Russia Invades Ukraine: Is Moldova Next?

Children in Moldova sitting in a cart
Children in Moldova sitting in a cart

Russia Invades Ukraine: Is Moldova Next?

Written by Connie Belciug, PhD

The invasion of Ukraine has triggered diplomatic mobilization and a global atmosphere resembling the World Wars. While mankind wonders if this event will lead into a full-blown war between global powers, a few million Moldovans brace for what is to come. In times like these, our work of protecting childhood is most fierce.

Moldova, my home country, is immediately west of Ukraine and just a 4-hour drive from Odesa, Ukraine, a port-city targeted in Russia’s initial attack.

Russia – a constant presence

Russia has always maintained a presence in Moldova. Transnistria, a self-proclaimed republic between Moldova and Ukraine, secured its independence with the help of Russia. To this date, the region has its own government, currency, banking system, and army. Most importantly, the region hosts 1,500 Russian troops who make a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and eventually Moldova more likely.

Moldova was once a primary agricultural source to the Soviet Union. Today, the country is fully dependent on Russia for natural gas, electricity, and gasoline. Occasionally, in the middle of a harsh winter, Russia threatens to stop the natural gas supply to the entire country, causing panic in an already exhausted nation.

Moldovans are socially and politically divided by the East (Russia) and West (European Union). Many believe the future lies with Russia and the CIS countries while others are convinced it is with the European Union and western cultures.

After only 30 years of independence, Moldovans still feel the consequences of Russia’s influence in every aspect of life and are aware of Russia’s stake in the country.

A mother and baby in a small village in Moldova
A mother and baby in a small village in Moldova (2021)

Living under constant pressure

The unfolding situation in Ukraine brings to light the constant pressure Moldovans and the rest of Eastern Europeans have had to live with for generations.

What may be easily overlooked is that war makes the problems already present even worse, especially for vulnerable women and children.

Home to about 3.5 million people, Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and is fully dependent on money sent home by about 1 million Moldovans living abroad, with foreign remittances making up 15.7% of its GDP (the global average is 0.8%).

The average wage in Moldova is $388 per month, which is not enough to cover all of a family’s needs in a country plagued by corruption, poverty, and inequity.

As a social worker in Moldova, I saw how insecurity and poverty impact generations.

I remember how a mother of four had to give up her children to an orphanage, to have their basic needs met and a better future. Her house didn’t have a bathroom, heater, or furniture. Two of her children were fortunate enough to be reached in time by our staff while the other two ended up being trafficked.

A boy in Moldova sitting on farming equipment
A boy in Moldova sitting on farming equipment (2021)
After three decades of working to change child protection systems, thousands of children are still growing up without a family because of insufficient government funding and services.

As the leader of a global organization working with the most vulnerable, I can’t help but think of the millions of Moldovans who have struggled to provide for their kids, with national insecurity always in the backdrop.

Most Moldovans would tell you that they don’t live – they survive.

Your support matters

Moldovans have lived with the constant expectation that bad things will happen and have grown in resilience and will because of it. For resilience can’t form without adversity and will power grows when it is tested.

Even if things get worse, your support and empathy strengthens us and helps us trust in a better future. I thank you for giving to help during this hard time. Let us continue praying for the vulnerable, the children, and a peace that passes all understanding.

Read about what we are doing to protect our staff and the children and families we serve in Moldova.

The needs are growing.

Help children and families in Moldova have hope for a better future.

A New Era of Community-Based Social Work – Lessons Learned from Impossible Odds

Grandmother with 2 children in India
Grandmother with 2 children in India

A New Era of Community-Based Social Work – Lessons Learned from Impossible Odds

Written by Ian Forber-Pratt

A little-known consequence of the pandemic has been government-mandated “rapid return” of children. Children in many residential homes were sent to their relatives or other kin, sometimes with only a few days of notice. For a child to grow up within their family of origin is always the ideal, yet these drastic changes with little preparation created serious risks for children. 

CAFO, in partnership with CERI, supported organizations in Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, and Uganda experiencing this phenomenon firsthand. The local teams bravely delved into the complexity of working with families — some of them stunned, some grateful, some fearful — about the combination of a return of their children, a global pandemic, and their prior challenges remaining unchanged. The ten organizations worked with 207 children to ensure their childhood was protected.

One year later, 171 (83%) of these children were still with their families.

It’s important to note that these results are not necessarily representative of all rapid return situations. What they do suggest, however, is that — with critical oversight and support — many children in orphanages today can indeed be successfully returned to life with a family.

It hasn’t been easy. Week after week, teams would ask questions like “How do I convince the mother to accept her youngest daughter when she can’t feed the other three kids she has?” or “What about the deeper family issues, that are often so much more complicated than just the material lack?”  

Humanly, the odds seemed insurmountable. As time went on, the ten organizations began to notice a major thread: that healing began with “seeing” the entire family as a whole and then realistically starting with the most basic needs. 

Teams could not meet all of the families’ basic needs, let alone their doubts of inadequacy. Imagine sitting with a hungry family and not being able to guarantee where the next meal would come from? Yet, 171 children are still with their families.  How? The reality is that being WITH these families and communities was just enough to keep them on the journey to healing.  

At the end of a year, a handful of key takeaways rose to the top for this new era of community-based social work.

1. Family Well-Being Impacts a Child.

Organizations that serve vulnerable children should always  consider the entire family’s well-being whenever family can be found.  For some organizations, that may mean broadening their services.  For others, it means partnering with other organizations that offer services key to family well-being, from medical care to economic opportunity.

2. Ask Children and Families What They Need.

Children and families are the first voice we should be listening to regarding their strengths and needs. Understanding the family’s perspective of these things increases the likelihood of providing the most effective services.

3. Do Not Overlook Basic Needs.

“Basic needs” were reported more than any other in the current study. Additional services are vital, but if basic needs are not being sufficiently met, the impact of such efforts may be limited.

4. Times of Crisis May Call for Relief.

Establishing sustainable solutions in child welfare is important when providing services to vulnerable children and families. However, in times of crisis or emergency, providing relief in the form of short-term material support may be necessary.

5. Relationships, relationships, relationships.

Human beings do not trust on command; it takes time, authenticity, and intentionality. Sadly, traditional case management approaches and child ‘protection’ systems are often built for removal and transactionalization. Through monthly cohort meetings, we heard time and time again that just being WITH the families was the secret sauce to any success.

The global pandemic has brought with it countless challenges.  Often, the most significant impacts have been experienced by the most vulnerable members of society.  And yet, times of crisis can lead to innovation and learning with immense implications.  The lessons learned from this group of tireless leaders show that small efforts can make a big difference for children and families.

Family changes everything!

Help us support families so more children can have a place to call home. 

This blog originally appeared on the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO).

To Love and Learn: Being a Parent in Moldova

Moldovan foster parents with children
Moldovan foster parents with children

To Love and Learn: Being a Parent in Moldova

What do you like about being a parent? The answer is likely to change depending on the day, season, or most recent family vacation. Some days there is no answer. Most days there are many. Children grow, and what we see in them and what they reveal in us changes as often as they do.

When Aleasa, a mother of four in Moldova, was asked what she enjoys most about parenting, “learning from my children” was her answer. She likes that her children teach her everything from principles like patience, forgiveness, and compassion, to life lessons like how biology does not determine bond.

Aleasa and her husband had been married for several years before they realized they could not have children. They considered adoption, but it wasn’t until they learned of foster care that the couple stopped dreaming and started planning for what life could look like as a family.

Moldovan foster mom with children
Aleasa with four foster children (2021)

Aleasa met with Child Protective Services and other organizations that managed foster care. She started chatting with other foster parents. She and her husband attended trainings and even remodeled their home so that they could have enough space to give their future children a place to call home.

In 2010, Aleasa brought home her first child, Mircea, a little boy only 16 months old. The family of three grew together and grew close. Mircea was a sign. “After our first child was placed in our family, we knew we were on the right path,” said Aleasa.

By 2015, Mircea was in kindergarten and very curious. He came home one day and asked why he didn’t have siblings like the other kids at school. Aleasa and her husband agreed with their son. Why couldn’t Mircea have someone to play with, and why couldn’t the family foster more children?

Moldovan dad gardening with children
Aleasa's husband and their sons working in the family garden (2021)

Slowly but surely the family grew to include four children. This took not only paperwork and patience, but major changes to Aleasa’s house and compromises on the family budget.

With the support of a CERI social worker, Aleasa and her husband have been able to face the challenges that come with parenting. They attended counseling and parenting classes and received help with food and medical support when they needed it most. Aleasa believes the biggest help was having a kind and knowledgeable social worker she could trust in her parenting journey.

Ilona making bread
Ilona making bread
Iana doing chores
Iana doing chores

The family has worked hard over the years to ease these growing pains through creative bootstrapping and teamwork. They raise chickens and own a cow, and they grow potatoes and carrots. Each of the children has daily chores that make the family a productive team. One child takes the cow to the herd each morning while the other makes tea. One helps Aleasa with cooking and dishes in the evening while another feeds the chickens and ducks. As Aleasa put it, “We cover each other to be an organized family.”

Mircea gardening
Mircea gardening
Andrei & Mircea collecting water
Andrei & Mircea collecting water

Years later, after all the time she’s spent raising these once small children into the people they are today, what does Aleasa think about her and her husband’s decision to have a family? In her own words, it would seem the lessons of parenting have been well worth the effort: “I would advise families who really want to do good for our future to have children in their families, and to love them.”

Family changes everything!

Help us support foster families so more children can have a place to call home. 
* Identifying details are modified to protect the privacy of the children and families we serve.