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Helping Abandoned Children in Romania

Ina O'Dell

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Protection Of The Theotokos Family Center

First Edition of the PTFC Newsletter, December 2005

Greetings in Christ as we prepare for the Feast of His Nativity!

Most of you will already know that there have been changes at the Protection of the Theotokos Family Center (PTFC) in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Craig and Victoria Goodwin have returned to the United States, and OCMC missionary Ancuta Frantz is the new Protection Center director.

As Romania struggles to overcome years under communist rule and to be accepted into the European Union (EU), changes are coming very quickly. In January of 2005 a new law was passed in Romania outlawing residential care of abandoned children. This new law is to make Romania more in conformity with E.U. guidelines for member countries. The idea is to de-institutionalize child care in Romania and to favor foster care, which is more acceptable to western European standards. It is also what we favor in the United States.

So, with this new law now in force and with the urging of the local government the focus of The Protection of the Theotokos Family Center was redirected more toward abandonment prevention for at-risk children and their parent or care giver.

Floyd and Acunta Franz

Floyd and Acunta Franz

In the past our emphasis had been 24 hour/day care of the infants in our charge. Now or focus has shifted to ministry to the babies and their adult parents. The parents bring the children in the morning and pick them up again at night. This means that the Protection Center is now providing full service day care for children up to age two while their parent or guardian works or attends various kinds of training. This care includes giving examinations to the families by a psychologist; medical exams to the children twice a week, weekly group counseling for the mothers, and individual training sessions personalized to the family's need. We are also providing extra food and clothing as needed to sustain the children in their home life.

We hope that the stories below, which are of our children's lives, will give you an idea of what our work is about, and why we need such a program for the kids and their families.

Laurentiu: The first child who came to our newly organized center was Laurentiu, a 6 months old boy who has lived most of his young life with his mother in a government maternal center. Andreea, the mother, was still pregnant she was fled the home of her boyfriends family because of physical and mental abuse. She remained at the maternal center till Laurentiu was 5 month old and then went back to her boyfriend's house. She is even now not welcomed by the family.

Her situation is very difficult since she has no family of her own, and no financial or emotional support. She was referred to our program by the workers from the maternal center who reassured her that we would help her get all the support she so desperately needs. Our staff members were all touched by Laurentiu and his sad little face, and it took about two weeks before we could get a smile from him. Now, he seems very happy in the environment that we offer, surrounded by lots of toys, a full stomach, and loved by the ladies who take care of him. Still, his life is not easy.

One morning, during the daily arrival check-up, our care takers found a cigarette burn on his hand. Nicoleta, our social worker, did an investigation at their house, but, as expected, nobody admitted harming the child.

All we could do was to report the incident to the Child Protection Department; to which they responded that they will intervene very strictly, perhaps taking the child away from his mother. Obviously we do not want such a thing, so we are trying to offer counseling both to the mother and to her boyfriend. Currently, Andreea is working and is trying to adapt to her new life. Laurentiu will keep coming to our center until their life becomes more stable.

Daniela is the child of a single father, John, who has chosen to raise his one year old daughter despite his own dire circumstances. The baby's mother left them 6 months ago and the father and daughter are trying to survive in conditions that are hard to imagine. The father doesn't know how to read or write so nobody wants to hire him. We are trying to get him into "The Second Chance", a program who helps the Roma (gypsy) citizens to become literate. The good part is that the father loves his daughter very much and says that he doesn't intend to abandon her even if there are days when they have nothing to eat. We offer the baby all the care that somebody her age needs: good nourishment, the warmth of a home, clean clothing, a doctor who checks up on her regularly and, not finally, our love. We pray for this father, full of heart, and we will do our best in guiding him to a better life and hopefully to a job.

Daniel is 9 months old. He was abandoned in the hospital after birth by his mother who is a prostitute. She does not know who the father is and does not want to hear anything about the baby. Daniel remained alone in the hospital for his first four months. Finally Daniel's grandparents came to claim him from the hospital. Despite the seemingly slow rescue, their action took great courage and sacrifice on their part, since their own future seems very bleak. The grandparents have an income of less than $120/month. Both of them are alcoholic, one of them is suffering from cancer. After Daniel's birth, they began saving money from their meager income and after four months were able to buy a stroller so they could go to the hospital and collect their grandson. Then they walked all the way to The Protection Center to ask for help in caring for him. We take care of Daniel in the day time, and give him food to take home, clean clothing and lots of love. On the weekends Daniel is sent home with enough food to last all weekend. The grandparents have been very open to learn things, have gotten various kinds of guidance from our staff, and have been encouraged to attend counseling for their alcoholism. We are convinced that God will watch over these dear grandparents and give them the strength to raise this innocent baby and to offer him the family he needs so much.

I wish I could go on and share with you the story of every baby that was or is a beneficiary of our services. Suffice it to say that very early each weekday morning, up to 10 hungry and often dirty babies and toddlers arrive at The Protection of the Theotokos Family Center very much in need of her heavenly and motherly protection. And late every night, poor mothers or fathers or grandmothers return from work or training class to pick up a clean and well-fed baby. Slowly the families are seeing the changes that good nutrition and a clean, happy, loving, and stimulating environment can have on the health of their child. Slowly they are being taught new habits that can help their whole family. They are developing hope for their families and the future by the aid of the Theotokos and her `loving arms' here on earth-our PTFC staff and you.

Editor's Note: Ancuta's stories of the children are both heart rending and filled with hope that these families have found a lifeline and a new direction in their lives. We are happy to report also that PTFC has been praised by the Romanian governmental authorities as being the model for their new "abandonment prevention" campaign.

Please note that your regular support of The Protection of the Theotokos Family Center is especially necessary now because during this transition period the PTFC accounts have seen a great decline. Your financial help for The Protection Center at this time would be a great blessing. Your tax deductible contributions may be made in a variety of ways detailed on the www.OCMC.org website.

For your convenience, you may use a credit card or arrange Electronic Funds transfers, or donate stock or bequest in your Will. Or you may simply mail a check to: OCMC, Box 4319, St. Augustine, Florida 32085-4319 -- with PTFC- RO in the memo.

Thank You for remembering the PTFC babies this Christmas.

Ina O'Dell, editor of the PTFC newsletter. mlodell@comcast.net

Read more about Floyd and Acunta Franz on the OCMC website.

Posted: 23-Dec-05

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Copyright 2001-2019 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. See OrthodoxyToday.org for details.

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