Single father inadvertently ended up in poverty

Robert Rotaru was left with the care of three children when his wife left him. As a result of being the only full time caretaker, he was cut off from taking work outside the village, and inadvertently ended up in a vicious cycle of poverty.

BY MAGNE REIGSTAD/TEXT/PHOTO
Rotaru worked abroad for many years, and this income secured the family a decent standard of living in the village. What this means is that the family, for the most part, did not have to ask for help from public services. But in the last year the family’s situation has changed dramatically, both for the father of the family and his children Mirela (12), Lucian (9), and Eduard (5). Rotaru’s oldest daughter has married and moved out.Jams and canned goods gleaming in the basement.

“I love my children, they are the most important thing to me now, but I am also important to them.” Rotaru says. The construction worker now relies on occasional work and smaller odd jobs in and close to the village, so that he can make it home before the children are done at kindergarten and school. Mirela has during the last year attended The Adina Foundation’s After School Program, and has long since proven to be a very bright and diligent girl.

The mother of the family left them in 2015, and is now living in the city of Craiova, which is a 30-minute drive from the village. Robert knows that she is working as a prostitute, and that she has become an alcoholic. The husband says he has made several attempts to bring the wife home, but that he has now given up. He wants a divorce, but that it is not an easy process, as it involves the participation and agreement of both parties in the marriage, and costs money.

“I married my wife because I cared for her.” the disheartened husband says, remembering how he had to watch as his wife became more and more dependent on alcohol with each passing day.

The past year, the family of four have had weekly visits from one of the volunteers in The Adina Foundation’s New Start Program. This means two hours of reading, social interaction, and puzzles, all done on the children’s terms, so as to foster closeness, confidence, and connection. Our social workers also visit the family regularly, and talk to the children when they attend the After School Program, and Preschool. They know that Mirela is embarrassed by how her mother is living her life, but that she never talks about her in a negative way.Big sister and little brothers using their imaginations together in the garden.

The father, now the sole caretaker of the three children, has his house in order. Their house is of a decent standard, but despite being in the construction business, Rotaru is now not able to make all the improvements that he would like because of the lack of both funds and time. Inside the house everything is neat and stacked, and Robert has pickled vegetables and fruits for the winter. Jars and bottles are lined up in the basement. The homemade is placed next to the cartons of flour and olive oil that the family received as pure emergency aid from the authorities and the EU system. There is no need to beg for a living in Romania. Robert also has a couple of pigs to ensure the family meat for the winter.

Mirela has taken after her father, and also likes to keep things neat and organized. When we join the 12-year-old in her room we are met with a very tidy space, and Mirela has already prepared her backpack and schoolbooks for the next day. The creative girl shows us rings and earrings that she has created out of extremely simple materials, and she also shows us a whole collection of clothes and bags she has sewn for her Barbie-doll. Her color choices, cut and shape reveal imagination, originality and ingenuity.The law states that Romanians can produce liquor for their own use.

In Romania, it is very common that grandmothers will step in and help when families are in dissolution or need a helping hand if the parents have no choice but to travel outside of the village to earn money. Roberts mother in law has consistently refused to help him with the care of her grandchildren. Thus the construction worker does not have the opportunity afforded to many other families in similar situations, and is not able to work more. The children's grandmother justifies this dismissive attitude with her opinion that it is Robert’s fault that her daughter is drinking and that her life has gone downhill.

 

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