Transforming Romania’s child protection system in partnership with civil society
27 years ago Romania became known internationally as home to over 100,000 orphans growing up abandoned in old-style institutions. Images of row upon row of cots and the vacant stares of infants craving human attention flooded the international press.
Thankfully the situation looks very different today. Romania has undertaken huge reforms to its child protection system, most recently adopting a national strategy for the promotion and protection of children’s rights (2014-2020). Most of the old-style institutions are now closed. Local authorities have the responsibility to provide the necessary community services that support families and prevent children being separated (even if coverage and quality is in reality patchy). A majority of the children who are placed in public care grow up in foster care or kinship care. Small group homes of up to 12 children are also designed to respond to children’s individual needs and offer a nurturing, family-like environment.
Nonetheless it is fair to say that the deinstitutionalisation process in Romania is far from complete. Over 7,000 children are still living in old-style institutions, roughly half of them children with disabilities. Most of these children end up institutionalised for life. Romania’s progress in reforming institutional care for adults with disabilities or psycho-social difficulties is notoriously slow-moving. Abuse in these care settings is rife.