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UNICEF: Romania made “impressive and important” progress for the benefit of children

Our country celebrates 25 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UNICEF representative in Romania, Sandie Blanchet, stressed on Wednesday, at a debate on child rights’ protection, that Romania is one of the first countries in the world to have ratified, in 1990, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the same time, she acknowledged that Romania, as many other countries, has made “impressive and important” progress for the past 25 years for the benefit of children.

Sandie Blanchet believes that child rights become reality not through statements, but through a sustained political commitment.

“The recognition of a right does not necessarily mean it is respected. In Romania, the progress indicated by national statistical data often hides the plight of too many children. There are abandoned children who live in a poor community, in rural areas, because they are Roma, because they have disabilities. Nearly 400,000 children do not attend school regularly, over 32,000 children live in poverty, with less than two Euros per day (…), more than 60,000 children are separated from their families. Child rights become reality not through statements, but through sustained political commitment. The power and dignity of a country are not ensured by good intentions, but by strategic investments,” said Sandie Blanchet at a debate organized at the Parliament Palace by the Chamber of Deputies, the National Authority for Child Protection and Adoption (ANPDCA) and UNICEF on the occasion of celebrating the 25th anniversary since the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Romanian children situation, for the better, yet 49 pc still at risk of poverty

The Chairman of the Committee on Labor and Social Protection with the Chamber of Deputies, Florin Iordache, has shown statistics on the progress made in child protection area in Romania. He told the participants that in 1990 there were recorded 16,000 deaths per year in case of children under 5 years old, in 2012 this figure having dropped to 3,000, that in 1990 there were 100,000 institutionalized children, compared to 24,000 in 2012 and that enrollment in preschool education increased from 54 per cent in 1990 to 77 per cent in 2010 and, after his appraisal, to 81 per cent today.

Progress has also been presented by ANPDCA President, Gabriela Coman, who stated: “In 1990-1992 we saw horrific images from orphanages, which we discovered for the first time, just like the others did. We had no idea, not even us, what was happening behind closed doors. In 1997, the first ordinance on protecting children in need was enacted. In 1998, we had the first professional maternal workers.”

She expressed the wish that Romania won’t have classical institutionalization for orphan children anymore by 2020. She also mentioned a strategy for the period of 2014-2020 regarding orphan children, highlighting that the document has been elaborated with experienced professionals from private and public sectors. “We hope the document will pass the Government and will be approved.”

“The strategy aims to prevent and combat any kind of violence against children; to develop quality services for all children and support the accessibility to these services; to develop community services for vulnerable families so that their children should not to be taken away from them and placed in institutions. The strategy also foresees a high level of attention from the authorities so that the children’s point of view to be respected in everything that concerns them.”

Regarding the precarious financial situation of some families in Romania, Gabriela Coman specified that the aforementioned strategy also proposes that by 2020 a total of 580,000 people to be out of poverty. She was complemented by Sandie Blanchet who added: “In Romania, according to European statistics, 49 per cent of children are at risk of poverty.”

When asked what the minimum package of services would be granted to social workers, Coman said: “It’s a difficult situation. Most of them have a high load of cases. It is stipulated a 5 per cent increase of their wages, and starting February another 5 per cent increase for the staff with incomes lower than RON 1,000.”

According to ANPDCA President, there currently are 3,500 adoptable children and 1,600 families approved for being foster parents. These parents often opt to adopt children in their first years of life.

UNICEF launches new project challenge

At the beginning of the debate, Sandie Blanchet reiterated and appreciated the adoption by the Parliament, in response to her call made last year, of a legislative initiative that forbids the institutionalization of children under three years old. The legislative initiative had PSD MP Gabriela Podasca as initiator, who has also been the hostess of the debate.

“UNICEF wants to launch a new call for action. We fully support the adoption of a minimum package of services on the basis of which children can be protected against unnecessary separation from their families, can go to school, can have access to primary and preventive medicine. Implementing such package requires the involvement of at least one social worker, of a community nurse, a school counselor and, in the most disadvantaged communities, of a school mediator and a health one,” said Sandie Blanchet.

ANPDCA President Gabriela Coman underlined the necessity for children to be taken care by their own parents in their families and, where appropriate, the need to facilitate the family’s access to integrated community services.

“The progress registered in child rights’ protection is the result of a team effort from state authorities, professionals and NGOs. (…) We want to have healthy, educated children raised by their own parents in their families. Some parents need help. This is why we advocate the need to support their access to integrated community services. The social worker, the nurse, the community and school mediators are professionals whom we can rely on,” said Coman.

The representative of World Health Organization in Romania, Dr. Victor Olsavszky, added that when the reform regarding the institutionalization of children began, specific arguments were required. Through scientific studies, WHO has established that at psychosomatic level, a child has the best development in a family environment, where affection is also provided.

About Andreea Andreescu