Photo credit: Alfredo Jeff
York College had its 4th annual Research Day on April 18, 2013. There were various panels of students presenting research as well as the hallways being filled with student work. The Social Work Program had a panel presenting its research from their study abroad program in Moldova.
Students went to Moldova were they took anthropology and social work classes but they also did fieldwork. Their fieldwork was to work with abused and abandoned children to study how parental absence affects children’s hostility and aggression.
“Our research was an ethnographic study of abuse in abandoned children. We collected specific ethnographic field notes, everyday we had to write down after we met with the children because it was really unsettling to them if we were writing while we were observing. This way we could track their behavior we were looking for aggression and hostility specifically in children who were abandoned,” said Irena Hanna, a social work student who went to Moldova last summer.
The students worked with younger children the oldest was 13. Some of the ways they studied the children was to have them draw pictures. The pictures the children drew had many things in common.
There were very few if any people drawn in these pictures when they were asked to draw their homes. The scale of the drawing was very separated even when they did draw people, indicating their isolation. The drawings were often simple and lacked color. Many children drew rain; these aspects indicated their loneliness and lack of connection to others.
Another way the students studied the children was by using a graph to see their aggression relative to that of a normal unabused or not abandoned child.
“The children from Moldova at least in this study had some of the highest rates of hostility and aggression due to parental abandonment…based on the charts we used the average aggression is rated at 120 our children were off the charts,” said Hanna.
120 was the average number but in this study the female orphans were at 162 and the male orphans were at 209.
“When children are rejected or abandoned by a parent the hostility and aggression goes through the roof. We saw this not only in the data but we experienced it, I saw children transform before my eyes, when they couldn’t get something that they wanted,” said Hanna.
Irena Hanna’s main study was father absence in young girls and how it affected them. She worked with a young girl named Lidia whose father had killed her mother then himself. Lidia was 13. It took Lidia a long time to warm up to Irena but they became very close soon after.
“You can see it in their behavior, it took a while for them to warm up they have a lot of volunteers that come to the home, but volunteers come and go.”
When leaving Moldova it was very emotional for the students.
“It was very emotional for me to leave, I’m not a mom so all those motherly instincts came out. They wanted to see me as mom and I wanted to see them as my children, they were already my babies,” said Hanna.
Professor Moldovan who had created the program explained how he had learned from both the children and his students.
“The more culturally different the therapist, the better for the patient,” said Moldovan.
This upcoming summer there will be new students going to Moldova to study social work and participate with the fieldwork. Two of these students are Lashanda Moor a social work major and Bella Murnane- Victorilli also a social work major. They have updated the program and some things will be added.
“We are going to be showing neutral picture, and ask what someone thinks is in the picture to see if there is a thread of similarity, “ said Murnane-Victorilli.
There are still many problems with the social work program in Moldova. As the country is only recently capitalist after the deconstruction of the Soviet Union all of these programs are new. The volunteers are trying to help the children, as best they can but there are still glitches in the system.
“There are a lot of problems with they system of provision in Moldova… what is missing is professionalism and of course money,” said Moldovan.