Montenegro launches “Every child needs a family” campaign
By Jelena Perovic
PODGORICA, 19 September 2013 - “In front of the Centre for Social Welfare, which is in my neighbourhood, I used to see sad children and I could not ignore their pain. However, the culmination was the moment when I saw one day a TV show on children without parental care. The journalist asked the children what they wanted for Santa Clause to give them. One child responded “Mom and Dad”. I was deeply moved by this child’s desire. With tears in my eyes I continued watching these children eating a cake with a sad look and no joy in their eyes. I immediately decided to foster a child.”
With these words by the foster parent Nada Stojkanović the campaign “Every child needs a family” was launched today. It is implemented by the Government of Montenegro with support from UNICEF and EU. The aim is to increase the number of foster parents, decrease the number of children in institutions and raise awareness about the basic human need and fundamental right of every child to grow up in a loving family environment.
According to a recent UNICEF’s knowledge, attitudes and practices survey, 58 per cent of Montenegro’s citizens think that placement in institutions is a good solution for children without parental care.
However, as emphasized by the UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Benjamin Perks, “more than 50 years of research show that children placed in institutions in early childhood are at risk of psychological, emotional and physical developmental delays – this can only be recuperated by the care of a loving family environment.”
According to UNICEF data from 2010, 59 per cent of all children under three placed in Children’s home “Mladost” in Bijela came there directly after birth. Scientific research suggests that children under 3 should never be placed in institutions.
For this reason, the child welfare reform currently underway in Montenegro aims at ensuring provision of support to parents starting from the primary health care centres and maternity wards in order to prevent child abandonment.
“We believe that through these activities and a more adequate support to the family that can be provided by experts in the centres for social welfare, health care centres and maternity wards, as well as in schools, we will diminish the need for placing children in institutions”, Montenegro’s Prime Minister Milo Đukanović said at the campaign launching.
According to the head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro Mitja Drobnič, the ongoing child welfare reform, supported by the EU, leads Montenegro towards fully achieving the international standards in child protection and thus, providing every child with a family. “It is necessary to overcome the fallacies about fostering, as well as to raise public awareness about the importance of fostering families. It is necessary to continue developing a system of support to children without parental care and to accelerate the process of deinstitutionalization”, Drobnič emphasized.
The campaign launching organized in the capital, Podgorica, ended with an appeal to Montenegro’s citizens.
“On this occasion, I would like to say one thing to everyone: you cannot help all children, but if you help at least one child to grow up happily as other children, you will do enough. Give your love to a child, because every child needs a family”, Nada Stojkanović, the foster parent said.
Her appeal was joined by the Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic: “In the end, not just as the Prime Minister, but also as a parent, I would like to appeal to all the relevant actors and Montenegro’s citizens to join this campaign.”
“It is our hope that this campaign will attract many foster parents to open their hearts and homes to children who need a loving family environment”, UNICEF Montenegro Representative Benjamin Perks concluded.
All over the country, billboards are spreading the campaign key messages – Every child needs a family and Fostering – support to healthy child development. Also, the campaign TV commercial has been shared with all media. In the meantime, centres for social welfare are preparing “open days” to inform citizens and promote fostering in all municipalities in the coming months.
The campaign “Every Child Needs a Family” is organized within the project “Social Welfare and Child Care System Reform – Enhancing Social Inclusion” implemented by the Government of Montenegro, with the technical assistance from UNICEF and UNDP and the financial support of the European Union.