UNICEF continues to support Government in child welfare reform
BAKU, 18 September 2006 – A two-day workshop on child welfare and social protection organized by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) together with the Government of Azerbaijan starts tomorrow in Baku.
The workshop is a part of the joint efforts with the Government to support the implementation of the State Program on De-Institutionalization and Alternative Care, being part of the child welfare reform in the country.
The goal behind the reform is to phase out the institutionalization of children, so that the children living today in various kinds of institutions will have a chance to grow up in a family environment with community-based alternatives to institutionalization. Additionally, the vulnerable families would be supported financially as well as by future social and community-based services to avoid new admissions to institutions maintaining children within their biological families.
“Children belong in families and communities. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the region, recognises that, for full and harmonious development, every child should grow up in a family environment. The institutionalisation of a child should be the very last resort and is often the end of a whole series of missed opportunities,” said UNICEF Representative Hanaa Singer.
The workshop will be the first in a range of UNICEF-supported national and regional trainings aimed at establishing a system of social service workers in the country. The workshop aims to boost understanding of child care management, improve skills and practices, present the experience of other countries and involve government representatives in efforts to ensure that children grow up in a family environment.
Many institutionalised children in Azerbaijan and CIS countries 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.
Institutionalisation – 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.
Participants in the workshop will include representatives from the Commission on Minors, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the State Committee on Family, Women and Children Problems, as well as local NGOs.
“The major obstacles to de-institutionalisation include the legacy of centralised planning and the mindset of professionals. There is a lack of community-based alternatives to assess the needs of each individual child and set out a plan for their future. And there is a lack of proper norms and standards on child protection to ensure that any measures taken are in the best interests of the individual child concerned,” said UNICEF Representative.
“It is our hope that this workshop together with other efforts in this direction will help to find an “Azerbaijani way” towards the de-institutionalization and the creation of social services in the country. We must do all we can to speed up the reforms called to ensure effective social policy,” said Singer.
The workshop will be facilitated by the experts of the Italian organization EducAid that have been heavily involved in the de-institutionalization reform since early 1950s in Italy and other European countries.
Following the main training session, special workshops will be conducted in selected areas/institutions to further promote the networking methodology and to deepen the practical knowledge related to the child welfare reform.
UNICEF works in 157 countries and territories around the world. Its programmes cover education, health, water and sanitation and the protection of children. UNICEF also advocates with governments for inclusive policies, budgets, and programmes to protect and promote the rights of children, and to ensure that children have a voice in their own futures.
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