It has only been a couple of years that Serbia has allowed children with Down syndrome to be adopted internationally. In fact, UNICEF states "Following a pilot project in 2002, the Serbian government has been engaged in a programme designed to transform residential institutions for children and youth with the support of UNICEF and the Norwegian government. A major goal of the programme is to carry out an assessment of each of the children in five different institutions spread throughout Serbia and to develop an individualized plan for their future care....By the end of April 2006, 1700 children had been assessed, plans for the transformation of 19 institutions were developed..."
UNICEF has come the the rescue! Or have they?
Conditions in the institutions haven' t changed all that much. In fact, this video was aired on Dateline NBC on August 29, 2008.
That's just a part of it. Go here to read the FULL article, including Ann Curry's conversations with parents of children who have disabilities.
How is it that the Serbian government has studied pilot projects, and in 2006 started assessing orphans, yet in this video, one of the Governement ministers in charge of institutions, Rasim Ljajic, had no idea what the conditions were like in the institutions? He said he was "new to the job" and "Hadn't yet visited the institutions."
UNICEF has gotten involved. It sounds good, doesn't it? When it comes to Down syndrome, it will take a VERY LONG TIME to change the attitudes of medical professionals and birth parents of children who have Down syndrome or other more significant disabilities. While the ultimate goal of Connecting the Rainbow is to work with the families who have chosen to keep their children, those who have already been abandoned, or who will be in the next couple of years while the process of social change happens, will all sit....waiting...there will still be many in orphanages and institutions....dying.
Thankfully organizations like Comber have sprung up in Romania. Perhaps someday Comber and CTR can work together for the families of Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries? In just a few short weeks Shelley and I will be in Serbia, meeting with people there who have the ability to improve the situation for orphans with Down syndrome and other disabilities until they can find a forever home.