It was a 19 hour, intensive training for Moldovans working with children who have experienced trauma. Alex, Natalia, and Tabita from The Romania Without Orphans Alliance (ARFO) drove the 10-hour journey from west of Bucharest to Chisinau to present over the three days, in the Romanian language. The room contained a beautiful compilation of professionals and lay people, all dedicated to a similar call: competent compassion. In English, the title of the training is translated “Becoming a Trauma Competent Caregiver” and was designed by professional counselors, pastors, and social workers from the USA. This same training is used in orphan care settings all over the globe in an effort to better equip those working with traumatized youth. Trainees gain understanding of the goals of child welfare, essential skills of competent caregiving, and the possible effects of trauma upon a child’s development. They will also learn how to recognize the effects of ongoing stress, identify positive coping responses, teach new skills, and promote effective self-care for caregivers to decrease burnout.

In short, compassion is not compassionate unless it is also competent. It is quite trendy to say that love is all we need. This training helps those working with the most vulnerable take into consideration that our help (our good intentions) can also hurt, unless we deeply examine ourselves and make every effort to understand better the spiritual, emotional, educational, physical, and social needs of those we serve.


A combination of intensely difficult home lives (poverty, domestic abuse, neglect) and also a good number of children who were raised in institutions across the former Soviet Union, has created a generation of immensely vulnerable young people in Moldova. This phenomenon is not limited to Moldova, reports from across the USA reveal that large percentages of children rescued from child trafficking were also in our foster care system. Children who are without the presence of just one caring adult in their lives, be it a mentor, coach, teacher, pastor, foster parent, family member, or adoptive parent are far more likely to be exploited. This is a worldwide truth.

The people represented in the room were pastors and future pastors, adoptive parents, foster families, NGO leaders, psychologists and social workers, firefighters and first responders, camp counselors, after school program directors and mentors. Each one represents unlimited potential to positively impact the life a child a risk here in Moldova.


Of the 32 trainees, 26 returned their feedback forms. All of them reported that the content was relevant, clear, and applicable. They also expressed deep appreciation for the practicality of the training, with a good combination of theory and practice, as well as the ability of our main facilitator, Alex, to relate with the group. Alex and Natalia are married and have adopted 4 children in their home country of Romania. Their funny, yet honest, heartfelt and compelling experiences both challenged and encouraged everyone in the room. The training ended with a certification ceremony and graduation gift of the tremendously important work co-authored by the late Dr. Karen Purvis entitled, “The Connected Child,” which has been translated into Romanian. Here are a few testimonies from the training (translated from Romanian):

“This time of training was recharging and refueling for us, it was practical at the same time. I think we also learned we are not alone in this work, as we see all these other organizations and individuals here. We also see that we can apply what others have already learned and how it is working. I would like to say if you have further trainings, we want to be a part of this.”
– A Pastoral Counselor

“(A respected senior pastor from Moldova speaking to the rest of the trainees) It is up to us, what will we do with this. With courage, be sensitive to what God is speaking in your heart. The kids, orphans and others, need us. All of us are here for a reason… I believe that trainings like these for Moldovan families, will be just extraordinary!… Before we told our kids that they cannot speak about the past, but the realization is we need to address the past in order to heal. We can’t just talk about orphan care, we need to do what we are learning. Let’s bring together Moldovan families and share what we have learned and what are the joys of this work to call others into it.”

“In our project, we help biological and social orphans, and we are always having a goal to teach and educate them on how to live independently… but after these days of training, I realize that this is only part of what we must do. We must work to bring healing to these children (holistically). Also, I don’t have a family of my own yet, but when I do, I want to adopt a child. This conference has encouraged me further in that. Thank you.”
– Psychologist

“As we have sat and received this training… we are taking a break from our everyday jobs dealing with crisis… and we are just now realizing, after three days of rest and reflection, those trees are beautiful outside, the branches and the green leaves… (referencing the self-care module) you have to help yourself first before you can help others.”
– Military Psychologist

“Many say that you cannot work with these kids (orphans) because you don’t have the time or patience. But after these three days, I am realizing, it is possible!”
– Trainee