Statistics from the Ministry of Labour show that in Romania there are 58,000 children in the special protection system, including over 20,000 in institutions – residential centers, social apartments, emergency centers – environments where they are not part of a family. Although, the law on the protection and promotion of child rights defines its “superior interest” as benefiting of family life, in practice, precisely these children are deprived of this essential right.
The Adoption Act proves to support a deeply deficient system by its “theoretical matching” concept. Thus, adoptable children are entered into a computer system. Then, adoptive parents’ wishes are put into the same system and computer matching is achieved. In this way, potential adoptive parents receive a list of children, they see pictures, go to see the children and many of them choose as they would at the market: “too black”, “too thick-headed”, “somewhat misshapen face.” Through this system there are less than 1,000 children adopted, meaning that 75% of adoptable children do not stand a chance because they have health problems, they exceeded a certain age, or simply because they are of a certain ethnic origin and their physiognomy does not correspond to the ones of the potential adopters.
Studies show that, in Romania, adoption is usually regarded as a second chance to infertility. When a couple cannot have children, they start considering adoption, but for a healthy child who should also resemble them. The system itself excessively facilitate the adoption of children under 2 years old, healthy and beautiful. Most abandoned children are not, however, in this category. Most peculiar, if you meet an adoptable child with disabilities, to which you have attached but no one wants to adopt, you don’t have a legal right to file for his/her adoption.
On the one hand, we have a problem reaction of society. We do not have enough people and families who say, “I’m willing to take a child into foster care, even if for a limited period of time, but during the time the child is in difficulty, I want to give him/her a family”. If we talk about adoptions, even here we do not have enough people and families who wish to adopt children that would be older or with health problems.
On the other hand, there is a systemic problem in the legislation, as if from 58,000 children in the system, only 7% are adoptable, we talk about issues of legal proceedings. The recent amendments to Law 273/2004 (Adoption Act), bring some improvements. They are, however, not sufficient for the system itself. It is worth noting that following the implementation of these changes, the Ministry of Labor still estimates under 1,000 adoptions per year.
Individualized protection plan may be to propose reintegration of children into their biological families or open adoption procedure. Currently, 93% of children in care are a temporary solution, which means that tens of thousands of children are facing years of institutionalization, sometimes until they exit the system by limit of age. All these years they are subject to a constant complex trauma. Constantly, the child has the frustration of being abandoned, wondering why this happens, why they are unwanted, whether it’s his/her fault, and all this state of uncertainty causes serious attachment disorders and psychosocial instability.
Recent studies have shown that when a child enters an institution, his brain’s integrity is seriously affected. Doctors at Harvard University have done such a study on a group of 136 children in Bucharest which they have pursued for 12 years. They scanned brain mass to see them progress. The results are eyes opening: children who have benefited from a family environment had a normal brain development. For children who remained in institutions, developing white mass of the brain suffered severe setbacks since institutionalization. If, after a period in an institution, a child has been taken and brought up in a family where (s)he received love, affection, belonging, that child’s brain began to regenerate missing connections and to restore lost functions.
It is so obvious evidence that God placed deep within us the need for love, belonging, family life, the desire to love and be loved, that we do not develop physically when this need is not fulfilled!