Romanian orphans

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The standard of living for Romanian orphans is still problematic despite vast improvements since their conditions were leaked to the West after the fall of the Communist government in 1989. A news report on the American newsmagazine 20/20, which first aired on October 5, 1990, was the first to show the conditions in full detail on television.[1]


Further information: Decree 770 and Abortion in Romania

Under Nicolae Ceauşescu, both abortion and contraception were forbidden, leading to a rise in birth rates.[2] In October 1966, the Decree 770 was enacted, which banned abortion, except in exceptional cases.[3] This resulted in a sudden increase in the birth rate, especially during the years of 1967, 1968 and 1969.[4] Children born in these years are popularly known as decreței (from the Romanian language word "decret", meaning "decree", diminutive "decrețel"). This increase in the number of births resulted in many children being abandoned, and these children were joined in the orphanages by disabled and mentally ill people. Together, these vulnerable groups were subjected to institutionalised neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and the use of drugs to control behaviour.

Conditions in orphanages[edit]

Orphanages lacked both medicines and washing facilities, and children were subject to sexual and physical abuse.[5]

The conditions in orphanages had declined after 1982, as a result of Ceauşescu's decision to seize much of the country's economic output in order to repay its foreign debt.[5]

As the realities of life in Romanian orphanages emerged after December 1989, the reaction outside Romania was of shock at the plight of the orphans, and numerous charities were established.[6] Numerous fund-raising activities have been conducted by various parties, such as the 1990 album Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal, which was compiled by George and Olivia Harrison for AIDS-infected orphans.[7]

The U.S. Consul in Bucharest at the time, Virginia Carson Young, noted that many of the children were not literally orphans.[1] The mothers and parents of these children had been forced to bear them, but had no means to look after them. They had placed them in an orphanage, often with the intention of being picked up later. There was a high percentage of Roma children in the orphanages, who were often left in an institution until they were 12, 13 or 14, i.e., old enough to help earn a living, and then parents would claim them again.

In 2006, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was criticised for a joke in which he said there were so many orphans "over there you feel they breed them just to put in orphanages." [8]


In September 2005, Emma Nicholson, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, the European Parliament's rapporteur for Romania, stated "Romania has profoundly reformed [from top to bottom] its child protection system and has evolved from one of the worst systems in Europe to one of the best."[9]

In an accession report published prior to November 2005, European Union observers were positive regarding the situation of the child care system in Romania.[10]

Improving the situation of orphans had been made a condition of Romanian entry into the European Union, but an investigation by BBC journalist Chris Rogers in 2009 revealed that conditions in some institutions are still very poor and large numbers of institutionalised and traumatised people are still held in inadequate conditions, with many apparently having entered the system post-Ceauşescu.[11] In early 2011 two British charities Hope and Homes for Children and ARK launched a plan to complete the reform of the Romanian Child Protection Systems and close all large children's homes in Romania by 2020.[12]


Number of children in the care of the state between 1990-2010:

# year Total children in care of the state. Number living in Orphanages
1. 1990 47,405 25,870[13]
2. 1994 52,986[13]
3. 1997 51,468 39,569
4. 1998 55,641 38,597
5. 1999 57,087 33,356
6. 2000 87,753 57,181
7. 2001 87,889 57,060
8. 2002 87,867 49,965 [14]
9. 2003 86,379 43,092 [15]
10. 2004 84,445 37,660 [16]
11. 2005 83,059 32,821 [17]
12. 2006 78,766 28,786
13. 2007 73,793 26,599 [18]
14. 2008 71,047 24,979 [19]
15. 2009 68,858 24,227 [20]
16. 2010 62,000 19,000 [21]



  1. ^ `20/20': Inside Romanian Orphanages
  2. ^ McGeown, Kate (8 July 2005). "What happened to Romania's orphans?". BBC. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
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  5. ^ a b McGeown, Kate (12 July 2005). "Life in Ceausescu's institutions". BBC. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
  6. ^ "The mission continues". The Guardian. 27 December 2006. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
  7. ^ Album Is to Help Children In Romania With AIDS
  8. ^ "Duke under fire for Romanian orphans 'joke'". The Scotsman. 8 July 2006. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
  9. ^ "Bucharest turns to family-type solutions for its abandoned babies". Agence France-Presse. September 22, 2005. Retrieved February 11, 2010. 
  10. ^ Sadée, Tijn (November 2005). "Ceausescu's horror orphanages have disappeared". NRC Handelsblad. Retrieved February 11, 2010. 
  11. ^ What became of Romania's neglected orphans?, Chris Rogers, BBC News, 21 December 2009
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