Social services in Romania give a young mother a helping hand

UNICEF pilot model provides healthcare, social protection, education and community based services

By Roxana Gramada
Mother of four Andreea Ursaru (left) and her baby Daria receive a visit from the community nurse
UNICEF Romania/2016/Dinulescu
08 December 2016

Many families in Romania face issues such as separating children from their parents, lack of minimum welfare payments, violence, early pregnancies, illness, school dropout or absenteeism. The UNICEF pilot model ‘Minimum Package of Services’ aims to prevent these issues from ever happening.

ASĂU, Romania, 8 December 2016 – Andreea Ursaru has just come home from hospital with her baby Daria, but there aren’t any flowers to greet them. In fact, the 20-year-old Romanian mother of four hasn’t ever received flowers.

Her mother left the country 10 years ago and she was left behind with her sister who she had to raise herself. Her father died 2 years ago.

She met her first husband in the seventh grade when she was 15 years old and had her first child in the eighth. Since then she jokes she had “a fresh batch every year.” Andreea lacks quite a lot, but not a sense of humour.

Carina is 4 years old, Andreea 3, David 18 months and Daria only 1 month. Andreea gave birth to Daria prematurely and they spent three weeks in the hospital before coming home.

Home is a tiny house with a narrow balcony and 8 square metres to live in. It’s barely enough to fit two beds, a table, the stove and a cupboard where the TV sits stuck on one music TV channel.

Support where it’s needed

Andreea lives in Asău, a commune that is part of UNICEF’s ‘Community Services for Children’ programme. Covering 45 communities in the Bacău district of Romania, the programme provides families in need like Andreea’s with a minimum level of social and medical services.

She received advice, encouragement and support to get birth certificates for the children and to file for social aid. It was the social worker Mihaela and the community nurse Maria who took care of her in hospital and told her about family planning.

“[They] always visited me, helped me with kind words…” says Andreea. “[They] told me to take care of the children, give them clean clothes, bathe them and feed them on time. After all, without them, I would not have known [what to do], since I did not have mom next to me.”

“They helped to get the papers for child support… for groceries, otherwise, I don’t even know how I would have gotten by, to be honest,” says Andreea.

UNICEF National Ambassador in Romania Andreea Marin (left) and Andreea play with the children.
UNICEF Romania/2016/Dinulescu
UNICEF National Ambassador in Romania Andreea Marin (left) and Andreea play with the children.
UNICEF National Ambassador meets the family

Today, Andreea receives a visit from Andreea Marin, a UNICEF National Ambassador in Romania. As soon as she arrives, the journalist and TV presenter looks into what matters most: the children. She wants to talk to them and know their names and ages. Slowly, the children open up and happily share their world with her.

A child on each knee, Andreea Marin listens to what their mother has to say. How her first husband left and does not come by to see the children, how the second husband and father of the youngest two works odd jobs here and there. “It’s hard. In here we cook, live and eat… I have to buy wood, winter is coming… But I think what matters most is love, right?”

In the tiny room, the children entertain their guest with games and colouring books. Carina speaks about her dream to read. Andreea Marin is careful to nurture her self-confidence. “The first step is curiosity,” she says. “One day you will know all the letters of the alphabet and you will know how to read.”

“You have such wonderful children,” she tells Andreea. “You will see, bit by bit things will get better. And you are such a good mom.” A kind word goes a long way.

People cram in front of the house to see Andreea Marin. They brought flowers to thank her for her visit and support. Andreea Marin thanks them gracefully and asks permission to offer the flowers to the hostess. “It’s my pleasure to leave them in her house,” she says.

Andreea Ursaru had never received flowers – until now.


The services Andreea Ursaru receives, known as the ‘Minimum Package of Services’, is available to all families, but was created specifically for the most vulnerable children and their families. The services include healthcare, social protection and education that could prevent, at a fraction of the cost, many of the issues that generally affect these families: separating children from their parents, lack of minimum welfare payments, violence, early pregnancies, illness, school dropout or absenteeism.
For these services to reach all families like Andreea’s, a social worker, a community nurse and a school counsellor must exist in every community in Romania.

UNICEF in Romania is currently testing this Minimum Package of Services model in 45 communities in the county of Bacău, with financial support from Norway Grants, UNICEF and the private sector. The pilot model is independently evaluated, and the results are shared with decision-makers to develop new legislation, norms and standards and to mobilize state and European funding for national implementation and scaling throughout the country. The pilot aims to ensure that all children in Romania will be more protected, healthy and educated.

>>  Learn more about UNICEF’s work in Romania