Building a protective environment
Building a protective environmentMillions of children worldwide are subjected to violence, abuse and exploitation. It happens at homes, schools, institutions or detention fascilities, within the community, at work and during armed conflicts. Millions more, not yet victims, are not adequately protected against violence.
In this region, children are heavily affected by violence. Many counries report high levels of abuse and corporal punishment which is often considered as an acceptable means of discipline. Much happens behind closed doors. Cases go unreported and affected children rarely obtain redress.
Certain children are particularly vulnerable and their rights to protection are more likely to be violated. These include ethnic minorities (such as Roma), children with disabilities, those who live or or work on the street, and those in residential care and detention.
A great many children are separated from their biological families (1). In the region, around 1.3 million children live in some form of family substitute care.Some 600,000 children - the highest number in the world - grow up in residential care. Despite ongoing reforms to revert this trend, this is still the service most readily available to those at risk (2). Most commonly children are placed in care because of disability, family breakdown, violence in the home, lack of social support systems, poor social and economic conditions. Only some 5 per cent of children in residential care institutions are truly orphans (3). The rest have living parents who may be able to take care of them if some additional support was provided. Children who grow up in violent and abusive homes, or without parental care are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
Some 600,000 children in this region - the highest number in the world - grow up in residential care.
Within this region, children are routinely deprived of their liberty. Few juvenile justice systems comply with international standards. Social services are failing. Very little is done to prevent children from getting into conflict with the law or to reintegrate those who do into their communities. Many children under the age of criminal responsibility, or those who have committed petty offenses, are placed in `protective custody` by administrative bodies that operate outside the justice system. Throughout the region, specialised services for child victims and witnesses are only in their infancy.
In addition, children are as well as victims of exploitation and hundreds of thousands of children, are exploited in seasonal agricultural labour, especially in Central Asia.
UNICEF advocates for and supports the creation of a protective environment for children, working in partnership with governments, national and international non-governmental organizations and private sector agencies.
In a protective environment, everyone takes esponsibility to ensure children are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation. Key elements of a protective environments are national child protection systems (including laws, policies, regulations and services), protective social practices and children’s own empowerment. Good oversight and monitoring are essential. In a protective environment, families, communities and governments have the capacity to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation and abuse whether on regular basis or in an emergency.
Click here to read more about UNICEF`s priorities for child protection in the region.
2. TransMONEE database 2009.
3. Tobis D (1992). The Continuum of Child Welfare Services: Principles and Practices for Central and Eastern Europe. Paper given at the Regional Seminar for East and Central Europe, Sofia, Bulgaria, September/ October 1992. Cited in: Carter R (2005). Family Matters: A Study of Institutional Childcare in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. London, EveryChild.
Updated October 2011