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A ministerial conference on 21-22 November 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria

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GENEVA, 29 January 2013 - Twenty governments from Eastern Europe and Central Asia have joined forces to boost the growing movement to support vulnerable familes, and to end placing children under three in institutions.

The two-day ministerial conference, held on 21 and 22 November 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria, and attended by 250 delegates from 24 countries, took place under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneliev in collaboration with UNICEF. Its aim was to share experiences and promote mutual learning so governments can create and implement policies giving stronger support to families and putting in place appropirate responses for ending the placement of children below three years deprived of parental care in residential care. The landmark conference brought the the region closer than ever before to the vision that every child below three years old grows up in nurturing family environment because all children need to get the best possible start in life.

Twenty governments made a public statement regarding their current and future efforts to achieve results in the reduction of the number of infants being abandoned at birth, in the reduction of the number of children below three years deprived of parental care placed in institutional care; and in the increase in the number of children with disabilities maintained with their family.

Bulgaria, which has embarked one of the most ambitious plans for child care reform in Eastern Europe, proved to be a strong partner of UNICEF, mobilizing this region-wide action on child care reform.

Key priority actions have been identified by these governments:

  • Preventing unecessary separation of children from their family by the development of comprehensive policies of social protection for the most vulnerable families. This will require support for complex sets of legislation, social transfers, health and social insurance, diversification of social services and training of medical staff for preventing abandonment in hospitals and maternity wards.
  • Giving priority to the most vulnerable groups of children, including children under the age of three years and children with disabilities in reforms and in access to services.
  • Reinforcing the outreach capacity of social work system and home visit nursing in order to provide early support to vunerable women.
  • Further developing forms of alternative family based care, such as foster care.
  • Creating national bodies or intra-ministerial coordination mechanisms to oversee reforms and the implementation of new policy priorities.
  • Giving greater responsibility and transferring adequate funding to local authorities for developing and expending new forms of services at local level and ensuring better equity in access to servics among the poorest and the richest municipalities.

UNICEF renewed its commitment to these efforts, in particular by supporting knowledge building on these issues to allow governments to make informed decisions, to provide state-of-the-art technical expertise and to faciliate exchange of promising practices among governments.  

 

 

 
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