24 April 2020

On the frontline of Coronavirus for children and families: Romania

Stefan, Romania

When Stefan’s mother could no longer care for him and his brothers and sisters, our team in Romania helped support his grandma to care for them instead. Now our social workers are doing all they can to ensure Stefan and other vulnerable children stay safe in families through the pandemic.

Around the world, Hope and Homes for Children’s skilled and experienced frontline staff are working harder than ever to keep all children safe where they belong: in loving families. Camelia Arba is a social worker with our team in Romania. Here she describes how the pandemic has affected their work and the families they continue to support.

We are functioning now in a crisis period and we face a whole new range of challenges. We are forced to think out of the box and find creative solutions that are efficient and effective in a context of general panic and confusion.

It is difficult now to find people who are willing to get involved in helping to manage crisis situations affecting families and young care leavers. Social workers cannot visit vulnerable communities so families and children cannot ask for and receive the support they need most from us.

 

“We receive… desperate calls from families… whose problems have reappeared and, unfortunately, are more serious now.”

 

Referrals and interventions, mostly involving counselling to ensure the proper management of crisis situations, are now mostly done over the phone.

We receive, together with our colleagues in the state authorities, desperate calls from families who are included in our programmes whose problems have reappeared and, unfortunately, are more serious now. We are talking here about single parents who have now lost their jobs and can’t cover the rent or the basic needs of their children. We are also hearing from young care leavers who have lost their jobs too and families in rural areas who have seasonal jobs but can’t find work anymore to provide food for their children.

 

“There are already symptoms of panic, aggression, alcohol consumption and a rise in criminal behaviour.”

 

Many employers have closed their businesses and made people redundant. The welfare allowances in these circumstances barely cover cost of rent and cannot cover the other needs of families. The little money they had saved, if any, is already spent. And we expect together with our colleagues to hear more and more desperate calls for help from them.

So far, we have managed to provide families and youngsters with money for the rent and we also cover their emergency needs. We are trying to find solutions to cover their needs in terms of hygiene products and food, keeping in mind that it is difficult to reach these remote communities now with the current restrictions in place.

 

“We are trying to talk to them on the phone and help them to calm down and manage their feelings… in the best way possible”

 

The restrictions on these families and youngsters are also leading to emotional issues. There are already symptoms of panic, aggression, alcohol consumption and a rise in criminal behaviour.

Counselling is not always effective in this context, when people cannot cover their basic needs. It is difficult to provide constant counselling and emotional support under these conditions. We are trying to contact our beneficiaries and keep in touch, especially in terms of the most vulnerable families. We are trying to talk to them on the phone and help them to calm down and manage their feelings and sense of panic in the best way possible. However, we are as vulnerable as they are and in danger of receiving this sense of panic from our beneficiaries or colleagues around the country.

We are all waiting to get through this situation and back to normality. I keep hearing and using the expression “a little longer and things will be alright”. It has become like a mantra and it is replacing the usual words and greetings that people use when they meet.