I love my baby so much. I don’t care if Maria was born with Spina Bifida; she is my daughter. I wish I had a choice, but now that my maternity leave is over, I must go back to work. I have sought every way out of this but have come to that most terrifying, sad decision that any mother could make: that there is no other way to survive except to put her in the orphanage. It’s the only option left. - Mariana, mother of three
Almost ten years after European Union accession, the orphanage crisis in Romania is not over yet. While improvement continues overall, statistics show that, by far, the hardest hit populations are children with disabilities and, in fact, their numbers continue to rise. These extremely vulnerable children, ages 0-6 comprise a large part of the entire institutionalized population. Even though all children have the right to be raised in a family, and a plethora of evidence shows that the best possible outcomes occur in families and communities, especially for infants and young children, desperate mothers like Mariana are forced to do the unthinkable last resort: institutionalize their child.
The European Union and the Government of Romania acknowledge this violation of basic human rights and actively encourage the creation of services - like day care centers - to support families. However, most of these created centers are for children who are developing typically and belong to families who have the ability, education, and power to advocate for them.
The mission of the Early Intervention Day Center (EIDC) is to prevent abandonment of children with disabilities and help them to develop to be all God intended them to be. EIDC elevates children who are marginalized - those who are already hidden away in orphanages and need family reunification, those with parents who may not be able to advocate for their children with cognitive or physical impairments, and the stark generational legacy of Ceausescu’s horrific historical actions (children of formerly institutionalized children). They are the invisible children, and the tragically common response in most situations is to separate them from the safety nets that could help them reach their God-given potential in a civil society – their families, neighbors, faith centers, schools, and communities. There is a clear and urgent need for this service, emphasized by hurting families, government leaders, and non-profit directors. This project is a response to their calls for help.
In Romania, most often children with special needs do not receive professional help early enough to be able to reach their full potential. The importance of supporting children with disabilities and their families requires early support which is organized socially, educationally, and medically for early diagnosis, early intervention and social support.
-Gabriela Jianu, Sense International Romania, Executive DirectorThe EIDC will proactively reach those children and families with a lifeline of hope and supportive assistance, responding to four profound – currently unmet – needs that will contribute to the prevention of abandonment and institutionalization of infants and children:
This will be the first Day Center focused on children with special needs in Romania, and specifically in Timisoara, the second largest city, which was recently chosen as the Cultural Capitol of the European Union for 2021. This optimal location will draw on a coalition of excited citizens, the tapping of political will within local government, an alliance of organizations that see this as a key missing link to the placement of children in families, and a dedicated, compassionate, and skilled employee of Greater Europe Mission, Dawn Elenbaas, now in her 19th year of protecting and advocating for abandoned children in Romania. These critical human resources will combine with financial and material resources to provide proficient leadership. Dependent on funding, the Early Intervention Day Center is anticipated to open its doors to an initial 20 children selected from social worker recommendations, parent groups, and other referral sources on September 18, 2017. Grants from the EU, along with the support of faith communities, provision of training and seminars, volunteerism, etc. will move EIDC into expected replication and long-range sustainability.
With the confluence of ready and capable human resources, urgent requests for services that can keep families together ending the devaluing and institutionalization of innocent children, and an unprecedented openness to Christian organizations that can respond to critical human needs, a window of exponential opportunity is open. Help us accomplish the dream of creating “a place where children and families can joyfully meet their potential to be all God created them to be” by donating to the Little Treasures Project today!
Financial donations can be made online at the Little Treasures Project Page.
Photos provided with permission or from Unsplash.