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Child rights protection specialists in Ungheni strengthened their capacities with EU assistance 

Since April 2022, at the Todirești Mayor’s Office in Ungheni district, a village with over four thousand inhabitants, the work is handled differently – with less stress, with more order in paperwork and with visible results for children at risk. “Honestly, now I come to work with pleasure,” says Natalia Gherbovitan, a community social worker. The reason is that the mayor’s office has employed a specialist in the protection of children’s rights, who took over a large part of the tasks previously assigned to the social worker. Such specialists have been employed in four mayor’s offices in the district thanks to the public association Social Alternatives, which is implementing a project funded by the European Union and the Soros Foundation Moldova.

Olga Sarbu, children’s rights protection specialist in Todirești village, manages 28 cases of children qualified by the multidisciplinary commission as being at risk. Most of them were included in this category as “involuntarily neglected’, i.e. their families have not enough resources to provide them with everything necessary, including food and school supplies. The multidisciplinary commission in the locality evaluates each case, draws up an individual assistance plan and, depending on the need, the family and the child receive financial help or are referred to appropriate services. Every three months, cases are re-evaluated. 

We work both for urgent interventions and to prevent difficult cases. For example, we have a case where in a family with 5 children one child is with special educational needs not because he has health problems, but because he did not attend kindergarten at all, that is, he did not have any preschool training. This would not have happened if it had been discovered in time that the child does not go to kindergarten. Now we have registered two other younger children in the family and we insist on placing them in kindergarten, so that they do not end up like their older brother,” Olga Sarbu says.

Cases handled by Olga Sarbu: children with deviant behaviour, a minor mother, children with disabilities

In November, when we visited Todirești Mayor’s Office, Olga was especially concerned about helping two children with deviant behaviour. One of them came to the attention of the mayor’s office last summer. The mother notified authorities that her son had been missing from home for two days. “When I went to do the initial assessment, I was sure that this child was aggressive with his parents. In three days, it was confirmed,” says the children’s rights specialist. The boy is now assigned to an individual support plan, including psychological counselling sessions. “Judging by the cases I work on, I am sure that it is necessary for parents and children to have permanent access to a psychologist. People in the village believe that if they went to a session with the psychologist once, it is enough. But it is not so, it takes a lot of work,” Olga Sarbu says.

She also takes care of other children at risk in the village – a minor mother, who needs financial support to survive, among other things, and some children with disabilities, who need periodical help for treatment and rehabilitation. 

For the evaluation and monitoring of cases, Olga often visits families with children are at risk, sometimes together with the district policeman. 

Specialists hired with the support of the European Union and the Soros Foundation Moldova

Currently, five specialists in children’s rights protection work in Ungheni District. One works at Ungheni Mayor’s Office, and the rest work in the mayor’s offices in Todirești, Pîrlița, Sculeni and Zagarancea. The last four were employed in April 2022 due to the public association Social Alternatives from Ungheni, which implements the project “Local Guardianship Authority for Better Protection of Children”, financed by the European Union and the Soros Foundation Moldova. From May 2022, these specialists will be paid from mayoral budgets.

We intended to support the local authorities to hire specialists in the protection of children’s rights and to show the benefits of their work both for children and families, as well as for the mayor and the social worker, whose workload is already very high, as they deal with all categories of beneficiaries, not just children. In large communes it is very difficult for a social worker to cope with all the tasks. As you can see in Todirești, we managed to do this,” said Adriana Frasin, president of Social Alternatives.