Economic hardship and a culture that was damaged by years of oppression under the communist dictator, Ceausescu, created a perfect storm for children. In the late 1960’s, the Romanian population was at an all-time low. This alarmed Ceausescu because he wanted more workers, and therefore decided the population needed to increase dramatically. He decreed that women must bear at least five babies, and assured families that if they could not take care of them, the Romanian government would. This led to a surge in births, and children being abandoned by the tens of thousands over the course of Ceausescu’s regime.
In 1989, when Ceausescu’s government was overthrown, the orphan crisis in Romania was exposed to the world. Children were being warehoused in massive and overcrowded orphanages. Over 170,000 children were living in facilities that were originally built to handle a quarter of that many children! Conditions were inhumane – no heat, poor clothing, little food, and little health care. HIV was rampant too due to poor medical practices and care. There was a skeleton staff with little training on how to care for that many children. They could barely meet the children’s physical needs, let alone address the emotional needs of any one child.
Under international pressure, the years following Ceausescu’s rule were dedicated to closing orphanages. Thousands of children were adopted right away, some children were taken back to their biological families and others were placed in family-like homes.
Today, conditions for children have improved, although there is still progress to be made. Since 2005, the Romanian government has been working to move its child welfare system to mirror western practice standards, policy, and legislation, with children’s rights the primary focus of this reform effort. The government is also recognizing the value of partnering with nongovernmental agencies to be a part of the solution. Global Hope is one of those organizations that is part of the long-term solution in raising a generation of kids, not in an institution, but in a home where there is stability, security and unconditional love.
Global Hope has two ministry locations in Romania:
Arad and Sibiu
Arad has a population of about 163,000 people and is located in western Romania, near the Hungarian border. Global Hope partners with a Romanian non-profit called Fundatia Caminul Sperantei (House of Hope Foundation) to provide homes and care to abandoned children.
In October of 2001, Global Hope established a new children’s home called Ana’s House. It was staffed with two house parents, Roni and Rodi Stephan, a husband and wife team who continue to be house parents at Ana’s House to this day…
In October of 2001, Global Hope established a new children’s home called Ana’s House. It was staffed with two house parents, Roni and Rodi Stephan, a husband and wife team who continue to be house parents at Ana’s House to this day. Five children were welcomed to this new home in 2001: Rodica, Sanda, Simona, Radu, and Oana. Within six months, three more children came—Robi, Teodora, and Mircea—giving Tata Roni and Mama Rodi eight children to care for, along with their two biological children!
Several of the first children who grew up in Ana’s House have since gone off on their own. Global Hope has had the honor to celebrate many high school graduations and five weddings (with more to come)! Currently, seven children live at Ana’s House with Tata Roni and Mama Rodi.
Roni & Rodi Stephan’s Background: With a desire to understand working with children better, Roni and Rodi furthered their educations. Roni became a certified social worker with numerous specializations in management and child abandonment. Rodi is now a qualified elementary school teacher with a specialization in special education. Roni also serves in multiple other ways related to orphans and vulnerable children. He is a member of the Commission for Child Protection in Arad. He is President of Federatiei Plus that oversees Evangelical NGO’s that work with orphans. He is a founding member of the Romania Without Orphans Alliance (www.aliantaromaniafaraorfani.ro). And, in 2007, he founded the Paul Association, an NGO to help develop independent life skills for teenagers that live in orphanages by promoting gardening projects, beekeeping, and handmade crafts.
Gabi Stanca began working for Global Hope when it opened its first children’s home, House of Hope, in 1999. Then in 2005, Gabi, with her husband Dorel, became house parents for another Global Hope children’s home called Steven’s House. After three and a half years caring for five children, the home closed and children were transitioned to foster families. After much prayer, Gabi and Dorel, along with their two children, asked to be a foster family for three children: Ionuti, Flavius, and Haynal (Hoiny).
Iulia (pronounced YU-lee-uh) Dobrea began working for Global Hope in 2006 at the House of Hope. There lived two sisters, Alexandra and Cristina, six and five years old respectively. Iulia says these two girls were dear to her the moment she met them! Three years later, when the House of Hope had to close and children were being transitioned to foster families, Iulia was asked if her family wanted to be a foster family. Iulia and her husband, Feri (who had come to know the girls over the years by visiting with them when he would pick up his wife from her work), prayed about the decision. It didn’t take long before they were convinced that they needed to raise these two girls along with their two biological children. The family of four became an instant family of six!
Ana Paraschiv began working for Global Hope in 2002 at the House of Hope to care for one new baby, Vasi, and was his primary caregiver until 2006. She herself grew up in an orphanage and had the heart to care for children with the same background so she loved doing this. After 2006, Vasi was moved to a foster family, and Ana went on to a new job. Then, in 2014, she and Vasi were reunited! Vasi was 13 years old and his foster family was not able to continue caring for him. When Ana heard that Global Hope was searching for a new family for Vasi, she immediately stepped up and asked if she could care for him. With much excitement, Vasi moved into her home in 2014.
Lynett and her younger brother Eduard were abandoned by their father when they were very little. He left unexpectedly to work in a foreign country, promising to send money, but never did, and never contacted the family again. During this difficult time, their mother became mentally ill, and so the children were placed in the care of their grandmother, Marie Netada. Marie loves her grandchildren deeply, but she is very poor, struggling daily to make ends meet. It got so bad in 2012 that Marie approached Global Hope asking if one of the homes could take her grandchildren and care for them. Instead of aiding another abandonment to these children, Global Hope provides financial relief so that Marie can care for her grandchildren, and the family can stay together!
Gabi and Luminita Chircan stated working with Global Hope in 2006. They worked at the House of Hope where they met and cared for a young girl named Ioana (pronounced ya-WANNA). Ioana was born with a spinal injury and abandoned at birth. In 2009, the Chircan’s became Ioana’s foster family and helped her learn how to get around and be self-sufficient. Ioana graduated high school in 2014, has gained independence as a disabled person, holds a promising job as a secretary, and got married in 2016!
The Chircan family has begun the process to be a foster family again with Global Hope. Two children with disabilities have been identified and steps are being taken to move them from a government-operated home for children to the Chircan’s home. More to come on these children!
Sibiu has a population of about 426,000 people and is located in central Romania, in the Transylvania region. In 2017 Global Hope partnered, Global Hope partnered with a pastor of the United Methodist Church Romanian in Sibu to provide after-school care to vulnerable children through a program called. Super Kids Day Center. It is recorded that there are 67,000 children orphaned in Romania. In most cases, the children have become orphaned because their parents have abandoned them.
A majority of abandoned children in Romania come from Gypsy families, with some calculations as high as 80%. People offer different reasons for this, but the most prevalent is that in the Roma culture girls marry at a young age, begin having children very early and typically have, on average, eight children.
Because of the poverty of most Gypsy families, they are incapable of providing care to so many children and so child abandonment becomes a solution. Day Centers in Romania, including the Super Kids Day Center, are a fairly new concept but have shown to be an effective way to support vulnerable children and help prevent child abandonment. They provide a place where children can feel safe and spend time to get whatever support they need. They also are sources of meals, clothing, and educational help. The Super Kids Educational Day Center is situated in a very poor area of Sibiu, with a high population of Gypsy families, who are struggling to make ends meet. It is common for at least one parent to work outside of the country where they can earn better wages; however, it is not uncommon for both parents to work outside the country, leaving their children with a relative, a neighbor, or even worse, on their own.
The Super Kids Day Center is a place where vulnerable children in the community can not only come to feel safe, and have their physical and educational needs met, but also to hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ and understand their worth in the eyes of God—that they are “super kids” wonderfully made in God’s image! The Day Center opened its doors for the first time November 2017, allowing children to come after school and into the evening. Super Kids serve about twelve children, between the ages of 9 to 11, at a time. Services provided at Super Kids include Bible studies, educational support for school, various workshops to engage the children in art and music, and counseling, and a meal each day. Additionally, the staff will work to connect with each family in order to provide support.