Maternity Project -Prevention of child abandonment
In January 2010 we started to work with mothers at high risk of abandoning their babies, to prevent child abandonment. We had been planning this project for some months, together with the Romanian sponsor to whom we are grateful for funding the first 6 mother and baby pairs. We hope to expand the number of mothers and babies supported to 10 as soon as funds allow. To enable us to run this project in addition to our other work we have employed a new social worker who is settling well into our team.
You may ask why there is a particular problem with child abandonment in Romania now we are 20 years on from the downfall of Ceausescu and his crippling pro-natal policies. Research by our team prior to launching the project found that the child abandonment rate is no better than 30 years ago, with 1.8% of newborns still abandoned on maternity wards. The majority of hospitals still have no mother and child wards, encouraging separation of mother and baby. This project was agreed after consultation with the sector 6 Bucharest child protection authority. Our initial target group is expectant mothers admitted to “Panait Sarbu” Maternity Hospital and those with infants aged 0-6 months born there. RICF is pleased to be able to respond to a priority need in its local area.
So how does RICF select suitable mothers at high risk of abandoning their infants? Mothers are identified as at high risk because they are expressing an inability to care for their baby and / or refusing contact with the infant, often due to poverty, homelessness or relationship problems. There are known risk factors for abandonment e.g. unsure income (85%), low socio-economic status (80%), illiterate (42%), maternal age < 20 (28%) and incomplete education (27%). Cases may be referred by local child protection authorities and NGOs. RICF checks the validity of each referral and ascertains the risk of abandonment. RICF will offer financial support for 6-12 months, at 600 RON (£132) / month per mother and child pair. Where possible donations in kind such as baby clothes and equipment, infant formula, food and nappies will be given. RICF will also offer advocacy and professional assistance with obtaining legal papers e.g. mother’s ID card, child’s birth certificate to ensure access to any applicable state benefits and allowances. Financial support which makes keeping the child a possibility is the primary reason for mothers agreeing to be included in the project.
However, the mothers are also interested to learn new information about care of the newborn and general parenting and budgeting skills. The education component is a compulsory aspect of inclusion in the project, with three initial two-hour sessions taught individually at the mother’s home, covering newborn nutrition, breastfeeding, hygiene, postnatal depression, child development, the needs of the child, childhood illnesses and first aid. This is followed by three more two hour group sessions taught at RICF HQ, covering attachment theory, child growth and education, including role plays. These group sessions may be more daunting for those mothers who have never been to school or who have only completed primary school. Despite this, the mothers are keen to participate and learn new information. Material is taught taking account of the mothers’ previous education.