Ending child abandonment in Romania
By Vladimir Lozinski
CONSTANZA, Romania, 5 December 2006 - Irgiz Ibrahim, 26, lives with her mother and her three children in an overcrowded, run-down house here. Rubbish is strewn around the garden. Children dart in and out of gaps in the fence. The house looks in desparate need of repair.
“I have nowhere else to go. So my mother gives me a room here and we all live together,” she says.
Ms. Ibrahim struggles to support her children as best she can. The youngest is four months old and ill in a hospital.
“Each day I wake up, cook for the children and clean the house,” says Ms. Ibrahim. “Then I go to the hospital to see my baby. They tell me to throw my children to the bin. I live only for my children. I cannot do that.”
Other members of her family are pressuring her to abandon her baby at the hospital. They see her and her baby as a burden.
‘Children can be a joy’
Abandonment is one of the key issues affecting children in Romania. While there has been a notable increase in the number of children being placed in foster or guardian care rather than in institutions, the primary rate of child abandonment has not declined.
“Many people here don’t see what is wrong with separating a mother from her baby,” says UNICEF Representative in Romania Pierre Poupard. “And this is where there is a strong cultural and rooted pattern which we are trying to break. We try to help people see that children can be a joy, not a burden.”
UNICEF and the local child protection department assist young mothers so they can keep their babies.
“Generally, mothers abandon their children because they cannot afford to raise them,” says nurse Andra Turbolev, one of the hospital’s caregivers trained by UNICEF.
Discouraging repeat abandonment
Ms. Turbolev and three colleagues divide their tasks between the hospital, where they work eight-hour shifts, and the community, where they counsel mothers and to teach them about the importance of good nutrition and birth registration.
The caregivers also monitor the situation of those mothers who have been reunited with their babies, to see if they are doing well or need additional social assistance. For monitoring purposes, they maintain a database with the names of abandoned babies who have been reunited with their mothers. In some cases, mothers return to the hospital and abandon their babies again.
Ms. Ibrahim goes regularly to the hospital to visit her baby. The caregivers see that as a good sign.
“It is good to hold my baby,” says Ms. Ibrahim. “I want to take her home when she gets better.” With encouragement and assistance, the baby will grow up with her mother, knowing that she loves her.