A Brief Overview of Romania
Romania is a beautiful country nestled between the Danube River and the Black sea at the edge of Eastern Europe. The country has a long and rich history of culture and commerce stretching back to its proud position as an entry point to the European continent in ancient times. Romania derives its distinct language and name from the Romans who first occupied their land in 105 B.C. Over the last two millenia Romania has continued to be home to a highly diverse population who together are well-known for their kind hearts and indomitable spirit.
Ceauşescu's Awful Legacy: Romanian Orphanages
The problem of Romanian orphanages began with the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu. In 1965 the Communist dictator Ceauşescu came into power in Romania. One of his goals was to spread communism by increasing the communist population of Romania to 30 million by the year 2000. Ceauşescu went to extreme measures to raise the birthrate in Romania to reach his population goal.
Under Ceauşescu's oppressive regime, every woman was required by law to have at least 4 children-- a number which was later increased to 5. Families that had less than 3 children were taxed heavily. Women were monitored regularly for pregnancy, and did not become eligible for birth control or abortion until the age of 45.
Meanwhile, most families were living in small apartments and subsisting on meager incomes. Parents were simply unable to afford to feed and care for all their children. Many had no choice but to give their babies over to the state. The Romanian government under Ceauşescu encouraged families to give up their children by offering monetary rewards to those who did.
Ceauşescu created state-run orphanages to house the excess children. His aim was to draft these children into the army when they reached adulthood, in order to bolster Romania's military force. The orphanages were designed like factories to manufacture adults who had no loyalties to family or religion, who would therefore owe allegience only to the state. Orphanages were staffed by the minimum number of people to keep the institution operational, with no consideration given to the developmental needs of the children. Children in these intstitutions grew up without any mental stimulation or physical activity, without any loving human touch, and often without sufficient food, clothing, or health care.
For young adults, the consequence of growing up in state intitutions was an even more difficult adult life. Children of orphanages were socially maladjusted and so were shunned by other children in school. With no family support, the children did not do well in school. Upon adulthood, most young adults were unprepared for jobs or higher education. Some former orphans joined the military or entered the secret service. Some attempted to fit into society, but most found themselves homeless. Many other young adults who were severly stunted by the intense sensory-deprivation in their formative years ended up in overflowing state-run mental institutions.
In 1989 Ceauşescu was captured, tried for murder and embezzlement, and executed. The ousting of Ceauşescu ended Communism in Romania. In 1991 Romania adopted a democratic constitution by popular referendum, and it remains a free country today.
Problem of Orphanages Persists
Allthough Ceauşescu and most of his child-rearing laws are now gone, the problems which promote orphanages continue to persist. Education about birth control and access to it in Romania is still limited, so the birth rate remains high. Family incomes in Romania are consistently low, so children continue to be born into families who cannot adequately support them. In order to reduce child-trafficking, the Romanian government banned foreign adoption in 2001, so children are not being adopted out of the system. And a viable alternative to the orphanage system, such as a foster-care system, has not yet been developed.
The number of abandoned children in Romania has not significantly decreased since the end of Ceauşescu's tyranny. At the time of Ceauşescu's death in 1989 the Romanian government reported that there were 85,000 children in orphanages. Non-governmental organizations estimated this number to be closer to 170,000. Allthough the Romanian government now reports the number of institutionalized children in 2006 is only 28,000, this figure may be a gross miscalculation. The Eurpean Union required Romania to reduce its number of institutionalized children in order to gain entrance into the Union. So recently, large well-known institutions in cities were closed, and children were sent to live in isolated facilities in remote villages. On paper, the number of children in large institutions may have been reduced, but the same needy children still exist.
Hope for Romania's Children
There is so much hope in Romania. All over the country Romanian citizens are forming organizations dedicated to caring for children and ending orphanages. NOROC is only one of many organizations involving Romanians in improving the lives of their institutionalized children. Already NOROC has seen incredible improvement in the orphanages of Tulcea county (shown in red in the map to the left) where the Bunici-Inimoşi, or Big-Hearted Grannies Program is focused. Children who were once exhibiting the nearly autistic signs of sensory deprivation are now laughing, smiling, and thriving due to personal interaction with a caring adult. With God's help we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of these children. Every single child that we can love and care for is one ray of hope in the world.