“The phenomenon of street children persists in Romania for 27 years”

This publication is inspired by an interview with Ionut Jugureănu, Executive Director of the Parada Foundation, published this summer in the newsletter of the General Delegation of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in Bucharest.

The Parada Foundation is the Romanian member of the Dynamo International – Street Workers Network coordinated by Dynamo International. It works in the interest of children and young people in Bucharest living in street situations.

This is the opportunity to present the Parada Foundation, its fieldwork, its links with Dynamo International and its Street Workers Network, but also the analysis of its director, Ionut Jugureănu, on the major social challenges of his country, and the phenomenon of street children in Romania.

As an active member of the Dynamo International – Street Workers Network, the Parada Foundation helps promote the importance of street social work among professionals and the Romanian public.

“With Dynamo International, which we have initiated for several years now structured exchanges between Belgian and Romanian grassroot organisations, and between Belgian and Romanian social workers.”

Ionut Jugureănu et des enfants à l'école du cirque social de la Fondation Parada à Bucarest, Roumanie

As part of Dynamo International – Street Workers Network, Romanian social workers from Parada and other associations take part in exchanges of good practices and field visits. These exchanges are eminently beneficial for Romanian social street workers. They can become acquainted with the methods used by their European counterparts who work like them with the poorest, the young people living in sensitive neighborhoods, confronting the victims of prostitution or trafficking.

Children in street situations: left behind after the economic boom

The economic boom of the country’s major cities is accompanied by an increased impoverishment, violent and lasting large swathes of the Romanian population. In 2015, 46.8% of Romanian children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. And not one of the rights guaranteed by the International Convention for the Defense of the Rights of the Child – ratified in 1990 by Romania – is respected or guaranteed in Romania.

“There are those who cling and those who drop, and there are many of them.”

The Romanian post-communist society remains an anomic society, whereas it should urgently take stock of the major social challenges, present and future. The social, cultural and economic drop-out of a large part of Romanian society continues to grow.

“Bucharest is a real showcase for the expression of the social fracture in its most accomplished form. You just have to walk, eyes wide open on the sidewalks Bucharest.”

The state should have counterbalanced this trend by pursuing proactive strategies and public policies to correct or mitigate these effects. It could afford but the culture (social, living-together) and, above all, the political will is lacking.

“All social statistics are alarming. The social gap is not an empty word.”

Children in street situations: the failure of the Romanian social system

The existence of children in street situations – whether they are alone or living with their families on the street – is a total scandal. This is the best indicator of the failure of the social and child protection systems in Romania.

Each of these children or young people have a long history of abuse and violence, suffered first in the family of origin, then in the public sheltes of the “Protection of the Childhood”, and finally on the street. Last year, the Council of Europe also urged Romania to make greater efforts to combat child trafficking.

“The fact that this phenomenon continues 27 years after the fall of communism shows the absence of any political will, which still prevails in this area.”

Originally, the phenomenon of street children is one of the consequences of Nicolae Ceausescu’s forced birth policies and the fostering of a culture of abandonment of children before 1990. The fact that this phenomenon still persists 27 years after the fall of communism, that it has become chronic, shows that the absence of political will has prevailed and still prevails in this field.

“Children in street situations are deprived of their rights to identity, protection, family or education.”

Parada’s social workers try to help them obtain identity papers and cope with an extremely hard and hopeless daily life, to give them reason to hope. But they are too often overwhelmed by the multitude of their needs : health, food, medical, legal, consumption … and lack of funding and staff to be able to properly meet all these needs.

The Parada Social Circus for street children in Romania

Enfant jongleur à l'école du cirque social de Fondation Parada à Bucarest.

The social circus is the image of Parada. The foundation is part of Caravan, a network of social circus schools, whose founding member is the Circus School of Brussels. The circus remains a powerful tool in the process of resocialization and integration of the child, so that he or she regains its footing, its confidence, first in itself and then in others.

At the same time, Parada tries to provide them with humanitarian assistance – through the services provided in the Day Center – or through street social intervention, as well as help with integration. Literacy programs are offered, and even sometimes their educational path is accompanied and facilitated by Parada’s educational service.