British TV actor Nicholas Lyndhurst promotes foster care in Montenegro
By Vladan Jovanović
PODGORICA, 16 October 2013 – Famous British actor Nicholas Lyndhurst this week joined forces with UNICEF to support the “Every Child Needs a Family” campaign. The actor is extremely popular in Montenegro for his role as Rodney Trotter in the BBC TV comedy Only Fools and Horses.
The TV star became the latest celebrity backing the multi-year campaign. It is part of the “Social Welfare and Child Care System Reform – Enhancing Social Inclusion” project implemented by the Government of Montenegro, with the technical assistance from UNICEF and UNDP and the financial support of the European Union.
Central and Eastern Europe has one of the largest rates of children in institutional care in the world. Last year, Montenegro and other governments in the region voiced their commitments to end placing children under three in institutions.
"Fostering is a wonderful option which can be taken, in the best interest of children, if they are not able to be with their biological parents. I see how foster families can give support, care, love and have a positive impact on children’s lives," Lyndhurst said during his two-day visit which started on Monday.
Lyndhurst met foster parents, children with and without disabilities and played a central part in a special event with young people, UNICEF and government representatives at the oldest theatre in Montenegro. He visited a local inclusive school and talked to the students from the drama faculty. He also participated in the open days of the centres for social welfare in Cetinje and Podgorica, where all interested citizens and potential foster parents were welcomed and provided with detailed information about fostering.
“If my presence can stop one child from going into an institution or can have one foster parent say “Yes, we’ll have another child” or “We’ll have two of them” then I’ve done my job,” Lyndhurst said.
UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks said: "It is hard to find a decision a government can make that has more impact on the human rights of an individual than the one it has to make when a baby goes into the care of the state.”
He pointed to more than 50 years of research showing that children who were placed in institutions in early childhood are at risk of psychological, emotional and physical developmental delays, “which can only be recuperated by the care of a loving family environment. Preventing abandonment in the first place; expanding fostering as the main alternative are much better options.”
Kevin Browne, Chair of Forensic Psychology and Child Health at the University of Nottingham, presented scientific evidence on the detrimental effects of institutional care on child development and the benefits of foster care.
“The most important thing during early childhood is to have a one-to-one relationship with a caregiver who invests time and energy in interacting and teaching social skills so necessary for the rest of your life,” Browne said.
Child abandonment can be prevented when parents are supported at the primary health care centres and maternity wards, he said.
The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Predrag Bošković, underlined the principle of family-based care for every child being at the core of the ongoing child welfare reform in the country. “This campaign is just a part of what UNICEF and the Government of Montenegro will do together in the future in order to promote fostering.”
Foster parent Mija Kovačević spoke about her experience and invited citizens to visit children in institutions: “I think they should go to the institution to see it and imagine if those were their own children. I did just that and I immediately decided to become a foster parent.”
Lyndhurst appeal to encourage citizens of Montenegro to get more information and apply to become foster parents was reported by nearly all the media outlets in the country. Hundreds of fans showed up at all the events to talk and take photos with the star.
For more photos, please click UNICEF Montenegro Facebook album here.