Romania: Supporting Young People Leaving State Care
Problems with integration and independence
Under Ceausescu’s Communist Government, Romanian women were encouraged to give birth to at least five children, so that Romania could build the strongest workforce in Europe. Due to extreme poverty, many families were unable to support this many children. They were persuaded to hand them over to severely under funded state institutions to be cared for by untrained and often abusive staff.
Since its arrival in Romania over 20 years ago, Children on the Edge has pursued a strategy of seeking to reverse the damage caused by the Ceausescu-era orphanages, rehabilitating some 4,000 children back into the society that rejected them.
The situation has now vastly improved within the care system. However, the current challenge is teenagers leaving this system.
Young people leaving state care face problems due to being institutionalised. They lack the skills and access to services necessary to live independent lives. Without anyone to care for them, they are at risk of abuse and exploitation and those with special needs are even more vulnerable.
Some face these difficulties when they leave care having finished their education and the state no longer has responsibility for them. Others are placed with their natural or foster family and the relationship between them breaks down and they find themselves alone. For many, life on the streets is the only option and this increases risk of other abuses such as trafficking.
What we did to help:
Together with its partner organisation, Children on the Edge worked closely with the authorities of the Iasi region of Romania helping to change the pattern of institutionalisation.
We worked to ensure that young people who developed in state care learnt the necessary social and practical living skills to allow them to live independently in society. We also coached them in being able to access the services that will help them as they moved into adulthood.
Many of the young people have gone on to do university degrees and with support have managed to overcome their reticence about revealing the nature of their childhood to their university friends. Despite their diabolical start in life, many of these young people have developed into confident, happy and eloquent individuals with bright hopes for the future.
Fundatia COTE is now fully independent and has a whole array of services for vulnerable teenagers.