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In Moldova, children from residential institutions return to their families


In Moldova, children from residential institutions return to their families

UNICEF / Pirozzi / 2007
© UNICEF / Pirozzi / 2007
This picture was taken in Cazanesti village, Telenesti Rayon, 80 km North from the capital Chisinau. Alina Cazacu(to the left), 11 years and her younger sister Lida, 6 years. Alina was placed in Cazanesti boarding school by her parents who went abroad.

By Ina Prisacaru

UNICEF and the European Union support the Government in implementing the Residential Child Care System Reform

Chisinau, Moldova - 10 December 2007. More and more children in the Republic of Moldova leave residential care institutions and return to their families as a result of the Residential Child Care System Reform launched twelve months ago. The reform aims at reducing the number of children living outside the family environment. UNICEF and the European Union support the Government in reform activities within the joint project “Development of Integrated Social Services for Vulnerable Families and Children at Risk”.

According to the data for 2006, the year of Reform launching, 11,500 children were living in the 67 boarding schools and children’s homes of Moldova. 10,000 of them had one or both parents alive. The Republic of Moldova is in the top of countries with the highest rate of child institutionalization.

The majority of boarding schools and children’s homes were built and commissioned within the Soviet period. Since then, the residential institution has become the most demanded protection service for children from vulnerable families and children deprived of parental care. Even parents have come to believe that the boarding school is a safe and risk-free environment for the child, especially since they do not have to pay for clothing, food or textbook rent.

Numerous studies show that children who live in residential institutions have less confidence in themselves and low expectations of the future. As they are less prepared for the social life, it is harder for the leavers of residential institutions to find a job. They are potential victims of trafficking in human beings and can enter in conflict with the law.

In order to offer children a chance to grow in a family environment and to develop at full, the Government of the Republic of Moldova supported by UNICEF and the European Union launched the Residential Child Care System Reform. The reform aims at reducing the number of children in boarding schools and children’s homes by half within the following five years. The authorities plan to obtain these results by:

  • Developing family support services
  • Reintegrating children from residential institutions in their families, if possible
  • Preventing child placement in residential institutions
  • Creating alternative family-type services.

Children return and remain in the family

“The first year of the Reform brought encouraging results. Within only one year, 2006-2007, the total number of children living in residential institutions decreased by 22 per cent. Also, the number of children placed in boarding schools within the academic year 2006-2007 decreased by half compared to the previous year”, said the Vice-minister of Education and Youth, Valentin Crudu, at the national conference “A Family for Every Child. Residential Child Care System Reform - Present and Future” organized on November 29 of this year and dedicated to the first year of reform implementation and the end of the UNICEF-EU Project implemented in Moldova within 2006-2007.

UNICEF Moldova / Leahu / 2007
© UNICEF Moldova / Leahu / 2007
December 2007: The banner of the final Conference on Residential Child Care System Reform

It has been possible to achieve these results due a detailed examination of each child institutionalization case and individual intervention in the best interest of the child. An important role in reform implementation has been played by social assistants employed this year in each locality in Moldova. Social assistants discussed with children, went to families, provided necessary support. As a result, thousands of children returned to their families and some other thousands were helped to remain in the family.

New alternative services

“The Reform is impossible without development of alternative family-type services such as family-type children’s homes and foster care. These services offer the child the possibility to grow in a family, which is the best environment for harmonious development”, says Galina Balmos, Minister of Social Protection, Family and Child. Within the first year of reform implementation, the number of family-type children’s homes has doubled. All in all, there are 50 family-type residential institutions in Moldova, while at the end of 2006 there were only 23.

Transformation or closing of boarding schools

“Deprived of a family environment, children receive less stimulation, individual attention and love in residential institutions. They often live in a parallel world that does not prepare them for life. Therefore, it is important for institutionalization to be considered the last solution for children”, believes Ray Virgilio Torres, UNICEF Representative in Moldova.

Residential Care System Reform provides for closing of certain institutions and transformation of the remaining ones. In the future, only children who cannot stay with their family or who cannot be taken care of by guardians will be placed in family-type children’s homes or in foster care. This is stipulated in the Framework Plan on Transformation of Residential Institutions developed by the Government with the support of UNICEF and the European Union.

On the basis of this document, in November, the Government adopted a decision to close the first residential institution: special school of Alexandru Ioan Cuza village, Cahul raion, for children with minor mental disorders. Also, transformation of the first boarding school in Carpineni village, Hancesti raion, has started this year. “One of the buildings of the boarding school will become a day care center, so at least 40 children will be able to return to their families in the evening. Previously, they used to stay at the boarding school, as their village stretches for tens of kilometers. Now their life will change. A bus will take tens of children to the Day Care Center and back home in the evening every day”, says the director of the boarding school, Tudor Tenu.

The residential child care system reform has just started and represents a long process aimed at finding the best solution for each child.

UNICEF Moldova

2007 Dec 10