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Founders of Hope and Homes for Children, Mark and Caroline Cook, decorated by President Iohannis

Caroline Cook’s dream to close all the orphanages in Romania will soon become true”

 

On May 17, President Klaus Iohannis has signed the decoration decrees of the founders of Hope and Homes for Children, Mark Cook and Caroline Cook, as well as of the Regional Manager for Central and Southern Europe of the Foundation, Stefan Darabus. The three persons received the National Order “The Loyal Service” in rank of Knight, as a sign of a “special appreciation for the remarkable and steady work carried out to support the reform of the child protection system in Romania, for the hard work in ensuring the funds for the programs dedicated to this purpose”.

Hope and Homes for Children was founded by Mark and Caroline Cook, husband and wife, in 1994, in UK, aiming at rebuilding the orphanages destroyed by the Bosnian war. While working with the children in the orphanages, the two espouses realized that their most important needs were actually love and safety of having a family. Being impressed by the images with children from the Romanian orphanages of the ‘90s, Mark and Caroline decided to offer their support in solving this problem. Thus, Hope and Homes for Children started its activity in Romania in 1998, when there were more than 100,000 children in the orphanages. Today, this old-style institutions are hosting only 6,500 children.

In 20 years of activity in Romania, Hope and Homes for Children contributed to the closure of 55 old-style institutions, while other 15 institutions are going to be closed, and 5,185 children were taken from the orphanages. Children who grow up in orphanages have delays in their physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. Youngsters who leave these institutions have problems in becoming independent and are exposed to abuse, exploitation, trafficking or antisocial behavior. More than 1,000 young people have been supported to start an independent life, and almost 2,000 children have been received in day centers. With the support of its partners and of the local authorities, Hope and Homes for Children has developed 101 family-type homes where over 1,200 children and youngsters coming from the closed orphanages are living in an environment which is as close as possible to the family environment. In this kind of homes, a maximum of 10 to 12 children receive accommodation, care, education, emotional support and counseling in order to develop the necessary skills for an independent living.

In addition to the closure program of old-style institutions, since 2001, Hope and Homes for Children is developing the program for preventing the separation of the child from the family; 28,436 children were rescued from being separated from their family through the efforts of the Foundation and its partners.

This year, when the Foundation celebrates 20 years of activity in Romania, the decoration of the founders of Hope and Homes for Children, Mark and Caroline Cook, and of the Regional Manager for Central and Southern Europe, Stefan Darabus, by the Romanian President, is the most important recognition of the activity carried out by Hope and Homes for Children in Romania in order to reform the child protection system. Hope and Homes for Children mission is to close all the orphanages in Romania until 2026.

“We were shocked and grieved by what we discovered in Romania 20 years ago, it had a deep impact on our lives since then until today. Together with Stefan Darabus, we discovered 60 babies hidden somewhere on the upper floor of the hospital in Cavnic. They were lying in silence in their little beds, covered by their own feces. This image gave us creeps and we realized that we had to rescue them immediately. This was the spark that pushed us to the way of the deinstitutionalization. The success of our activity in Romania is primarily due to the members of our team, all of them Romanians, who showed tremendous compassion and courage, and secondly to the representatives of the state institutions at all levels, who supported them in their work. Unfortunately, there are many countries around the world where children still are placed in orphanages, but Romania has become a global example that demonstrated that such a system can be totally changed, releasing the children that were captive in the state institutions and helping to get them into the midst of a loving family. My wife Caroline was dreaming to close all the orphanages in Romania; soon, her dream will become true” stated the founder of Hope and Homes for Children, Mark Cook.

“The trauma of abandonment is cruel and there were many children in our country who faced it. Because I knew what it means, I dedicated my last 20 years to the children in orphanages. My colleagues did the same, they are a great team, they are absolutely special people with a fantastic force of action. In 1998, about 100,000 children were surviving in a nightmare, in camp conditions, in orphanages. Every day I was seeing so much pain, so much sadness and despair, so much resignation and capitulation in the pediatric departments of the maternity wards, the “homes” for children up to the age of 3, in the other institutions, and I wanted this to be over. Now, when I walk on streets, I see young adults who master their lives, ho are on the good way also thanks to us. We gave them a family. We moved them in the hundreds of family-type homes we developed. They were cared under the maternal assistance, we helped them return to their families or they were adopted. Anyway, from 100,000 children in orphanages in 1998, now there are less than 7,000. And they will also be taken by families or in family-type environments. In 20 years, we rescued about 50,000 children in one way or another” stated the Regional Manager for Central and Southern Europe of Hope and Homes for Children, Stefan Darabus.

 

Photo: Radu Bricioc

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