For those of you old enough to remember, this week was a momentous week for Romania 25 years ago, reports MNN.
For those of you who don’t remember Communist Romania, here’s a quick rundown of what happened during the Christmas Revolution:
In December 1989, protests began in the city of Timisoara. The spark that grew into a flame came from the government-sponsored eviction of a Hungarian pastor. Protestors came out in support of the pastor.
Within days, the protests swelled, and efforts to calm the tension failed. The army was called in to control the crowds, but the military eventually switched sides and joined the protests. Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife fled.
The couple was arrested in Bucharest and brought back for trial, which took place on Christmas Day in 1989. By order of the interim government, the couple was to be executed by a firing squad, and the sentence was carried out the same day.
In the wake of Ceausescu’s execution, the underbelly of a 24-year reign was revealed to the world. Lexi Damacus, the administrative manager for Bethany Christian Services, explains, “People finally learned that there are many, many children that are being cared for by the state, and not properly.” There was footage of orphanages where emaciated children were shown living in dismal, overcrowded, and often filthy conditions. Damacus says, “I think that prompted a lot of international attention in the beginning to help address the issues.”
At the time, Romania’s child mortality rate was the highest in Europe. There were shortages of food, medicines, and fuel. She adds, “At the time the Communist regime fell in Romania, there were no child welfare services in place. There were many, many orphanages filled with children that needed attention.” Bethany Social Services Foundation Romania, established in 1991, is one of the oldest private service providers in Romania.
They are one of the only providers offering special needs foster care, family preservation, parenting support and education, youth services, and volunteer programs. Changing the mindset has been an educational challenge over the last quarter century.
First, “Romanians now understand that the children will grow better in families, and the importance quality care and nurturing have on children in the first years of life.”
Second, “The mentality that the government can care better for children who grow up in very poor families still remains. Many of the children are still abandoned.”
However, things are improving. Romania tried to create a framework so that the country could deal with the large numbers of children languishing in the centers. “They have developed a foster care program where maternal assistants are hired by the government to care for orphans.” With that in place, “They moved ahead and closed a number of orphanages (now called ‘placement centers’), and they have pledged to close all of them by 2020.”
Bethany Christian Services offers:
In-country foster care
Family preservation and support services
Education and training
It’s a stop-gap measure since there are no national programs in place that prevent child abandonment. Plus, while the family-based care (foster care) program works, “resources are still very scarce; not many of the children CAN move to foster families because there are not enough.”
Bethany has worked really hard to address these needs, but, says Damacus, “We are only one organization, and I think something probably needs to be done on a larger scale.”
They’re trying to grow the network. “We try to work with other like-minded organizations and help them strengthen their programs and move them away from institutional care to family-based care.”
Part of the reason for Bethany’s success is the understanding that as Christ’s followers, there’s an underlying adoptive story there, too. “We have always tried to inspire these kids and share the Good News to them so they will know that they are not alone, even though they are facing difficult situations; there is hope.”