A 90% reduction in the number of children in orphanages
28 October 2019
Managing partner Andrew Ballheimer and the A&O team report back in the second video from Romania
In July, Andrew Ballheimer, Kate Cavelle (head of pro bono and community investment, London), Hippolyte Marquetty (partner, Paris), Kyle Nevin (partner, Dubai) and Costin Taracila (partner, associated firm, RPTR, Bucharest) visited global charity partner Hope and Homes for Children’s work in Romania, where the charity has been working for over 21 years.
Romania has made huge strides in reforming its child protection system since 1998, when there were over 100,000 children living in institutions across the country. Today, there are 6,500 children living in 163 institutions; a fall of over 90%. Hope and Homes for Children’s mission is to close down all orphanages in Romania by 2026, part of its wider goal to end institutionalisation of children across the world.
Ending institutionalisation in Romania
In Romania 39% of children live in poverty, which is sometimes a driver for parents placing their children in orphanages. Whilst children do receive food and basic care in institutions, they are deprived of attention and affection.
The A&O team visited one of the institutions that Hope and Homes for Children has targeted for closure. “The orphanage really felt like a holding pen,” said Kyle. “It goes to show that you can put in a flat screen television, paint the walls and offer simple necessities, but without individual tailored support from a family, children don't have the opportunity to develop and enjoy their childhood.”
So far, Hope and Homes for Children has helped close down 57 orphanages in Romania. “I’ve lived through the change in attitude to orphanages in Romania,” says Costin. “People are now so much more supportive of alternative ways of caring for children in a family-like environment. I’m really grateful to all of the organisations that have driven forward this shift.”
Hope and Homes for Children has developed initiatives that prevent children from being separated from their families, which work hand-in-hand with the charity’s work to close down orphanages. Whenever Hope and Homes for Children initiates an orphanage closure, it is important to ensure that no more children are placed in it from then on in. More than 10,054 children in Romania have been prevented from being separated from their families as a result of Hope and Homes for Children’s work since 2006.
“It was shocking to see such extreme poverty in Europe,” says Hippolyte. “For a relatively low sum, Hope and Homes is helping to turn communities around by piloting alternatives to institutional care. The charity has put a lot of work into proving new models of family care are cost effective so that they can turn to other funders and persuade them to invest too. It’s a great way of working.”
A&O's goal is to raise GBP1 million for Hope and Homes for Children by the end of the partnership in September next year. Half of the money will be spent in India and Nepal, where the charity is setting up new programmes that will change the lives of 4,400 children confined to or at risk of being placed into orphanages.
The rest of the money will be given to the charity as “unrestricted funding” for its wider work to end institutional care across the globe, including in Romania.
“The work we are supporting in Nepal and India is very new,” explains Kate, “so while the team is already making fantastic progress there, it’s in a very different stage of development to the work in Romania.”
“That’s one of the reasons unrestricted funding is so important at this point,” continues Kate. “The 6,500 children left in institutions in Romania are some of the hardest to reach, so flexible funding is key to ensuring the charity can respond in the most effective way possible in each situation.”
“For me, the fact that Hope and Homes for Children can leverage unrestricted funding to unlock donations from others was really important,” says Andrew. “That way, every unrestricted donation we make goes so much further to end institutionalisation. There’s a real opportunity with this partnership, not only to fund two brand new projects in India and Nepal and kick start a move away from orphanages there, but also to drive change in this space across the world through pro bono and unrestricted funding.”
“Having seen Hope and Homes for Children’s work in several countries now”, says Kate, “I do believe that charity will achieve its goal of closing all orphanages. Whilst the last push in Romania will be the hardest, there’s a real sense of optimism among the charity’s team. Each member of staff has an eye on the big picture – the ultimate goal of ensuring all children grow up in families – but is equally dedicated to individual children and their specific needs.”