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

Fostering; by Jonquil Graham

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My beautiful picture

Jonquil Graham is an orphan advocate and founding member of Inter-Country Adoption New Zealand, an author, wife, mother to numerous adopted and foster children and mentor to young adult adoptees.

She wrote ” How Many Planes To Get Me ”, her story of adopting nine children from Romania and Russia.

Proceeds from the sale of her book help support an orphanage in Romania.

In this heartwarming, down to earth and inspirational article, Jonquil shares the challenges, joys, and unconditional love which are an integral part of a foster parent’s journey.

Fostering.

Most people get a toaster, linen or cutlery as a wedding gift. We were given a three year old child on our honeymoon whose parents were going through a messy custody battle.

Since she was my niece, we readily agreed, expecting it would be a temporary arrangement. She was a middle child, somewhat neglected, which played out in her behaviuor. Tiny, blonde and extremely active, there was something not quite right about this vulnerable child who needed firm, loving boundaries. She screamed, was a bed-wetter and ran around the house until she was exhausted. We were mystified by her challenging behaviour.

Often, I soothed her by wrapping her in a blanket, rocking her on my knee, sometimes gently humming or reading a story. Clearly, this little moppet had missed out on vital bonding. When I took her to playgroup, the teachers looked at me as if I was the cause of odd behaviour. She would climb into a play bassinette and suck her thumb. I was inexperienced. I didn’t know why she did that. I couldn’t give them an explanation except to say we had taken her on and doing our best as new parents. Looking back, I am grateful to have had this experience. She laid a foundation of what we could experience when we continued fostering and eventually adopting. Most of the other foster children were slightly easier, but we still had many ups and downs.Our first child returned to her birth family after ten years but was in for a rude awakening.. By then she was a teenager. And teens are hormonal and still vulnerable. She went through difficult times but remained in contact although she was living in another country. Today, she has a family of her own and is serene. She is unlike the little girl we nurtured. She gives us hope that foster children who absorb the basics of loving family structured life can heal. They can remember safe, fun, family time, and thus provide that for their own children later. We remain close and visit when we can, which includes her siblings.

We hadn’t considered fostering initially but we went on to foster more children, even after we started adopting. Unable to have our own children, any child was a blessing and we looked forward to parenting them.

We mainly fostered sibling groups because they were offered to us. After all, we had a large, old house in the country and plenty of space with trees and swings and a creek. Idyllic. We thought there could be behavioural problems after discussions with the social worker, but we were optimistic and addressed issues as they arose. Most of our foster children were aged between three and fifteen.

When fostering, there is a honeymoon period. You are keen to provide a safe, happy home for the child, the children you have are excited about a new arrival and everyone is in a party mood. The euphoria only lasts days. Some children become obnoxious and test you. Their behaviour comes from their frustration, their grief, separation from family and testing the boundaries. The children already in our family never resented another foster child. The new kid was a source of fascination. Depending on the age of the child, our own children were co-operative in sorting out toys and making up a bed. I didn’t tell them the reasons for a child staying with us temporarily. My job was to make the child feel safe and wanted. We didn’t quiz the new arrival. Social Welfare provided some background information so we would be aware of food allergies, behavioural alerts, that sort of thing. One child wanted to change his name, so we went along with that, until he decided to revert back to his Christian name. This alarmed Social Welfare, not his teacher, and today he is a well-adjusted, successful young man who calls in periodically and invited us to his wedding. He is like another son to us.

It is heartbreaking when estranged parents promise to visit , then don’t turn up. The child stands excitedly at the front gate looking at the traffic, only to be let down again. We would give lame excuses for them and reward the child with a treat or distraction; whether it’s popcorn and staying up a bit later, making marshmallows over a bonfire outside, playing spotlight with our torches or putting on an impromptu  concert for the whole family. I found that the best way to get a bruised and tired child to sleep was through music. My husband rigged up a music system for the bedrooms upstairs and every night, a child selected a classical C.D. so music wafted into their bedrooms. They never had sleep problems whilst getting their fill of Bach, Brahms, Mozart and Chopin.

Once, I had a family of four siblings who refused to go to bed at the appointed time. It affected the other children. I suggested they do running races up the back lawn. My husband held a stop-watch and timed them. They loved it and within a short time they were all tired and happy to go to bed with thoughts of being a successful athlete. It was my way of changing irritable negative behaviour into a positive without causing friction. You need to be inventive. I knew taking on other people’s kids wasn’t going to be easy so I’d be adaptable, not a pushover.

Teenagers were harder to foster because they’d suffered some abuse, usually, and they wanted to be in control. They were upset being separated from their birth families, however negligent, and of course all teens are hormonal. Once we found out their interests, we’d engage them in activities they likes. Our circle of friends widened, for instance, if they went to a particular church group, then we’d go. It was to give continuity to their past life.

One foster teen daughter was so obnoxious I was on the verge of giving up. My husband reminded me that was in her best interest for now to be with us. So, could I change my attitude towards her? How? Treat each new day like a cassette tape or a book. Turn the tape over or the page over and start afresh. Often this worked. Don’t dwell on past negative behaviour. The kid has moved on and I could too. I found this particularly helpful advice I’d never considered. Also I was grateful that he was supportive and felt the children’s needs were vital compared to me being upset by their temporary meltdown.

At this time we were offered a Fijian toddler to adopt, but my husband said our commitment was towards these foster children as other people also wanted to adopt him. He said our foster children were our priority until their family situation improved. I was a bit upset, but later we were offered a Rarotongan baby. To foster or adopt, you have to both be in agreement. For instance, I had a seven year old. He was going to be adopted by a couple and he liked the new father-to-be who did boy-things with him The mother wanted to nurture him but he didn’t want to be close to anymore. The dad gave him space. It caused conflict because she wanted a little baby to love. The adoption failed because the parents were in conflict.

You can never make a foster child love you; their loyalty is towards their family. How often do people say, “I could never foster. I’d get too attached to the kid and would find it hard to give him/her back.” We never felt like this. We knew the rules. Our happiness was watching them blossom, knowing one day they’d fly the nest when their home situation improved. They knew they always had a place in our hearts. And still do.

Copyright; Jonquil Graham.  http://www.jonquilgraham.com