Romania has a huge number of ‘abandoned’ youth: young people who spent their entire childhoods in state orphanages and now face the difficult transition towards living independently, without parental or social support. The head of UNICEF in Romania has called this a lost generation.
Following the collapse of communism in 1989 more than 300,000 children were living in state orphanages, although many were not actually orphans. Contraception and abortion were banned under the regime, and women were encouraged to have more children in a drive to increase the population. Many families did not have the resources to bring up their own children and so handed them over to state-care, believing they would be given a better chance at life.
The forced closure of orphanages from 2000 onwards means that independence has come suddenly to many young Romanians, who struggle to integrate into normal society. They have little to no experience of family or attachment. Institutionalisation is a huge issue. Yet slowly these young people are building resilience as they face new freedoms and challenges, and begin to shape their own futures.
With thanks to the Romanian Challenge Appeal/O Noua Viata Foundation, Save the Children Romania, Concordia Social Centre Lazarus, Bucharest and Deo and Geo Lungu.