicide, 30% end up in jail, and 40% end up homeless. The cycle of child institutionalization tends to repeat itself, with many orphanages reporting that they have children who are the third or even fourth generation to have been institutionalized.

Adoptees do better, but still struggle, as these problems follow them even after they leave the orphanage. In her landmark study on institutionalized Romanian children, for instance, Ames noted that children frequently try to apply maladaptive behavioral strategies learned while in the orphanage to their post-adoption lives. Many children, for instance, engage in behaviors like stealing, manipulating, fighting, and lying, because doing so earned them extra attention or food in orphanages. Similarly, as testament to their highly regimented, unstimulating lifestyle, children can be highly dependent on others telling them what to do, often for years after adoption. Many cannot determine for themselves when to stop eating, and one study recounts that some children will lie in bed quietly for hours until prompted to get up.

Although many of these behaviors disappear as children acclimate to a stable post-adoption life, many other behaviors persist. Even in the best of adoptive environments, adoptees suffer a rate of mental illness about 70% higher than the general population. Their difficulties are not necessarily due to poor genetics, either; adoptees from China and Korea, which eschew institutions in favor of foster care, experience mental illness at a rate three to seven times lower than adoptees from former Soviet countries, which use institutions. Indeed, 72% of parents in Ames’ study of Romanian children cited their biggest concern with their children not to be anything physical or intellectual, but socio-emotional. More than a third of the children in the study needed professional help for behavioral problems several years after adoption. Children who are older at the time of adoption, who experience abuse, and who have multiple changes in caregivers were more likely to have problems. The most common problems included conduct disorder, antisocial behavior, poor relationships, and affective disorders.

Clearly, as has been demonstrated, institutionalization has a profound impact on every aspect of a child’s functioning. The gross amount of neglect, both physical and emotional, causes severe damage that is not always possible to undo, and the longer the time spent in the institution, the worse the effects. The vast majority of children never get adopted, meaning they languish in stunted emotional, cognitive, physical and social development forever. While there is hope for those who do get adopted, the effects of institution more often than not leave a damning legacy.

References

Ames, E. (1997, Fall). Orphanage experience plays key role in adopted Romanian children’s development. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nacac.org/adoptalk/orphanageexperiences.html

Aslanian, S. (2006, September 16). Researchers still learning from Romania’s orphans. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6089477

Delaine, L. (2000, May 1). The plight of Russia’s orphans. Retrieved fromhttp://www.russianlife.com/blog/plight-orphans/

Federici R. (2007, July 18). The neuropsychology of bonding and attachment disorders. Retrieved from http://www.rainbowkids.com/expertarticledetails.aspx?id=57

Federici (2008). Raising the post-institutionalized child risks, challenges and innovative treatment. Retrieved from http://www.drfederici.com/raising_child.htm

Gindis, B. (2005, December 23). The second glance at institutional autism in internationally adopted children. Retrieved fromhttp://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/The-second-glance-at-institutional-autism-in-internationally-adopted-children/81

Gindis, B. (2011). Navigating uncharted waters: School psychologists working with internationally adopted post- institutionalized children. COMMUNIQUÉ, 27(1), Retrieved from http://www.bgcenter.com/communique-article.htm

Gindis, B. (2012, March 12). Internationally adopted child: Navigating between PTSD, ADHD, and DTD. Retrieved fromhttp://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/Internationally-Adopted-Child–Navigating-Between-PTSD–ADHD-and-DTD/184456

Groza, V. (1999, October). US policy promotes institutionalization of children in Romania. Retrieved fromhttp://msass.case.edu/faculty/vgroza/international/adoption/uspolicy.htm

Groza, V. (n.d.). Interview by A Martin [Web Based Recording]. Adverse impacts on children living in orphanage institutions. , Retrieved fromhttp://www.adoptvietnam.org/adoption/health-institutional-impacts.htm

Groza, V., Ileana, D., & Irwin, I. (n.d.). Dickens, Boys Town or purgatory: Are institutions a place to call home? Retrieved fromhttp://www.comeunity.com/adoption/institutionalism2.html

Meese, R. (2006, May 1). A few new children: Postinstitutionalized children of intercountry adoption. Retrieved fromhttp://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/A-Few-New-Children–Postinstitutionalized-children-of-Intercountry-Adoption/920

Nalven, L. (2004, October 1). The impact of early orphanage life on development. Retrieved from http://www.rainbowkids.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=218

Nalvin, L. (2004, October 1). The impact of early orphanage life on development. Retrieved from http://www.rainbowkids.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=218

Noble, K., Tottenham, N., & Casey, B. J. (2005). Neuroscience perspectives on disparities in school readiness and cognitive achievement. The Future of Children, 15(1), Retrieved from http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=38&articleid=117§ionid=768

Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund. (2011, November 14). Life in the orphanage. Retrieved from http://www.roofnet.org/orphanage_life

Sanghavi. (2010, April 25). Adopted boy’s return highlights problems in Russian orphanages. The Washington Post. Retrieved from www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CHkQFjAI&url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/23/AR2010042302223.html&ei=c8DgT63RKabN0AHfndGCDg&usg=AFQjCNEXAcSC6PDnzbeVxF9ZrYSHAMHhcg&sig2=29QZV_ZKz-gaTEY4JTXn9w

Society for Research in Child Development (2010, February 5). Length of time in institutional care may influence children’s learning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 27, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­

FIRM FOUNDATIONS – Volunteer

Screen shot 2016-02-25 at 10.16.17 AMScreen shot 2016-02-25 at 10.17.05 AM

About Firm Foundations Romania…   Sarah  was born in Boston, raised in California. She moved to Romania thirteen years ago, where she was led by God to establish a not for profit organisation; Firm Foundations Romania. Screen shot 2016-02-25 at 10.15.42 AMSarah’s organisation has grown over the years, beyond her original vision, as her team at Firm Foundations has supported and educated Roma children, and run an international volunteer program. Volunteers from around the world can spend time at the baby hospital in Brasov, holding babies, thereby providing them with much needed love and comfort.

This is Sarah’s passion today. To make a difference in a person’s heart through Christ’s love for them. God has gifted Sarah with the ability to write and perform beautiful music, which today reflects her life and those whom she  serves. Sarah’s music is being distributed in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This year, she recorded in Nashville with Russ Long. Sarah is  living out her passion to help humanity and inspire lives through her inspirational music.  Sarah is grateful to God for His calling on her life.

Sarah Vienna.

Screen shot 2016-02-25 at 11.00.46 AM

 

FFR is a non profit organization whose mission is to follow Christ’s instruction to assist widows and orphans in their trouble. Our purpose is to provide aid in a practical way to the abandoned children of the Brasov Children’s Hospital and the Roma community.

Our focus is loving the unloved and providing educational opportunities to the forgotten youth of this country. Our goal is for future generations to have a better quality of life; our hope, that they would then be influenced to serve others and be an example for the people of Romania.

*We have parental permission for all photographs of children used on this site.

Sarah Vienna
Firm Foundations Romania / President
http://www.firmfoundationsromania.com
http://www.sarahvienna.com
Facebook

 

The Hospital Project

 

   Volunteer With Us

Ways to Help

 

It all started with one bag of diapers… Sarah and Steffi (President and Vice President of FFR) remember the first day they walked into the Brasov Children’s Hospital and saw children wrapped in seven layers of rags lying in their own feces and urine. The stench was terrible, and the children looked desolate.

They started to bring in diapers that were bought with their personal money and asked the nurses if they could help change the children. Relationships and trust were built with the nurses and the social worker as they continued bringing in more and more diapers. Thus the hospital project started.

Click here for more information.

Children are still being abandoned and neglected in Romania due to a myriad of social issues. Firm Foundations Romania has started an international volunteer program to hold, feed, change and care for these children in the local Children’s Hospital, where we have formed a partnership which enables us to run the project.

Our volunteers change over 4000 diapers a month which we supply. Our volunteers come from all around the world, uniting hearts for the plight of Romania’s youth. It is time to make a difference.

Apply Now

There are many ways in which you can help. We are always seeking volunteers, both short term and long term to serve with our various projects.

We are in need of donations such as clothing, hygiene products, school and craft supplies. At present we are seeking financial sponsorship of numerous projects, including diapers for the Hospital Project as well as sponsorship of our After School Program.

 ” I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand ” Isaiah 41:10