The child protection system-current situation, problems, solutions

What is the protection system? Which institutions represent it? Which laws give it its legal character?

The public system of child protection is a governmental mechanism that who has to find solutions for the children who cannot live in their biological families. It has the mission to take care of the children until they can be reintegrated in their families or until they are adopted. The Government, through the institutions that represent it, has the mission to provide help and counseling to both children and parents, so that the superior interest of the children is always valued.

At institutional level, the public system of child protection is represented by Autoritatea Națională pentru Protecția Drepturilor Copilului și Adopție (ANPDCA) – the central authority, in whose subordination are the Direcția Generală de Asistență Socială și Protecția Copilului (DGASPC)  in every county, respectively the six sectors of Bucharest.

Legally speaking, the principal normative documents which regulate the public system of child protection are the law number 272/2004 regarding protection and promotion of children’s rights and the law number 273/2004 regarding the adoption procedure.

How do children get in the protection system?

The situations that lead to children’s integrations in the protection systems are various, every case being unique in it’s own way. But, there are certain situations mentioned in the legislation pointed before, as follows:

  • children with deceased, unknown or befallen from parental rights parents or children whose parents have been judicially declared dead or missing and couldn’t establish guardianship;
  • children who couldn’t live with their parents, for reasons beyond their control;
  • abused or neglected children;
  • children left or found in sanitary units;
  • children who have committed criminal offenses and who don’t respond legally.

In all of these cases, the principle that prevails in authority’s decision to include children in the public system of child protection is the superior interest of the child. Where possible, parents can stay in touch with the children, so that they can benefit from the emotional connections.

What does the protection system look like?

From the ANPDCA reports, at the end of December 2018, in the protection system were 52783 children, from which 17096 were placed in residential services, and the other 35 687 in familial services. The same source shows that the number of employees in the system was 32297 people: 34,79% professional maternal assistants, 38,80% employed in the residential services, 12,24% employed in daycare services and 14,12% administrative staff.

What happens with the children in the protection system?

After the children are being included in the protection system, every child is given a case manager who knows all the details of the case and has to take the best decisions for the children.

There are numerous forms of placement. At a general level, they are divided in familial services or residential services.

Familial services means that children are integrated and hosted in the extended family or they are placed at professional maternal assistants or in a foster family.

The second category of services is the residential type, which is divided in family houses or apartments and in residential centers. The family apartments can host a limited number of children who have the possibility to live like a family, where they have day-by-day domestic tasks like in a normal family. This kind of services help them be prepared for adulthood. The residential centers include a big number of children – it often comes to dozens of children placed in this type of center simultaneous. That means that they cannot enjoy the family life and also, they don’t have the possibility to learn how to live on their own. Moreover, the lack of attention and love they need can affect their health and development, both physically and mentally.

Measures that will improve the current situation

The result we’re targeting in each situation is for children to have a family, be it the biological family, a foster family or an adoptive family.

For each child that is a part of the protection system there are many possible options to have a family. According to the situation, we proposed the following solutions:

Children who have families at risk of abandonment:

  • prevention services – that way the risk of the child to enter or re-enter the center is reduced;

Children who are integrated or where the integration/reintegration in the extended family is possible:

  • prevention services – to reduce the risk of abandonment;
  • support and counseling for the parents/relatives and the child;
  • financial support – so the needs of the child can be covered;
  • visits or limited time spent at home – for the child to get used to the new environment which he/she will be integrated in and to keep in touch and develop relationships with the family;

Adopted children or children who can be adopted:

  • streamlining the adoption procedure so that the duration of the whole process will reduce. In present, the declaration of the adoption takes about two years. In this time, the biological family is counseled and consulted many times, for giving up the rights on the children. The family has the possibility to say no in any moment of this process and, in certain conditions, even after the court decided that the children can be adopted;
  • children under 7 years old in this situation can be institutionalized only in family  services, according to a recently adopted amendment;
  • after the declaration of the adoption the child is included in the adoption list, being visible for the people who want to adopt and who live in a geographically delimited area. This situation lasts 9 months. After that, if the adoption process didn’t start, he/she is included on #HardToPlaceNotHardToLove  list;
  • the minimum period that children have to spend in centers until they enter a family is 2 years and 9 months. In reality, a study conducted by World Bank with UNICEF and The Romanian Government sows that the time a child spend in the protection system is 7 years and a half;

The children who are #HardToPlaceNotHardToLove or with potential of becoming #HardToPlaceNotHardToLove:

  • providing incentives for the families in Romania that adopt children with #HardToPlaceNotHardToLove profile;
  • opening international adoption for #HardToPlaceNotHardToLove children from Romania to increase their chances to have a family;
  • the #HardToPlaceNotHardToLove children are the ones in the following situations:
    • for 9 months from the moment the court decided that the children can be adopted, the adoption process did not start
    • children with certain physical and mental disabilities
    • older children
    • children who have features specific to other ethnicity
    • children who can be adopted only with their sibling.

Children who can’t be integrated in families and for whom adoption isn’t an option (in particular children with older ages – even over 18 years old, who are placed in residential centers):

  • social services who will help them acquire independent living skills;
  • counseling and monitoring;
  • support for studies and finding a job;
  • support in accessing certain governmental programs – like “Prima Casa” or offering other allowances.

The path to accomplishing the main purpose – for the public system of child protection to be just a temporary step through which children pass before reaching a family, is pretty long but with determination, an opened mind, acceptance and dialogue between all the parts involved, I trust that we can complete it.