Romania commits to ending institutional care for children under three

RomaniaThe Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign welcomes a decision by the Romanian Government this week to prohibit the institutionalisation of children under three, in recognition of the extreme vulnerability of children aged 0-3 to the effects of institutional care.

Romania already had legislation in place prohibiting institutional care for children 0-2 but an amendment to article 64 of Law no. 272/2004 passed by the Chamber of Deputies this week extends this provision to children under three, bringing the legislation in line with the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care.

Almost 700 children aged between 2 and 3 who are currently living in institutional care will now  be able to grow up within a family and many more will benefit in the future as institutional care will no longer be an option for them.

Numerous studies have shown that children under three are particularly vulnerable to the damage caused by institutional care. As eighty per cent of the brain cells a person will ever have are formed in the first three years of life, institutionalisation during these early years is particularly devastating.  The earlier a child is placed in an institution, the more profound the damage will be.

“With this new legislation Romania has set the example for other governments in the region to follow. No child under 3 should ever be placed in an institution. Let’s make such damaging practice history”, Eurochild Secretary General Jana Hainsworth says.

According to the initiator of this law, Gabriela Podasca, the measure is “a long-term investment”, and the Romanian state has the resources necessary to implement it.

Commenting on this revised legislation, Opening Doors Coordinator in Romania, Otto Sestak, Hope and Homes for Children Romania, commented, “HHC Romania commends the efforts made by the professionals within the National Authority for Child Rights Protection and Adoption and those within the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and the Elderly”. “We will continue to support them in their efforts to reform the child protection system and to reach the ambitious target of eradicating institutional care by 2025.”

There are still some exceptions to this law, including Provisions which allow for the placement of children under three who have severe special needs. Continued efforts are needed in order to increase the capacity of the authorities to make decisions that would allow children with special needs to benefit from the same rights and for their protection to be supported by service development within the community, thus making their placement into families or family type environments possible.

HHC Romania will continue to work with its partners from the NACRPA, the central, regional and local authorities and civil society to provide support for implementation of this new legislation. The organisation will also continue to advocate for the extension of the measure to children with special needs, supporting this process with capacity building and the development of services to support these children.