The first national audit of the Romanian child care system - carried out by Hope and Homes and co-funded by ARK - was launched in Bucharest at a conference gathering 170 key government and non government actors within Romanian child care on April 4th.
As the first rigorous and comprehensive analysis of the country's child care needs and facilities, the audit is a critical step in ARK and Hope and Homes' plan to close all remaining institutions for children in Romania by 2020.
The audit showed that 9,000 children - over half of the children in residential state care - still live in extremely poor conditions in old-style institutions.
- 66% of children aged 15- 18 within them do not go to mainstream schools.
- 20% of institutionalised children said they did not have enough clothes.
- 20% of institutionalised children could not name a memory of a happy day.
- In 1 in 4 institutions children have to share toothbrushes and towels.
Romania has made great strides in developing services aimed at preventing children from going into state care. In 2010 alone, 6,908 families were supported, and thier children prevented from being placed in institutions.
Fostering has been developed on a large scale, but the audit showed that children with special needs are still most likely to be placed in an old-style institution where the conditions are especially harmful to them. As a result, in 40% of the institutions with special needs children, children were found to display behaviours such as rocking and self-harming.
Due to the lack of funding to develop alternative care, 37 out of 45 child protection services do not currently have plans in place to close old-style institutions.
The conference was a comprehensive gathering of the key government and non government actors within the field. Every one of Romania's 48 regional child protection departments was represented, as well as Save the Children, FARA and UNICEF.
Baroness Emma Nicholson, High Representative for Romanian Child Rights and Welfare (Member of the House of Lords and the Council of Europe) spoke alongside representatives of UNICEF and Hope and Homes. ARK was represented by International MD Charles Abani.
At the close of the conference the General Director for Child Protection within the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection, Elena Tudor, re-affirmed the Romanian government's commitment to total reform of the Romanian childcare system.
ARK and Hope and Homes' aim is now to ensure that the recommendations of the conference are enshrined in Romania's new Strategy for Child Protection due in early 2014.