Prevention services’ commitment: A child’s place is with the family
by Mihai Roşca – Executive Director of the Romanian Foundation for Children, Community and Family (FRCCF)
“If it hadn’t been for the foundation, I wouldn’t have had anything to feed my children. I wanted to have them raised by the state and go and work abroad. I wasn’t even claiming benefits for them. I thought they would be much better off without me. It’s very hard to be alone but if you get help and you see that other people are engaged with you, you get more courage.” (Ms O, mother of three)
When Viorica, an FRCCF social worker, met Daniel, one of Ms O’s three children, he was on the verge of being placed in foster care. At the time he was living with his paternal grandparents in a shack on the outskirts of Cluj. His mother and sister were living in a rundown room with some relatives and his father was serving a 17-year jail sentence in Gherla Penitentiary for attempted murder.
Viorica started by talking to the mother and the grandparents about the family’s problems. Daniel had no birth certificate. His mother only worked sporadically; according to the grandmother, she was a prostitute. Both children were living in poor conditions and did not attend kindergarten or school. Shortly after the first meeting with the social worker, Ms O became pregnant, which ruined her plan to go and work abroad.
First, Viorica used the foundation’s legal adviser to get a birth certificate for Daniel. This meant he could access social benefits for children. The same team helped the mother to submit all the necessary documentation to access other rights, such as social welfare, free healthcare services and so on. The psychologist at the foundation’s day centre advised Ms O, allowing her to continue raising her children and to find solutions for the family’s problems.
The mother gave birth to her third child a few months ago. All the children live in a foster home and Ms O is looking for a job or training so she can eventually support her family. Daniel now goes to kindergarten and has a positive home environment.
Our social workers meet many children like Daniel. Their parents are usually separated, their homes are unsanitary, some have no identity papers and are therefore denied the rights of normal children, they are poorly fed and undernourished – the list could go on. However, the greatest risk for them is to be separated from their parents, siblings and extended family.
In their many years of work with institutionalised children, our specialists have come to the conclusion that keeping children with their parents is the only thing that can save them from a life deprived of affection, and filled with hardship and obstacles. This is why community centres give around 300 children customised assistance on a daily basis, so they can go to school, get a vocational diploma and become independent adults, no longer reliant on social services.
Regular activities include: help with homework, explanation of various subjects, counselling, psychotherapy, school and vocational help, social and leisure activities. The children get a daily meal, unburdening the parents of this duty, as some of them find it practically impossible to provide their children with adequate food.
Besides the help given to children, social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists and other specialists work with the parents and family to help them maintain a close bond with their children and give them at least the minimum emotional support so essential to the young.
Our efforts focus particularly on preventing child abandonment. We decided to engage early, to stop the family situation deteriorating so much that it leads to this kind of rash decision. With appropriate support from professionals, domestic crises can be avoided and children can stay with their families to get the love and care they need.