On November 3, the West University of Timisoara in Romania awarded Victor K. Groza, PhD, the Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies at the Mandel School, with an honorary doctoral degree called the Doctor Honoris Causa Award. This award recognizes Dr. Groza’s significant contributions toward developing social work education in Romania, as well as his outspoken and transformative advocacy for child welfare and adoption reform in the European country.
The university cited his extensive career traveling the globe and acquiring expertise in adoption, child welfare, and foster family practices in developing countries. “Dr. Victor Groza’s dedication to this field of work is a testament to his belief that all children and families deserve to be supported irrespective of their situation,” the award states.
Although Groza’s grandparents left Romania about 100 years ago to pursue the American dream, Dr. Groza took great interest in his Romanian roots since childhood and has also been passionate about helping children and families in non-traditional circumstances. In 1990, he began reform efforts in Romania, a country whose outdated adoption practices lag 30 to 50 years behind those in the United States. More than two decades later, he started to focus his work at the West University of Timisoara, implementing an education curriculum for adoption-related mental health issues and a post-graduate program for professionals entering the field of adoption.
In Dr. Groza’s eyes, reform is not just about changing laws and policies; it is about transforming the way people view adoption altogether. “Children who enter adoption have a different set of genes and many have life experiences that predated entering the adoptive families,” he states. He advocates that Romania’s social work professionals must realize that a successful adoption system offers lifelong guidance to children and families.
Dr. Groza is also working on a faculty exchange program with West University, made possible by a recent change in European Union (EU) funding that now allows European universities to create faculty and student exchange programs with universities in the United States.