Alex, the student who is helping me, and I caught the red-eye (OK, it wasn’t THAT early) bus from Chisinau to the countryside. We spent an hour on the stiflingly hot mini-bus (marshutka), and then we were in his hometown, Nisporeni. The roads there weren’t in the best shape, but the town of 20,000 buzzes with life. There was a canning factory, which was closed, but the wine factory, which is owned by Russians, is still open (this is rather common, and, according to Alex, recent embargoes by Russia on Moldovan wine have been devastating to the Moldovan economy).
We arrived around 10 AM and met with Alex’s father, who manages internal affairs for Nisporeni region (there is Nisporeni – the city proper – which has a population of 20,000; and there is Nisporeni region – like a county – which has a population of about 65,000). So Alex’s father has been trying to find funding and collect taxes to improve roads, he partners with a Swiss governmental agency in trying to implement water and wastewater treatment in the region, and he partners with a Dutch organization in trying to bring renewable energies, such as solar, biofuel, and wind energy, to the region.
But I wasn’t there to meet with Alex’s father.
I met with the region’s child welfare expert. Yes, that’s right. There’s one for the entire 65,000 person region. But she manages with a decision-making commission. So, instead of placing children into orphanages – the initial reaction for children at risk in the past – children are placed in temporary placement centers (so there are 5 to 10 children there, rather than 150-200 children) for a few weeks, then the commission assesses needs and opportunities. Sometimes this can mean giving cash assistance to the family (~$40/month), finding relatives for the child to live with, or finding foster parents.
We talked about some of the major issues facing children. There have only been two cases of child abuse to come before the commission in the past three years. The hotline system for individuals to anonymously report hasn’t yet been implemented, so cases of emergency are found by social workers and other workers in schools and hospitals.
One interesting case that we talked about was a woman who had just given birth who demanded to be taken to a maternal center (an hour away in Chisinau) because of complications. Yet there was no mechanism for her to get the necessary medical coverage, and she couldn’t afford it on her own. So the commission had to come to a quick decision so as to expedite her case to the city, and to allocate funds for her medical coverage.
I could never imagine being a social worker in this country. It seems like it’d be far worse than any sort of burn-out that we may experience in the United States. She regularly works with cases of people going hungry or not having enough medical coverage. And the difference here is that there aren’t any mechanisms to get what people need. There is no Medicaid, no Medicare; there are no food stamps or housing assistance programs. So when mothers aren’t getting ample medical treatment when they’re giving birth, there are only emergency procedures which may work. Or they may not.