Overview of the Romanian child care system
Overview of alternative services
The main focus of the reform was the closure of institutions, while developing alternative solutions such as foster care and family type homes. The reform also supports the prevention of institutionalisation by offering services to help families in need, such as day-care centres and mother and baby units. In cases where reintegration with the child's natural family is not possible, emphasis is placed on foster care and domestic adoption
Preventing the child from being separated from its family by supporting mothers at risk has been a major part of the government's strategy. Poverty and unstable conditions are the main reasons for children being placed in institutions. In many cases, this type of care is seen as a temporary solution until the parents resolve their problems (e.g. find a job, an apartment, etc.) Often they are not aware that there are other temporary solutions besides institutionalisation that can help them.
While the government strategy was being developed, a start had already been made on creating alternative services, which have been rapidly expanding in the last two years.
At the end of 2004, of the 4.8 million children living in Romania , 82,902 are in the care of the state. Out of this total only 32,579 are in residential-type institutions - a third of the number there was some years ago. This represents 0.75% of the total number of children in Romania, a figure similar in size with that of other European countries.
Since 2000, the number of alternative services doubled and the number continues to grow. This is not to say that such services can meet all the demand yet, but the fact that they have begun to be developed and used successfully, demonstrates to the public that there is another way. Some of these services are described below:
Mother and baby centres (there were 24 in 2000, and 57 in 2004). These have been established nationwide, providing an opportunity for single mothers without support to keep their baby while they attempt to find a new start. During this period, the mother is provided with shelter and food, having the chance to remain with her child.
Day-care centres for children (there were 16 in 2000, and 125 in 2004) These are for families in difficulty and have been established across the country to provide care for the children, while their parents are at work.
Day-care centres for disabled children . Disability should not be a reason to take the child away from its family. Realising the difficulties faced by families with special needs children, day-care centres have been established to provide rehabilitation facilities, social and educational opportunities for them as well as support to their families.
Developing alternative solutions to residential care
The ultimate goal of the strategy is for large-scale residential institutions to be closed and replaced with alternative care solutions, such as family-type homes, foster care and domestic adoption. Reintegration of children into their natural families or extended families is a priority wherever possible.
Foster care is a viable solution for children where reunion with their own family requires time and resources. Keeping the child in a family environment in their community with certain rules, habits and traditions that the child has no way of learning outside a family environment is of great benefit to the child's development.
Family type placement centres involve the placement of a small group of children in a home setting where the primary care is given by professional staff. This type of home allows the staff to give individual attention to each child, something that is not possible in an institution with a large number of children. Also, the home setting allows the children to experience an environment where they learn to interact as if they were members of a family.
Adoption. Following international criticism, the Government of Romania took one of the most critical steps in the child welfare reform process and introduced a moratorium on inter-country adoption, which came into effect in October 2001. The purpose of the moratorium on international adoption was to provide the time needed to develop appropriate new legislation and the administrative capacity to ensure that inter-country adoption would be restored to exclusively in the best interest of the child, if no other suitable form of care was available in Romania. In addition, in conformity with the UN Convention, due regard will be paid to the need for continuity in the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background. After the moratorium on international adoption came into effect, domestic adoption increased greatly. Before the moratorium, domestic adoption often had been discouraged.
The Romanian Office for Adoptions has been set up in 2004 with the role of monitoring children ready for adoption and families willing and able to adopt, monitoring the evolution of internationally adopted children and taking measures against children trafficking.
Other community services have been developed such as:
- counselling centres for parents and caregivers
- emergency services for children with behaviour disorders
- supervision services for children who have committed offences
- support services for children to exercise their rights
- counselling and treatment centres for abused and neglected children
- day and night shelters for street children