Last week’s report of abuses in Romania’s children mental institutes by an international advocacy group does not surprise Christian missionaries working there.
In a report by the Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), released Wednesday, Romanian children with mental illnesses continue to live in filth and degradation at adult mental institutions, despite promises by the government that services to mentally-ill patients have improved.
Roger Bouwma, a missionary with Bethany Christian services, said that though "conditions have improved considerably in many areas…it’s not surprising to find that there are still places in Romanian where those kinds of situations are still evident," as quoted by Mission Network News (MNN), an online Christian missions journal.
Bethany, which continually maintains child-rehabilitation and adoption programs in Romania, said that last weeks report indicate the country is still struggling with its child-care system and that Christians can do more to assist, according to the MNN update.
Some of the children mentioned in last weeks report were allegedly institutionalized only because they were abandoned, and became mentally-imbalance after treatment.
Bethany, which has operated in Romania since 1991, continually helps unwanted children with its child abandonment prevention, reunification and domestic-adoption programs.
On its website, Bethany said that it needed more sponsors, paying $150 a year, to keep Romanian children, especially those with special needs, with foster families.
A Bethany missionary, Lexi Damacus, said that Bethany was one of the first organizations to consider establishing adoption programs, and has "been doing many of the placements of the kids with special need with foster families."
Last weeks report described children being tied or shackled in chairs. Some had laid all day, tightly bound with sheets to fetid beds.
Children in the institution were seen hurting themselves; a few bit their arms or hands leaving sores, while a boy poked his fingers into his eyes, according to the MDRI statement.
Romania, which is seeking entry into the European Union, has come under pressure to improve Romania’s treatment of mentally-ill patients, especially children, which became apparent after Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was overthrown and executed in 1989.
Bogdan Panait, state secretary for the National Authority for Protection of Children’s Rights, assured members of the Associated Press (AP), last week, that the more serious problems would be resolved by next year.
Bethany’s staff, nonetheless, maintains that working with the government would be the best way to improve the situation in Romania.
"We let our light shine as best as we can, at the same time working cooperatively with the government, we can not step beyond the boundaries that are set up. We have had volunteers groups go to Romania in the past couple of years and we have seen some really neat impact as a result of some of that activity," said Bouwma in the MNN report.