Child Poverty in Romania: A Localized Approach
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Emerging from its Revolution at the turn of the 1990s as a nascent democratic state, Romania was faced with a plethora of obstacles standing in its way of complete development in the wake of a Communist regime which was overwhelmingly corrupt and oversaw outdated industrial and manufacturing sectors. Not only tasked with overcoming macro- and micro-economic deficiencies and improving political transparency, Romania inherited abhorrent public institutions for orphaned and abandoned , children from the Communist era alongside the cultural norms concerning child abandonment that populated such institutions. Withstanding these obstacles, the issue of child poverty in Romania attracted worldwide recognition after the BBC reported on the plights of children in state-run orphanages. The number of children in the public system has fallen from its initial 100,000 children in 1990 and to the roughly 7,000 or so children currently in state-run orphanages (Hope and Homes for Children Romania. "Our Mission." hopcandhomesforchildren.ro), an item of priority set by the Romanian government and an outstanding achievement. However, there is still progress to be made towards improving the upbringing of the roughly 60,000 (Save the Children 2016) orphaned and abandoned Romanian children who are in public child care services today. (Note that state-run orphanages are only a vestige of the public child care services, which are increasingly offering other forms of care such as adoption, foster homes, and private care institutions) Why has child poverty not been effectively addressed and combatted in Romania, leading to its current stagnation, despite initial large gains and a copious amounts of EU Strudural funds? I will argue in this essay that while there have been many advancements in public child care services since 1990, especially after it increasingly accessed EU preaccession funds, there are areas in which it can be further improved. While the Romanian national government has used World Bank and EU financial support to reduce child poverty in Romania, the national government nevertheless has distributed those funds inefficiently. This paper will highlight obstacles to reducing child poverty in Romania. I will begin by outlining Romania's political and economic developments since its inception as a semi-presidential republic, highlighting factors that are particularly relevant to child poverty. Then, I will examine the major obstacles hindering Romania's advancement on diminishing child poverty. First, I have found that funds are not reaching localities and municipalities because the funds provided to the national government are either sitting in the coffers of corrupt politicians or watered down through bureaucratic procedures. Secondly, inefficient bureaucratic procedures at-the national level reduce funds that could be better spent at the local level. This contributes to my third point, that many local administrations, the actors that are responsible for overseeing many issues contributing to child poverty such as preventing the child-parent separation, are underdeveloped. As such, local administrations and NGOs lack the resources to access EU and World Bank funds stipulated for such purpose. Furthermore, local governments absorb many of the costs of decentralization while using their limited budgets to insufficiently distribute social services. There is a lack of adequate funds to support social services in many localities, yet the national government has consistently underutilized EU Structural Funds. And lastly, cultural barriers that hinder development of the public child care system and overall social benefits to marginalized groups. I will conclude by proposing that local governments and NGOs in underdeveloped areas work together to reach out to international aid organizations such as the World Bank, EU, and UNICEF to access funds and aid at the local level, and for larger NGOs to aid them in this approach. Likewise, NGOs in Romania should plead with the government to make it more responsive and transparent in child welfare spending.