How Gabriela rescued her grandkids from an orphanage – “I missed them everyday”

Gabriela* was separated from her grandchildren for nine long years. Your donations helped get them out of the orphanage and back to family. 

“The first time I went to the orphanage and left the children, I was crying so hard I almost couldn’t see the way back. I missed them every day.” 

Gabriela, 64, is the grandmother of Mihaela* and Iulian*. For nine years, they were locked away inside the largest orphanage in Romania. All because they had learning disabilities. 

Thanks to your donations, our team helped Gabriela bring Mihaela and Iulian back to family. Read on to find out how.

Will you help children with learning disabilities living in orphanages get back to family? Donate today. 

An elderly woman wearing a turquoise headscarf chops wood, while her young adult grandchildren stand to the side, helping her.
Since retiring, Gabriela’s dedicated her time to taking care of her four grandchildren on their farm.
Andreea Tănase / Hope and Homes for Children

Sent to an orphanage in Romania

Gabriela lives with her husband in rural Iași County, northeast Romania. 

In 2012, she took in her four young grandchildren. Her daughter was struggling with addiction and could no longer support Mihaela, 11, Iulian, 8, or their two younger siblings, Valeria and Mihai. 

They’d been neglected, and were already years behind in school.

Gabriela loved her grandchildren more than anything. But soon after they moved in, she realised Mihaela and Iulian needed specialised support for their learning disabilities. But with no money and no suitable school nearby, Gabriela was worried. 

She reached out to social services, asking for help. But instead of supporting her to keep her grandchildren at home, they recommended Mihaela and Iulian be sent to an orphanage. 

Believing it was their only chance, Gabriela agreed. 

Why are children with disabilities placed in orphanages? 

Around the world, children with disabilities are much more likely to struggle to find inclusive education in their communities. For families living in poverty like Gabriela’s, accessing the right support can be near impossible. 

That puts children with disabilities at a much higher risk of being placed in orphanages.  

How do orphanages harm children with disabilities? 

Even the best orphanages can’t provide the one thing children need more than anything. Love. Shockingly, the majority of children in orphanages experience violence, abuse and neglect. And 80% have family they could be living with.

For children with like Mihaela and Iulian, it’s even tougher. Research has shown that young people with disabilities are at an ever greater risk of abuse. Girls are more likely to experience physical and sexual violence.

No matter what, every child deserves a place in their community. And no child should ever have to choose between education and their family. 

The pain of separation 

For the next nine years, Gabriela visited Mihaela and Iulian in the orphanage whenever she could.  

“I missed them every day,” she remembers tearfully. “I couldn’t see them around the table, eating, learning and playing with their siblings, Valeria and Mihai. But I wanted them to learn how to write and how to count money, so that they can do something when I’m no longer around.” 

Gabriela, a woman in her late sixties, stares at the camera with a proud smile. She's wearing a turquoise headscarf. Snowflakes fall on her shoulder.
Gabriela’s family is just one of thousands we’ve supported since starting work in Romania in 1998.
Andreea Tănase / Hope and Homes for Children

Gabriela tried to bring Mihaela and Iulian home to their siblings, but with only two rooms, social services wouldn’t allow it. Her state allowances barely covered day-to-day living, let alone two more children. They spent everything they had. Her son even started working abroad to send money home, but it still wasn’t enough. 

Then, Gabriela heard the worst news yet. Unless she found some money fast, Valeria and Mihai would be taken away as well. 

How we support families like Gabriela’s 

Since 1998, our team in Romania has been working with the Romanian government to shut down orphanages and bring children back to family. Families like Gabriela’s. 

Radu Tohatan, our Social Work Manager, met Gabriela and listened to her situation. Our team worked with the local authorities to help Gabriela get back on her feet – anything she needed to bring Mihaela and Iulian home. 

Thanks to your donations, Gabriela was able to build a whole new extension of her house. That was the first step in Mihaela and Iulian’s journey home. 

Radu Tohatan, HHC Social Worker, chatting with Gabriela in her home. The room is decorated with colourful tapestries and carpets.
Before bringing children back to family, our social workers support families with whatever they need to bring their children home.
Andreea Tănase / Hope and Homes for Children

Next, we connected the family to a nearby vocational school, so Mihaela and Iulian could continue their specialised studies. 

Then, we ensured Gabriela was financially strong. We offered her counselling and tailor-made support – the kind of support she needed nine years ago when she was separated from her grandchildren.  

Thanks to our team, everything changed. Gabriela, a strong grandmother of four, was reunited with Mihaela and Iulian. At last, they were back to family. 

Iulian and Mihaela, home with their siblings, Valeria and Mihai, and their grandma, Gabriela. They sit around a table, sipping coffee and smiling.
Gabriela proudly watches over her four grandchildren. All together under one roof.
Andreea Tănase / Hope and Homes for Children

Thank you

Today, Gabriela’s family is doing great. Mihaela and Iulian are living with their siblings and their grandparents and feeling much better. No longer shut away. Finally safe. 

 “Whatever I can provide, I provide,” Gabriela says. “I cook for them; I wash for them. The best thing is that now they’re back home with me. I love them very much, with all my heart.” And then she adds, with a smile, “though I wish they’d listen to me from time to time!” 

Gabriela’s family is just one of thousands we’ve supported since starting our work in Romania. Now, we’re on the cusp of closing every last orphanage in Romania.

Will you support our life-changing work in Romania? Donate today and help bring children out of an orphanage and back to family.