"Every child needs a family!"
“A boarding school or an orphanage, no matter how modern and how well it is equipped, can never replace family environment and family care” - Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
BAKU, 20 November 2008 - The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Azerbaijan, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Azercell Telecom LLC and UNICEF teamed up to support the campaign “Every Child Needs a Family” to help children grow in protective family environment.
“Every Child Needs a Family” – through TV Public Service Announcements, billboards and other public information materials – aims to promote awareness on the rights of the child to grow up in family like environment, to reunify children in institutions with their biological families, to increase the number of potential adoptive or foster families and to support Government’s efforts in establishing local level integrated social services for children.
Today some 17,000 children in Azerbaijan are living in institutions of one kind or another because their biological parents cannot care for them. Many institutionalized children spend their entire infancy, childhood and adolescence in institutions, losing all contact with their families. Children who ‘graduate’ from institutions are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be poor, more likely to be in trouble with the law, and more vulnerable to exploitation – such as trafficking and sexual exploitation – than their peers.
Institutionalization – no matter how well intentioned – hinders intellectual, physical, emotional and social development. The younger the child, and the longer the time spent in institutions, the greater the damage.
The Government of Azerbaijan together with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNICEF and civil society partners has been working on addressing this issue for about five years now. As part of these efforts the Presidential State Programme on Deinstitutionalisation and Alternative Care was adopted in 2006 – a policy document aimed at reintegration of children residing currently in various state institutions with biological or foster families and at creation of alternative care services to support the de-institutionalization process as well as prevent new unnecessary deprivation of a right to the family by placement of children in state care.
These alternatives include drop-in and day-care centres and foster families, where a small number of children live with a single pair of foster parents in an environment that is as close to that of a normal family as possible.
Taking care of children since first day of its activity, Azerbaijan’s leading mobile operator Azercell Telecom decided to become a full partner of “Every Child Needs a Family” project by contributing to the development of the Public Awareness campaign as well as investing in Child Welfare part of it.
As part of the project more than 500 local government officials, managers of childcare institutions, NGO staff and community leaders were trained by international consultants to carry out basic social work in their communities.
Since 2008, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and supported by Azercell Telecom LLC, is working in four pilot districts (Nizami district of Baku, Guba, Ismayilli and Masalli) to set up integrated social services for vulnerable children and their families.
The official launch of the campaign will take place at the Park Inn Hotel, Baku on November 20th, on the 19th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The event featuring presentation of the campaign materials and hosted by a famous Azerbaijani singer Zulfiyya Khanbabayeva, will be attended by some high-profile public officials, media and business community.