Romania Is Acting to Keep Families Together

15 December 1996

Romania Is Acting to Keep Families Together

Dec. 15, 1996


This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.

Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.

In an effort to reduce the number of Romanian children being abandoned in state-run orphanages, the newly elected Government of Emile Constantinescu will increase fivefold a state allowance given to single mothers and families, the country's Ambassador to the United States says.

''The allowance is an incentive to discourage single mothers and poor families with large numbers of children to be tempted to abandon their children,'' Ambassador Mircea Geoana said at a Christmas party for adopted Romanian children and their American parents at the Romanian Embassy last weekend.

He said that the new President had committed himself to the increase and that the Government is expected to implement it. ''It will take place,'' he said.

Under the proposal, the allowance for a single mother with two children would rise to $125 a month from the current $25. The increase represents the first significant state initiative to address the legacy of the former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, whose prohibitions on abortion and birth control left the country's orphanages teeming with neglected children.

Mr. Ceausescu was overthrown and executed in 1989.

After dropping to a low of 80,000 in 1992, the number of children in state-run institutions rose to 104,000 in 1995. Mr. Geoana attributed the persistently high numbers to radical changes in the economy and said they would be reversed by the new Government's ''active and aggressive promotion of growth, privatization and foreign investment.''

But critics of the Government say that Mr. Ceausescu's successor, Ion Iliescu, did little to change the prevailing attitude that children are better reared in state institutions than in a home. Although abortions have been legalized and a ban on contraception supposedly lifted, the Government has made no effort to provide social services for struggling families or single mothers, these critics say.

This may change. Mr. Geoana said that in addition to the increased allowance, he expected the new Government to support a broad campaign to promote family planning through national television and other outlets.

Nevertheless, he was cautious, even guarded, in his criticism of the departing Government's handling of the orphan crisis, saying it had ''addressed this issue sometimes without succeeding entirely.''

More than 70 Romanian children and their American parents gathered for the Christmas party at the embassy. The children, dressed in traditional Romanian costumes, painted cardboard stars and sang Christmas carols in Romanian and English.

Carol Milazzo, a sales engineer from Freehold, N.J., whose daughter, Ashley, 6, was brought to the United States at 4 months, weighing only 7 pounds, said she hoped the new Romanian Government would ''show more concern for children.''

A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 15, 1996, Section 1, Page 29 of the National edition with the headline: Romania Is Acting to Keep Families Together.