When Mihai lived in the orphanage, he had a roof over his head and food on his plate but he was always hungry for he thing he needed most: love. Mihai was separated from his family because they had nowhere to live and the authorities believed he’d be safer in an institution. But orphanages do not protect children; they harm them, exposing children to neglect and abuse and damaging their development. Because the one thing an orphanage can never provide is the first thing that every child needs; someone to love them.
When Mihai was eight years old, he was shut in a small room by himself for three weeks with no toys, no books and no one to talk to. Staff in white coats and plastic gloves watched him through a large internal window and passed him food three times a day. This was the Isolation Unit in the orphanage in Moldova where Mihai had been sent because his family had nowhere to live. His mum, Valentina, was struggling to care for Mihai and his new-born baby sister, Amelia, on her own.
The authorities gave Valentina and Amelia a place in a Mother and Baby Unit and sent Mihai to the orphanage. They believed he’d be safer there. But orphanages do not protect children; they harm them, denying children the love and individual care that’s so vital to their development, their happiness and their well-being.
“The children were sad there. All of them were somehow afraid of their carers.”
For example, every new child that enters the orphanage where Mihai was sent, even babies and toddlers, spend 21 days alone in the Isolation Unit to make sure they’re not carrying any infections. It’s hard to imagine what a traumatic experience this must have been for Mihai, so soon after being separated from his mum and his sister. When this ordeal was finally over, Mihai spent a further six months in the main orphanage, with no one to love or protect him. “The children were sad there,” he told us. “All of them were somehow afraid of their carers.”
“Who will love Mihai if not me?”
Valentina is a loving and courageous mother who knew from bitter experience what her son would be going through. She spent her own childhood, confined to a loveless institution, after both her parents died in a car crash. “Who will love Mihai if not me?” she asked us in despair.
That’s when our partner CCF Moldova stepped in. A local team of skilled and dedicated professionals, they worked with the local child protection authorities to reunite Mihai with his family. Their specialist social workers made sure the family had a safe, permanent place to live and gave Valentina all the practical and emotional support she needed to continue to care for her children herself.
Now Mihai is overjoyed to be home again and growing-up with the people who love him, in the place where he belongs.