Under Nicolae Ceaușescu’s rule, many Romanian orphans were neglected by their caretakers and often abused. Though Ceaușescu’s rule ended in 1989, many still suffer from the effects of the old regime and can only survive by stealing, begging or prostituting themselves. However, helping orphans in Romania has become an initiative for many entities.

How AFFEO Is Helping Orphans in Romania

In April 2016, the organization A Family for Every Orphan (AFFEO) started a project to help Romania’s orphans get adopted. One child they helped was a Romanian girl named Maria who suffered from a congenital skin disease. If Maria was not soon adopted, she would be sent to a special orphanage for handicapped children.

Through AFFEO’s help, Maria was soon adopted by a couple named Dan and Dana. The couple has three other children as well and will be able to provide for Maria’s needs through their promising careers. AFFEO presently takes donations for their project to help more Romanian orphans find new homes.

An Optometrist’s Free Services to Romania’s Orphans

Since 2004, Dr. Michael McQuillan (a Camarillo, California optometrist) has traveled nine times to Sibiu, Transylvania to help hundreds of Romania’s orphans. In February 2017, he planned to buy a new vision screener that would allow him to treat more children during his trips. A GoFundMe page was also created to help him raise money for buying the screener and additional equipment before his next visit to Romania.

After visiting the Romanian children, Dr. McQuillan notices the reactions of children who can see correctly for the first time in their lives. “There’s lots of big smiles and hugs,” says Dr. McQuillan. “They thank me, and then they ask why would I leave the comfort of home and see someone like them.” Dr. McQuillan’s answer to that question is that a book he read, The Purpose of Divine Life by Rick Warren, inspired him to provide free optometry services to Romania’s orphans.

Paws2Rescue Makes a Difference in Romanian Orphans’ Lives

Founded in 2013 by Alison Standbridge, the charity Paws2Rescue has continued to help Romania’s abused dogs and neglected orphans. In October 2017, Standbridge recalled how many of Romania’s children arrive at their orphanages behaving like the abused dogs in public shelters. “They’re scared, they shy away, they don’t know how to talk and they cannot be touched,” she said.

Paws2Rescue is helping orphans in Romania every Easter and Christmas. The charity is supported by TV personality Ricky Gervais, who raises awareness of Paws2Rescue through social media and donations. In October 2017, Paws2Rescue also held donations for Christmas gifts to be placed in shoeboxes. The charity planned to send them to Romania and give the gifts to orphaned children in the first week of December.

New and Safer Orphanages in Romania

Romania’s children were often neglected in the country’s socialist-era orphanages. In January 2018, the Robin Hood Centre (RHC) announced plans to build two family-style residences that would provide Romania’s orphans with care, education, emotional support and counseling. Romania also plans to close down its socialist-era orphanages for the sake of giving children safer living conditions.

The organization Hope and Homes for Children (HHC) is helping RHC in its initiative. When HHC began its work in Romania during the 1990s, there were 105,000 orphans confined into the country’s state orphanage system. “We have now brought that down to just over 7,000,” said HHC’s chief executive Mark Waddington in January 2018.

The age of Romania’s neglected orphans is steadily coming to an end through the continuing work of these organizations, charities and individuals. Helping orphans in Romania will be an ongoing effort that could inspire the aid of other entities as well. Work will continue being done to improve the lives of Romania’s orphaned children.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

International AdoptionAngelina Jolie made international adoption trendy, but humanity’s capacity to love is never out of style.

International adoption is not simply a child coming to the United States; it is so much more. The adoption process is an exchange of cultures. The journey to a happy family is a grueling and emotionally painful two to three years. The prospective parents remain at the mercy of the birth parents, a foreign court system and lawyers. This lack of control can be hard to bear.

In order to understand international adoption, the transformation and eventual reformation of orphanages within the United States is imperative to grasp.

In the 19th century, orphanages became important in the United States due to the financial hardships and violence of the era. The Civil War claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and diseases many more, orphaning children throughout the country. Not only were orphans created due to the death of their parents, but also due to the financial inability of parents to support their children. As a result, hundreds of orphanages were established throughout the nation. Orphanages were responsible for providing children with shelter, food, clothing and education.

Eventually, it became common knowledge that children in orphanages were often abused or neglected. As a result, the United States shut down many of the orphanages found guilty of such crimes. The government shifted its focus to the foster care system in order to protect orphans from abuse.

Today, some improved and modern group homes exist for orphans. Despite the many news stories of horrific foster care situations, it is considered to be a better alternative than a group home. Nothing can replace a family.

Although the system in the United States is still lacking, institutions monitor children’s safety and health. Laws are in place to enforce good living conditions in both orphanages and foster care. But how does this system compare to international adoption? Why would someone adopt abroad?

When discussing the idea of international adoption, many critics respond by pointing out the thousands of children in need in the United States, but there is no right or wrong choice of where to adopt from. Each type of adoption is right; it simply depends on the prospective parents.

Another factor to consider is that governments in developing countries do not have the same standards and laws governing orphanages. These children often live in very dangerous situations caused by overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of healthcare. Foster care often does not exist and cultural norms make adoption very rare in foreign states.

Three examples highlight the conditions in some of the worst international orphanages: Nanning Orphanage, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute and others in China in the 1990s, Ungerini Home for the Incurable in Romania and Mazanovsky Orphanage in Russia, 2013.

Orphanages like Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute specialized in the “holocaust” of female infants. Due to China’s one-child policy enacted in 1979, the proportion of female infants abandoned, aborted or murdered by their parents rose drastically. Those daughters who survived wound up in these orphanages, where they often died of neglect.

In Romania, Ungerini Home for the Incurable left children with significant illnesses for dead in “dying rooms”. Orphans suffered from malnutrition, lack of healthcare, abuse, neglect and often torture. One child suffering from polio was tied to a crib, causing him to develop deformities requiring thirteen reparative surgeries. Romania’s abuse was so significant that the Romanian government allowed the United States to investigate.

In Mazanovsky Orphanage, beatings were rampant. Throughout Russia, orphanages have maintained a strong reputation for abuse, overcrowding, malnutrition and neglect. The Russian government recently halted the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

One person can make a huge impact on the world, be it positive or negative. However, in order to become the best version of ourselves, love and nurturing are needed in our formidable years. When the world is chaotic, family is your only constant.

Love crosses all barriers. International adoption is a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak future of children suffering all over the world.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

ANDENI
In September of 1997, Gloria Nieto and her husband, Angel, adopted a baby girl from China. They already had a 4-year-old biological daughter and wanted a second child. Adoption from a developing country seemed like a great option.

Adopting baby Irene was an arduous process—more than they believed it should have been. One big legal issue was that the Spanish government did not understand that the adopted children would have to become Spanish citizens.

When Gloria and Angel came back to their home in Spain, they met with other adoptive parents and decided to start a non-governmental organization that would help future Spanish adoptions from China. The group of adoptive families met in Madrid and made the NGO official. ANDENI translates into English as the National Association for Defense of Children.

There are two avenues for foreign adoption in Spain. One is through the government, the other is with private adoption agencies. ANDENI helps families adopting through the government.

The organization has a central office in Madrid. A small number of administrative people work there for a salary. The remaining workers are volunteers. Each part of Spain has their own leader that serves as a spokesperson and a source of guidance for families. Instead of having to contact the government for help, parents can contact their section leader.

Parents who begin the process of adopting from China join ANDENI by donating every three months or so to the organization. Donations are based on what the family decides it can pay—there is no obligatory donation amount.

The organization provides families with adoption assistance for every step of the journey. They learn what has to be done in Spain before they go to get their child as well as what has to be done in China. The organization helps parents fill out adoption papers, prepares them for their trip to China and provides them with a translator and a safe travel agency.

After parents successfully adopt their child, they become a part of the ANDENI community of adoptive families. The group supports each other and their adoptive children as they grow up. Both of Gloria and Angel’s daughters, Aida and Irene, now work with grown adopted children. Irene counsels teenagers on how being adopted affects their identity.

In its 18 years, ANDENI has helped 4,500 families. Spain is second to the U.S. in the amount of children adopted from China. Proportionally, they are #1. Spain is currently home to 18,000 adopted Chinese children.

In recent years, Chinese adoptions have been slowing worldwide. There are fewer children in orphanages and the Chinese government gives priority to national adoptions. People that began the adoption process in 2006, are just now starting to get their children.

This is great news for orphans in China and suggests a positive outlook for poverty levels there. Yet for ANDENI, it means less families are joining and less volunteers are needed. Volunteer numbers have fallen from 2,100 at its peak to just 1,600. Many families have stopped paying since they have lost their jobs due to the Spanish economy.

To adapt, ANDENI began to focus on orphans and people living in poverty in China. They started collecting money to send to Chinese orphanages to pay for amenities like washing machines, air conditions, food, clothing, etc. One of the poorest providences in China, Yunnan, received enough money from ANDENI to build four schools and hospitals.

In total, ANDENI has raised and sent one million dollars to China. The organization collaborates with the Chinese government to ensure that the funds are doled out appropriately.

As for the future of ANDENI, Gloria’s family sees it collaborating with other NGOs helping orphans and other in need living in third-world countries such as Sierra Leone in Africa.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: ANDENI, ANDENI Valencia
Photo: Flickr