UNICEF Uzbekistan mobilizes cross-sector partnerships to end placing children under three in institutions
By Nigina Baykabulova
TASHKENT, 14 November 2012 – Representatives of the Government, Parliament, civil society organizations, academic institutions and mass media joined UNICEF’s Call to Action to end placing children under the age of three years in institutions across Europe and Central Asia.
The Call to Action was issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UNICEF at a meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels last year after the launch of their joint report At Home or In a Home. This report alerted Governments and policy-makers to the irreversible loss of development potential faced by children between the ages 0 - 3 years if they are placed in institutions.
The report highlighted special vulnerabilities of young children in residential care compared to older children and brought forth strong arguments for finding them family-type or foster care instead. The number of children in government-run care institutions in the region is around 600,000, estimated to be the highest in the world.
The launch of the Call to Action in Tashkent took place at a strategic time when countries of the region are preparing for a ministerial conference dedicated to this topical issue. The meeting will review the current situation with regard to children under 3 in institutions and help reinforce national commitment as well as action to provide stronger support to vulnerable families and children.
Speaking at the launch, UNICEF’s Geneva-based Regional Child Protection Advisor Jean Claude Legrand briefed on child care systems reforms in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, focusing on children below three years. He stressed that a high level of separation of children of the region from their biological families suggested that vulnerable families were not receiving adequate social protection. Access to services, including foster care, was especially limited for children under three years. It was therefore crucial to advance child care reforms and change the current systems of social services, policies and practices to better protect children deprived from parental care.
“Placement in institutional care of children below three years of age must be restricted to a short-term emergency measure or a planned stay not exceeding six months, when it is absolutely necessary and in the best interest of the child,” Mr.Legrand added.
In Uzbekistan, UNICEF is working with a number of governmental and civil society partners to safeguard the rights of children to be brought up in a safe and caring family environment or, when necessary, to be provided alternatives to family care.
Building on the Convention of the Rights of the Chid, the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care and other international standards, UNICEF is focusing on improving policies, procedures, and services to prevent separation children from their families and not place them in institutions unless it is an action of last resort. UNICEF also supports capacity building of judges, social workers and other frontline professionals with responsibility for children and strengthening the role of the family as the best setting for every child.
“2012 has been declared Year of the Strong Family in Uzbekistan. It is the best time for all of us to identify and support initiatives that help families stay together by increasing their access to social services. One effective way of doing it is for the Government to invest in building stronger social protection systems that reach the most vulnerable families and most disadvantaged communities," said Jean-Michel Delmotte, UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan.
UNICEF inspired a thought-provoking discussion among young Uzbek journalists about the importance of family for the growth, well-being and protection of children, especially the youngest.
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