12 June 2006

Romania: Statement on Romania's childcare crisis




Charities Concerned with Children in Romania

Resource type:

News release

Financial Times, June 12, 2006


A final vote on Romania’s entry in to the EU is scheduled for October 2006. We, the undersigned 33 charities, work with children in need in Romania. While we support Romania’s admission, the citizens of the EU should be aware of the current crisis in Romania’s childcare system – a system certain EU officials are wrongly presenting as “model.”

Many Romanian officials continue to disregard the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Parliament report of December 2005.

Most EU citizens and MEPs don’t know the truth. EU officials and celebrities are given carefully guided tours of “new and improved” children’s facilities wholly unrepresentative of the real Romania. Thousands of abandoned children still endure appalling conditions. Tragically, there are many “no cost” solutions to stop the suffering that could be implemented today, but aren’t.

There has been some positive change. We have witnessed extraordinary acts of kindness and bravery from many Romanian doctors, police, government officials, nurses, teachers, carers and social workers who are striving to improve the lives of these children. However, these admirable efforts should not serve as an excuse to allow the suffering of so many to continue.

The Problems:

Guantanamo for Babies

Thousands of children a year are abandoned. The Romanians typically adopt a small fraction of these. Many then enter a legal “no man’s land” where, because they do not have birth certificates or consent from the abandoning parent, they cannot be fostered or adopted, and often are not eligible for medical treatment or education.

Crammed into hospitals, these “unofficial” (not included in government statistics) abandoned babies are often confined to steel cribs 23+ hours a day for months or years. Without normal stimuli, without the ability to crawl, play, interact or be loved, they suffer immense, often irreversible psychological and physical damage.

The Impotence of Law

Olli Rehn, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, takes comfort in recent legislation, stating it is "fully in line with EU standards and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child". In fact, the childcare legislation contains serious flaws. Enforcement is sporadic, interpretation opportunistic, and punishment rare. Current childcare legislation is little more than a book of fiction collecting dust on a bedside table.

Failure of Funding

As part of the plan to join the EU, Romania agreed to grant funding for charities providing childcare. Funding for most has been inaccessible or grossly inadequate. Many homes remain under-staffed and under-equipped, especially for children with disabilities. Financing for foster care is drastically underfunded in many regions. Once funding runs out, if the charities don’t pay, the child remains institutionalised. Shockingly, the state has even refused to pay for funeral expenses for many children that it infected with HIV due to unsanitary medical practices.

Disregard for Child Rights

Romanian parents are free to abandon and reclaim their children at will. An abused child may be removed from the family, but the parent is rarely punished. “Forced” reintegration occurs, where a baby is returned to a family with a history of abuse or abandonment.

Teens on the Street

With few “transitional” homes or program for teens, many resort to crime, drugs and prostitution. Girls are particularly vulnerable.


Some Romanian government officials and a few EU MEPs will deny the above claims, as they have denied every critical report issued by any external entity, including those by UNICEF and other charities.

When will the EU stop accepting denials and empty promises, and demand concrete actions ?

What can be done today:

1. Establish a Childs Rights Compliance Office (CRCO)

Staffed for a transitional period by Romanian and EU Representatives, CRCO would investigate and report on a) implementation of childcare legislation, b) violation of child rights, c) harassment against those who lodge complaints, d) police and judiciary response, d) use of Romanian and EU childcare funding

2. Open “Controlled” Inter-country Adoption

Inter-country adoption was halted in 2001, then fully closed in 2004. The result is that many thousands of children languish in institutions with no hope of domestic adoption, especially Roma children.

If after a suitable period (eg. four months) domestic adoption has not proved possible, the Government should allow inter-country adoption in order to stop the developmental damage caused by institutionalisation.

We also feel that it is cruel to deny more than 1,000 adoptions that have been pending since 2001, where for some of these children the adoptive parents are the only parents they have ever known.

3. Establish an Independent Children’s Policy Group

A children’s “High Level Group” is influencing childcare policy in Romania and Bulgaria. It is jointly headed by MEP Emma Nicholson, who holds opposing views to many childcare specialists, the majority of charities working in Romania, and an ever-increasing number of MEPs. Her continuing demands for complete, unconditional closure of Inter-country adoption are deemed “radical” by other MEPs. And her recent description of Romania as a “model” for childcare is incomprehensible to those living with the reality.

We support the establishment of a genuinely independent, balanced body concerned with Romanian children’s rights and policy. As a diverse group of professionals who have worked with Romanian children over many years, we respectfully request a seat on such a body.

4. Link EU Aid to Child Care

EUR 30 billion is budgeted by the EU for Romania, designated for large projects such as highways and infrastructure. An effective amount of this funding should be directed to ending the legacy of a woefully inadequate child welfare system, audited by the EU to ensure the funds are spent as intended.


We, the undersigned charities, have years of experience dealing with these issues, working without profit. We include doctors, nurses, lawyers, police chiefs, psychologists, teachers, and social workers. We are principally EU and Romanian citizens. We respect the Romanian people and culture. Above all, we care deeply about the children of this country.

YOU Can Help

Any citizen of the EU can help. Please go to our website at for more information, including e-mails and other contact details of your constituent EU representatives. At the end of September, we will report back to the public via our website and the international press on concrete actions taken by MEPs and the Romanian Government. Subsequent six-monthly updates can be viewed at

Contact details:


Amici dei Bambini

Blythswood Banat

Bridge of Chritian Relief

Cry in the Dark (UK)

Everyone’s Child Romania

FARA Foundation

Foundation for the Relief

of Disabled Orphans

Fundatatia Casa Sperantei

Fundatia Casa Mea

Fundatia Forget-Me-Not Romania

Fundatia in Brate

Fundatia Speranta Familiei

Link Romania

Livada Orphan Care

O Noua Viata

Prientenii Copiilor

Primavara Copiilor

Reach Romania Lancashire

Relief Fund for Romania


Romanian Aid Distribution

Romanian Orphan Support Effort

Romanian Relief

Save Eastern Europe's Kids

Spurgeon’s Child Care

Ungureni Trust

Viata Noua Pentru Copii

Anonymous Charity A

Anonymous Charity B

Anonymous Charity C

Anonymous Charity D

Anonymous Charity E

Anonymous Charity F

* You will note a number of groups have signed “Anonymous Charity”. This is due to the fact that previous attempts to speak out on children’s rights have resulted in certain local authorities then hindering charities’ in their vital work. In the future, we will report on our website and to the EU on reprisals of this nature.

Contact Information:

Communications Office

Charities Concerned with Children in Romania

Tel: +44 (0)20 7937 8060