Why is there such a problem with orphans in Romania? This question is difficult to explain and hard for Westerners to understand. The following paragraphs are generalities but give a good overall picture of the lives of orphans in Romania; however, every single case is unique and every orphan has a different story. This makes understanding and explaining the problems in Romania challenging.
Poor Family with Five Children
Right now there are nearly 100,000 children in the child protection system in Romania and more children are abandoned each day. Why is this? Until 1989 Romania was a communist country ruled by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. During his rule he imposed harsh economic restrictions on his people causing mass poverty.
Poverty Stricken Romanian Family
This fact, coupled with the poor spiritual condition in Romania, made abandoning one’s children to the state-run orphanage system an easy solution for broken families. Under communism, abortions were outlawed. Ceausescu wanted large families in order to have a large work-force to produce goods for the mother land. Now that communism has fallen, Romania is second per capita worldwide in abortions!
Another aspect of the problem of child abandonment in Romania is the Roma (or Gypsy) community. In the Roma culture girls marry at a young age. Because they begin early and because Roma women are well known for being extremely fertile, some have as many as fifteen pregnancies over their lifespan! Because of the poverty of most Gypsy families, they are incapable of caring for so many children and so child abandonment and abortion are easy solutions. Around eighty percent of abandoned children in Romania are of Roma ethnicity.
Technically, many of the abandoned children in Romania are not orphans; they have parents. But their parents have rejected them and do not want them. This fact may elicit compassion from you and me, but generally it is not so in Romania. Orphans are looked down upon and are not helped like disadvantaged people are helped in America. They grow up in orphanages without role models or mentors. They are psychologically, emotionally, and physically abused. They are taught little about life skills and then, when they finish school (where they have learned very little), most of the time around eighteen years of age, they are forced to leave the orphanages.
At this point the government offers them very little help. Unless someone steps in and helps them, many become outcasts of society. Almost none are capable of making it on their own. Having been taught nothing about money, a work ethic, how to find a job or a place to live, paying bills, manners or even simple hygiene, many cannot fend for themselves and become jobless and homeless on the streets with other orphans. They beg and steal for food, become addicted to drugs and, worst of all, are lured into the underground world of prostitution and human trafficking.
The children who are prostitutes in Romania could almost be considered fortunate in comparison with the many that are made sex slaves and taken to other countries where they are never heard from again! The problem with the international sex-slave trade and human trafficking has been well documented and many exposes and books have detailed the horrible atrocities surrounding modern-day slavery.
Please see our “What Do We Do” link to learn more about how we are working to combat these problems in Romania!