Poverty and prejudice sent Maxim to an orphanage; love and determination brought him home
When Maxim was a baby, his dad fought poverty and prejudice to care for Maxim and his sister at home. But the authorities in Moldova had no faith that a single father could care for a child with disabilities on his own. So, when Maxim was just three years old, he was taken into an orphanage. He spent three years there, alone, with no one to love or comfort him.
Maxim was born with cerebral palsy, a life-long condition that affects muscle control and movement. His mum left when he was a baby. From then on, his dad, Alexandru, fought poverty and prejudice to care for Maxim and Maxim’s big sister, Mihaela, on his own.
“Two days before Christmas, when Maxim was just three years old, he was taken from his home to an orphanage where he spent the next three years. Mihaela, too, was taken from her dad”
Maxim and his family live in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, Europe’s poorest country. The authorities there had no faith that a single father could care for a child with disabilities alone. Without the extra support they needed, life was a daily struggle. And so, two days before Christmas, when Maxim was just three years old, he was taken from his home to an orphanage where he spent the next three years. Mihaela, too, was taken from her dad and sent to live with relatives.
Today, we are working to close the orphanage where Maxim was taken, by reuniting children with their families or finding the right alternative family-based care for every child. But when we asked about Maxim, the managers told us that his was a hopeless case. Yet when we made contact with Maxim’s dad. Alexandru, we discovered a man who loved and missed his child deeply.
Alexandru was angry at the way he’d been treated and did not believe he would ever be allowed to care for his children at home again. Every Christmas was worse than the last. “There was no joy without them” he remembers. Alexandru had almost given up hope of ever being reunited with his children when Renata, a dedicated social worker with our in-country partners, CCF Moldova, made contact to see if we could help.
“My first task was to build a relationship of trust with Maxim’s dad and help him to see that there was a way forward and people who would support him, if he was willing to trust us”, Renata explains. With time and she helped Alexandru to establish a better relationship with the authorities, to understand his rights as a parent and to access the extra support he would need to care for Maxim at home again. A plan was made to reunite Maxim with his dad and completed, step by step.
“In the institution, they gave him food and then all day long, he just lay waiting. At home, with me, I can play with him, kiss him and hug him. It’s better for children at home with family than in an orphanage.” Maxim’s dad, Alexandru
We also provided practical support and materials so that Alexandru could renovate part of his house, with the understanding that he would improve the rest of the house by himself over time. Once their home was safe and warm, Mihaela was allowed to come home to live with her dad again.
The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when Renata and her colleagues won approval for Alexandru to be registered as Maxim’s official carer, opening the door to vital social payments that would make it possible for him to take care of Maxim at home full-time.
“When Maxim was in the orphanage, Mihaela kept saying, ‘Daddy, bring Maxim home!’ And I did. I brought him back.” Maxim’s dad, Alexandru
Renata is very proud of what they have achieved together. “I see Maxim’s return home as a real victory because it is very difficult to reintegrate a disabled child back into their family, especially if that family is a single father, who has to rely on state support,” she explains.
Now that he’s home again, Maxim loves to play with his sister and with other children.
Renata continues to visit and monitor the family’s progress, to make sure that Alexandru is coping and that the children remain safe and well. A specialist mobile team, established by Hope and Homes for Children/CCF Moldova, to work with children with disabilities and their parents at home, visits twice a week to help Maxim improve his strength and mobility.
“I kissed him and hugged him and started to cry,” Alexandru says, remembering the moment he was reunited with his son.
When he lived in the orphanage, Maxim spent all day in a cot. He was fed liquidised food from a bottle. No one tried to help him learn to sit or stand. When he first came home, he could only lie on a bed. Now he can stand, and he has begun to eat solid food for the first time.
Our team has also provided practical support for Maxim and his family including essential toiletries and household products, the special food he needs to meet his dietary requirements and a school bag and supplies for Mihaela.
“This Christmas I’ll make everything nice for us, like everybody else. I will buy presents, decorate a tree and make it all beautiful”, says Alexandru, smiling.
“For Maxim, I believe this Christmas will be a special one,” says Renata, “because he will no longer be alone in an orphanage but home with his family, where there is affection, there is love and there is a lot of joy.”
Loneliness leaves a child unsure of their place in the world, it inhibits their development, and it deprives them the need to give and receive love. Between 14–20 June we’re exploring how isolation impacts lives, and we’re celebrating the bonds of family—where children belong.