Brothers Alex and Emi get a second chance to have a family in Romania

Foster care prevents placement of children in large residential institutions

By Alice Teodorescu
Brothers Alex and Emi look at books in their forster home in Romania.
UNICEF/UN063462/Vladimir Kostyak
31 May 2018

Alex, aged 10, and his brother Emil, aged 8, like playing with the new ducklings on the farm owned by their foster family.

"It's nice in this house, I can play, I can read," says Alex.

The boys’ biological mother passed away, and they haven’t seen their father in a year.

At first, Emi and Alex were placed in a large residential centre for children. But now they have been taken in by foster parents Valerica and her husband Gheorghita.

Alex and Emi have seven siblings, all of whom are with foster families nearby.

Across Romania there are approximately 18,500 children living in 12,000 foster families, a major change since the early 1990s when most of the children separated from their families were placed in large residential institutions.

Research shows that such institutions can have a devastating impact on a child’s brain development and their overall well-being, especially during early childhood. The lack of personal love and care can have a negative impact on a child’s cognitive, social and emotional growth as well as their health, happiness and ability to learn.

In 2000, around 60,000 children lived in residential institutions in Romania. Today that number has fallen by two-thirds.

Brothers Alex and Emi together in their foster care home.
UNICEF/UN063459/Vladimir Kostyak
Brothers Alex and Emi together in their foster care home.
Alex and Emi with their pet duckling at their foster home in Romania.
UNICEF/UN063460/Vladimir Kostyak
Alex and Emi draw a picture of their pet duckling at their foster home in Lipova, Romania.

Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia has the highest rate of children living in residential care worldwide, with approximately 666 children living in such care for every 100,000 children. This is five times higher than the global average.

UNICEF works across the region to prevent family separation and the abandonment of children, and helps governments meet their obligations to ensure every child’s right to a supportive family environment.