Skip to main content

As economic crisis bites, Greece's children pay the price

By Matthew Chance and Christine Theodorou, CNN
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Sat June 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Greece is mired in economic crisis -- and country's youngest residents are not immune
  • Parents, struggling to deal with the financial situation, forced to place children in care
  • Mother: "It's better to do this, than have them beside you without even a plate of food"

Athens, Greece (CNN) -- Imagine abandoning your own children because you can't afford to feed and clothe them. It's a parent's nightmare that in Greece, mired in economic crisis, is increasingly becoming reality.

Kassiani Papadopoulou, 34, from Athens, is a single mother, unemployed and unable to care for her three young children.

Because of the poor economic climate in Greece, she felt she had no choice but to leave them in a care home, which she tries to visit every few weeks.

Unemployment in Greece  Unemployment in Greece
Unemployment in GreeceUnemployment in Greece

"It's really difficult, really tragic for a true mother to leave her children," she told CNN.

"But when you understand they are not at fault and deserve a future, it's better to make a move like this, than have them beside you without even a plate of food."

After years of recession, and biting austerity measures, including job cuts and tax rises, Greece is in financial despair.

The Hellenic Statistical Authority, which compiles data for the state, said the unemployment rate in the first quarter of the year was 22.6%. It also said 27.7% of the Greek population is on the verge of poverty or facing the danger of poverty. The numbers don't include groups like Roma, who are Gypsies, illegal immigrants, the homeless and institutionalized people.

It's better to make a move like this, than have them beside you without even a plate of food
Kassiani Papadopoulou, a single mother

The country's heavily indebted economy is dependent on bailout funds from the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

What will Greek elections mean for the country's future?

But that troika is demanding deeper cuts to social spending, creating what social workers are calling a wave of "economic orphans," abandoned not through lack of love, but money.

Stein: IMF should bail out Greece
Shapiro: Greece cannot be rescued

"I think this is the first time I've seen so many poor families asking for help for their own children," says Stelios Sifnios, director of SOS Children's Villages, a European charity providing support for struggling Greek families, including orphanages.

Greeks divided on Euro austerity demands

The authority lacks a count for economic orphans, but one of its statistics signals potential problems for families. It says 22.9% of all types of families with children under the age of 18 are on the verge of or face the danger of poverty.

"Before the economic crisis, the majority of our kids came from problem families, with parents who were drug addicts or alcoholics. Now most new arrivals are from families who can't afford them," he adds.

Kassiani says she wants to take her children home, but can't afford it.

"I feel powerless for being unable to stand on my own two feet," she says, blaming successive Greek governments for her predicament.

"For me, its all those who govern. They've all looked out for themselves instead of the people and the poor like us, who should be the responsibility of the State."

But in Greece, the state can barely afford to care.

The future of Europe: 3 scenarios

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Tue August 27, 2013
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says the eurozone's problems are not solved, but "we are in a much better shape than we used to be some years ago."
updated 11:28 AM EDT, Wed September 4, 2013
The G20 is held in Russia but, amid disagreements over Syria, can anything be done? John Defterios investigates.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Summer could not have come soon enough for Lloret de Mar, a tourist resort north of Barcelona. Despite the country's troubles, it's partying.
updated 1:50 PM EDT, Fri June 7, 2013
The euro club has suffered major shockwaves but its newest member has emerged as an economic star. What;s behind Estonia's success?
updated 9:23 AM EDT, Wed May 29, 2013
The global recovery has two speeds: That of the stimulus-fed U.S. and that of the austerity-starved eurozone, according to a new report.
updated 9:26 AM EDT, Tue May 14, 2013
The flags of the countries which make up the European Union, outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
The "rich man's club" of Europe faces economic decay as it struggles to absorb Europe's "poor people", according to economic experts.
updated 10:56 PM EDT, Sun May 26, 2013
Europe's competitiveness is threatened as manufacturing companies scrambling to find enough skilled engineers.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Spain's economic crisis is in its sixth straight year yet tourism, worth 11% of GDP, is holding its own, one of the few bright spots on a bleak horizon.
updated 6:44 AM EDT, Thu May 2, 2013
As European financial markets close for the spring celebration of May Day, protesters across Europe and beyond have taken to the streets to demonstrate.
updated 8:10 AM EDT, Fri April 26, 2013
As Croatia prepares to enter the 27-nation European Union, the country's Prime Minister says Italy must return to being the "powerhouse of Europe."
updated 12:56 PM EDT, Thu April 25, 2013
Spain's unemployment rate rose to a record high of 27.2% in the first quarter of 2013, the Spanish National Institute of Statistics said Thursday.
updated 9:55 AM EDT, Mon March 25, 2013
The financial uncertainty in Cyprus is generating images of long lines at ATM machines and anti-European Union protests.
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Mon March 25, 2013
Cyprus will "step up efforts in areas of fiscal consolidation." Where have we heard that before? Oh yes. Greece.
updated 9:39 PM EDT, Fri March 22, 2013
The Cyprus debt crisis is being felt by the banks but also by the people who work at them. Nick Paton Walsh reports.
updated 8:10 PM EDT, Thu March 21, 2013
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on a Russian hotel maid caught up in Cyprus' financial crisis.
updated 12:08 PM EDT, Mon March 18, 2013
Never underestimate the capacity of the Eurozone to shoot itself in both feet, says CNN's Richard Quest.
updated 11:03 AM EST, Thu February 21, 2013
Spain has seen hundreds of protests since the "Indignados" movement erupted in 2011, marches and sit-ins are now common sights in the capital.
ADVERTISEMENT