Centered on the concept of institutional abuse, this article looks at interpersonal, program and societal violence, as reflected in the narrations of adults, who spent their childhood, or part of their childhood in the child protection system. The main body of the article presents the testimonials of adults who grew up in institutional care in Romania, as collected in the framework of the Support for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse SASCA project, funded by the European Commission.

We carried out 45 interviews and a focus group, with a total of 48 young adults who have spent part of their childhood in a residential care setting. The main goal of the interviews were to understand the perspectives of the interviewed adults on the living conditions in the residential settings, to address the problem of violence against children in institutional settings from the perspective of adult survivors and understand the long terms effects of such events.

Our results show that growing up in the child protection system unfortunately was not a smooth childhood experience for most of the interviewed persons, and encounters with violence were often recalled. Many adults who spent their childhoods or part of it in child protection institutions have been marked by coercive, unpleasant routines and experiences of physical, sexual and emotional violence committed by staff or other adults, as well as older children, and by a general lack of interest in protecting their rights and providing for their developmental needs.

Besides the planned strategies of deinstitutionalization and professionalization of child-care, a mature Romanian child protection system should be able to face its own past failures by developing a safety net for its children and by introducing reparatory measures for its past victims.

Keywords: institutional abuse; child protection system; institutional changes; consequences; perspectives of survivals.

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