Blog post by Penny S., Team Moldova 2011
In America most parents who struggle to provide for the needs of their children will, as a last resort and often only by court order, give up their children into the foster care system. In Moldova parents readily send their children to live in children’s institutions, i.e., orphanages, when they cannot care for them. The foster care system in Moldova consists mainly of orphanages, not individual homes like in the United States, due mainly to the fact that the people of Moldova are too poor to care for their own children, much less someone else’s child. Moldovan parents also have a belief that it is the state’s responsibility to feed, clothe and educate their children. The percentage of children in orphanages who are actually not orphans (children without parents or family guardians) is 50%. The ages range from infants to 19. State orphanages actually turn their children out at age 16 while the local orphanages sometimes allow them to stay past age 16.
In 2007 there were almost 12,000 children living in orphanages. At that time, the Republic of Moldova approved the National Strategy and Action Plan for the reform of the residential care system for 2007-2012 to reduce the number of children living in orphanages by 50% or to 6,000 by 2012. This was to be done by closing orphanages and reintegrating children back into their homes. In 2010 the 12,000 had been reduced to 8,000 children living in 58 institutions. Two-thirds of those homes are state financed and the others are locally or privately financed. Most of the orphanages are auxiliary boarding schools intended for children with special educational needs. So most of the children that need reintegration back into homes are children with special needs and that is a difficult, slow and inconsistent process.
Most orphanages are located in rural areas, away from cities in Moldova. Reports indicate that of the 58 orphanages, two-thirds do not have hot water. 80% of the children have no personal hygiene items, only 4% have extra clothing and none have shoes. A staggering 73% have some form of chronic disease or illness. This is a direct correlation to the living conditions of no heat and no hot water. Many of the orphans remain in the same room for 17 hours or more per day. The state financed orphanages are in poor condition and overcrowded. The local financed orphanages tend to be in better condition with higher quality of care. Moldovan government reports state that orphanages receive a one time payment of 3,000 leu – equivilant to $1,030 US dollars – upon the child’s entrance into the orphanage to cover clothing and supplies. (Yet none have shoes or extra clothing which implies the money is kept by those who run the homes.) The orphanage also receives 1,000 leu–$344–once a year per child for expenditures. The 1,000 leu equates to less than $1 per day per orphan. No wonder the care and conditions are so poor! There is no money to care for these children.
In 2010 there were only 14 adoptions from almost 8,000 children. Children available for adoption include boys and girls, ages 1-8 years, sibling groups, and children with special needs – usually very physically handicapped or with serious illness. The Moldova adoption program was reopened after being closed in 2001. Currently there are only two agencies accredited to provide adoption services inMoldova.Moldovaalso has one of the highest adoption fees abroad. And because at least half of the children in the institutions are not legally orphans they are not eligible for adoption.
From my research it is clear to me that the Moldovan government recognizes the needs and has a genuine concern for the well-being and health of the children. Yet the government appears overwhelmed at the task of providing appropriate care for them due to its economic limitations and political turmoil. Fortunately, the local church has a connection with the state orphan system. Let’s pray for this connection to grow stronger and that God would unify their hearts and minds to take care of God’s children in Moldova.
Penny will be serving on the Moldova Journey 117 Team leaving in June 2011.