Maternity Project - Prevention of child abandonment

Since starting this project in January 2010 we have now supported more than seventy mum and baby pairs, working with mothers at high risk of abandoning their babies, to prevent child abandonment. Initially we were supporting five or six mum-and-baby pairs at any one time, and we were pleased to be able to expand this number to ten from September 2013. 

It has been exciting to see how the mums have grown in self esteem and confidence, as well as developing a close bond with their baby and developing in their parenting skills.

Please watch our 6 minute video which explains what this project is all about. 

 Maternity Project
You may ask why there is a particular problem with child abandonment in Romania now we are almost 30 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 was no better than 30 years ago, with 1.8% of newborns still abandoned on maternity wards. The majority of hospitals still had 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 was expectant mothers admitted to “Panait Sarbu” Maternity Hospital and those with infants aged 0-6 months born there. The project is now known across many sectors of Bucharest and we receive referrals from all across Bucharest. We are pleased to be able to respond to a priority need in our 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 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%). Cases may be referred by local child protection authorities and NGOs. RICF checks the validity of each referral and ascertains the risk of abandonment. Financial support is offered tapering down over one year. Where available donations in kind such as baby clothes and equipment, food and nappies will also 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.

Maternity Project 2

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, and includes topics such as child nutrition, breastfeeding, hygiene, child development, attachment theory, the needs of the child, childhood illnesses and first aid, and aspects relating to the mother's wellbeing such as postnatal depression, dealing with domestic violence, and accessing contraception. The sessions are taught at the RICF HQ at monthly support meetings. 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.

Suzie with child in maternity
Update on RICF's abandonment prevention project September 2017

RICF Board, 22/09/2017