Rodica Marinoiu

Family Strengthening Programme Coordinator SOS Children's Villages in Romania

Don’t let the story end

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My story starts back in 2001, when in my country, in Romania, many children were living on the streets in Bucharest. Many children were abandoned in hospitals and many abused in their own families in a time when people used to say “beating is from heaven”.

That is when I started to build up a profession, and more than that a mission: to find a way to support as many children as possible. So I used to work in a public social service in the emergency interventions department.

As a social worker I was dealing with children in the streets, taking them from there by force with the police services to a placement centre; then we were supposed to find their families and their homes in order to send them back, most often in other cities in my country. Often we received reccomendation for establishing  legal protection measures, because their families were too poor or not interested in their children’s life. Often these children did not know who they were, or they used to lie about it, so they had no names, only nicknames, thus they remained in these placement centres for years, were I was working.

Our interventions consisted in identifying their roots, their families, their identities, referring their cases to their local authorities, or to court in order to establish an identity for them.

The results of these interventions were not satisfactory. Even if we sent them back home, or in placement centres from their own communities, these children used to reappear in Bucharest begging on the streets, in trams, prostituting themselves, living underground.

One day I met two siblings, a boy and a girl, from a rural community in Bacau county. They were taken from the streets by police. It was the third time to receive them again in the placement centre  where I was working. Then I talked with them and I asked them, “Why do you not want to live with your parents and why do you run to Bucharest all the time?” They answered, “We don’t feel like we belong there anymore because since we were little children we were taken away from home and  transferred from one placement centre to another.” Now when they are going home, their parents ask them to participate in the daily work in their household, to take care of animals, things that they are not used to do anymore and they do not like anymore.

That is when I understood that taking children from their families is not a good thing to do, because it is taking away the chance of the child to integrate in his/her community. After all nobody would support these children in adulthood: never fitting in, not in their communities, nor in the big city, seen as beggars or “the children from the placement centres”.

It happened at that time that I had to move in my own town Bacau. There I met one of my colleagues from university. She ran a strengthening programme from SOS Children’s Villages Romania for families with children in a rural village. I was very interested in what she was telling me and I became interested to join this project. I quit the position I had and joined my colleague Lavinia Hagiu.

I felt a moment of “flow” when she presented me the project, the values and the principles of SOS Children’s Villages because I felt that this is a new beginning for me. It was the first time when I could work with families of children in their own communities and I had the opportunity to find out why children are leaving from their families and what needs to be done to improve their lives.

It was so encouraging to me to have simple tools, like the frame of the family strengthening programme project, that I was to develop with her support. A simple thing happened and I knew: “This is the job I want to do!” These are the values I believe in and the vision I can follow: the child in the middle, around him/her the family and around them the community. This was the place for me where I had the opportunity to participate in developing social services according to children’s needs, to not let the story of the children in my country end anymore!
Starting from this principle our strengthening  family team from Hemeius and the colleagues from the national office built up a strong network for the children from our six rural communities. They now have a counselling centre for children and parents, a place where they can get support, a good advice or good opportunities to overcome crisis situations, to get a job or to develop profitable activities.

All these children now have known stories, so their difficulties can no longer be hidden. Our team works for the best solutions possible together with our local partners. Children now have a place here where their rights are always held to the attention of local authorities: preventing child labour, school dropout, domestic violence and child neglect. Education programmes addressed to parents and teachers, camps or trips for children, a daycare centre, building strong local networks with teachers, doctors, policemen, developing best practice models  are answers we developed as a response to the biggest challenge for humankind: to protect childhood!
It is great to love your own work, to feel that things you are doing are part of a bigger movement all the time, that the people that surround you have the same purposes and hold the same principles!

Rodica Marinoiu 

works as Family Strengthening Programme Coordinator  SOS Children's Villages in Romania.

I started my social work career in Bucharest in the most ill-famed district. After six years of struggle in a child protection superfluous system, I had the opportunity to join SOS Children’s Villages Romania back in 2008 where I started as a social worker in the family strengthening programme and became coordinator after a short time. With the support of my team and colleagues from the national office we further developed this project (see above) to a counselling centre. Currently we support 300 children & their families. Within SOS CV I had the big opportunity to develop myself e.g. by experiencing different approaches by co-developing a

  • Communitary system approach  (Community Based Services – UNICEF Romania project)
  • Entrepreneurial approach (microgrants for families)
  • Humanistic approach (parental education programme – Intern. Child Dev. Programme)
In my family we are two brothers and two sisters. My parents used to say that for our education, they would walk “without shoes”. Now, being single mother I am happy to see how my beloved daughter grows up. I learn a lot from her about what the child’s right “to participate” or the benefits of really “listening” means. I am a happy mother. I admire my father, because his life story is about poverty that communism brought to farmers. His big family remained with nothing after their land was abusively taken. He and his parents had to work hard to be an educated person. He used to tell us that in winter he walked to school only with socks. School was far so he used to stop and eat an uncooked egg to resist the cold. I admire my mother who, after remaining without work in Romania, found the power to go abroad and work hard for me and my brothers. Thanks to her courage and determination I have the job I feel I am made for. I am grateful to her.

In my leisure time I like to take long walks, jogging, playing badminton with my daughter. I like to read, travel, discover new places, enjoy the peace of special places like the Danube Delta. After a long day of work I like to watch political analysis programmes on TV.

I am proud to be the winner of the award for best social worker of 2013 year for communitarian social assistance of National College of Social Workers in Romania.