As we have gotten settled into Romania and started sharing our stories with you, common questions have emerged about the children, the orphanages, and the cause of the orphan crisis here. We want to address these questions and create a resource for you so you can better understand the situation that 60,000 children find themselves in across Romania. Because of Romania's history, each part of the country is very different. As we've connected with people in Western Romania and the capital city, Bucharest, we are finding that orphan care looks different in each place. Please keep in mind that this is true to our county and not necessarily Romania as a whole.
WHAT ARE THE ORPHANAGES LIKE?
In our city, all of the children live in government orphanages. There are currently two large, dorm-style orphanages here. One is for children with disabilities and one has about 60 children of both genders and ages. There are also three smaller homes that house about 12-15 younger children of both genders with one government worker. These smaller environments feel more like a home and less like an institution. The government agency also has apartments in several buildings throughout the city. These house about 4-6 children in each unit along with a government worker and are primarily occupied by teenagers. There are girls apartments and boys apartments. The girls in our first Flourish Group live in 2 different apartments in the same building around the corner from us!
CAN WE ADOPT THE CHILDREN?
No. International adoptions are currently closed for Romania. Even as Americans living here, we're not allowed to adopt.
CAN WE SEND CLOTHING, GIFTS, SUPPLIES, ETC?
The children have their physical needs met. They have food, clothing, school supplies, cell phones, etc. If a specific need arises, we will let you know. However, we firmly believe in supporting the local businesses and economy when we can so we will likely ask for financial donations towards a need and not material donations. We have access to everything you can find in the USA. It's more cost efficient for us to purchase things here and it also ensures that we're getting the children things that are familiar and culturally appropriate.
WHY ARE THEY IN ORPHANAGES? WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR FAMILIES?
Every story is unique, but there are a few common reasons that children end up in government care.
- Poverty. Many families struggle to make ends meet in Romania. This reality forces many to make the difficult decision of giving their children to the orphanages where they will at least have their basic needs met and receive an education.
- Abandonment. Lack of economic opportunities, human trafficking and other circumstances can lead to parents moving abroad and leave their children behind. This is closely tied to poverty, but it's a very common story and needs to be highlighted separately.
- Abuse, neglect, exploitation of any form. Just like other places, if the child protection agency discovers a situation of abuse or mistreatment, they will remove the child and place them into their care.
- Death of parents. Some children are orphans in the truest sense of the word although this is a minority group in Romania.
- Disabilities. With a lack of resources and education around how to care for children with disabilities, it is common for them to end up in a special institution.
DO THEY SPEAK ENGLISH?
Even though many take english classes at school, many of the children lack the desire and motivation to learn it. In our city, it is very common for children in the orphanages to only speak Romanian. However, we do hope to help the small percentage that are interested to grow in their ability to speak it!
DO YOU LIVE AT THE ORPHANAGE?
No, we have an apartment in the center of the city so we're walking distance from the children in the apartments and a quick 5-10 minute drive to the rest!
ARE THEY ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE ORPHANAGES? CAN THEY LEAVE THE COUNTRY?
The kids are allowed time outside of the orphanages, usually an hour or two a day. We will often see them around town walking around with each other. During the holidays and summer break, some of them will spend time with their families in surrounding villages. They cannot leave the EU because they do not have passports and from our understanding, it's very difficult to gain government approval for them to leave Romania before they are 18.
ARE YOU DOING PREVENTION, RESCUE, OR AFTERCARE FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
In Romania, we are primarily doing prevention work. The children here are high-risk and vulnerable to trafficking, for both sex and labor. False job opportunities and too-good-to-be-true boyfriends often lure them to Western Europe when they turn 18. Unfortunately, there are some girls and boys (in the orphanages we'll be expanding to in January) that are currently engaged in the sex industry. Once they are part of our program, it will be a mix of prevention and rehabilitation.
HAVE THESE GIRLS BEEN TRAFFICKED?
Almost all of the girls have NOT been trafficked. As mentioned above, we are aware of sexual exploitation happening in one of the centers.
ARE THE OLDER KIDS ABLE TO HAVE JOBS?
Yes. Several of the teenagers do have part time jobs. It's most common in the summer.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY'RE 18? WILL THEY GO TO COLLEGE?
Very few choose the path of higher education. Those that do will continue to receive government assistance while they pursue their degree. For those that don't choose to attend university, the social workers will try to assist them in finding a job. Some will take those jobs, others do not. The lack of education, motivation, and direction contributes to their vulnerability for human trafficking. There is also a strong desire to get out of the city we're in or to leave Romania in general. All of these factors combined make them very susceptible.
WHAT CITY ARE YOU IN?
We are in Eastern Romania. We have chosen not to publicize our city as an added safety measure for the kids in our programs.