Updating Perspectives on the Child Protection System: Case Study- Cluj County

  • Abstract:

    Romania’s child protection system has been an area of focus for Romanians and international observers for decades, most notably since 1990. With the violent execution of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the fall of communism, and the flooding of Romania by foreigners and Western journalists, the country came under severe scrutiny as the living conditions of children living in state-run institutions were publicly displayed. Faced with images of great numbers of children living in large, cold institutions with little clothing, food, or medical attention, Romanians and international citizens urgently called for reform to the Romanian child protection system. The Romanian child protection system has evolved beyond images of “mammoth” institutions (as the traditional, communist-era institutions are referred to in Romania) since 1990, and undergone numerous reforms and changes to provide for the advancement and success of its children. In this paper, I will aim to answer several questions about the Cluj county child protection system, a building block of the overarching Romanian child protection system, with the hopes of updating our knowledge on Romania and its child welfare efforts, as well as the direction in which it may be headed. This study may also serve individuals with a stake in the child protection systems of other Eastern European countries, whose child welfare experiences have arguably been parallel to Romania’s in recent years. Utilizing the insight of county-level directors and administrators, I will particularly venture to answer the following questions: how has the Romanian child protection system evolved since the turning point year of 1997, and how does it appear today? What challenges are currently being posed to the system, or is the system likely to face in the coming years? Who have been the international, national, and local social actors to exercise economic, cultural, and symbolic capital in this context, and consequently give shape to the system as it appeared to the local administrators and directors I interviewed? The conclusion of my paper will then offer several suggestions and possible directions for the Cluj county child protection system, as it aims to continue bettering the lives of the children coming under its care. It will also identify marginalized actors in the local discourse and formation of the Cluj child protection system.