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Child Care Reform

© UNICEF/CEECIS2013P-0348/Pirozzi

A child’s right to a supportive and caring family environment

Children are most commonly placed in alternative care because of disability, family breakdown, a lack of social support systems or poor social and economic conditions. Less frequently are they removed from their families because of violence in the home, even if this in theory would be the most compelling reason for such a decision.

In this region, such alternative care is still dominated by large-scale residential care that remains a legacy of the Soviet past. However, it is now well known that such residential care settings cannot provide the one-to-one warmth and care a child needs to develop properly. As a result, many institutionalized children develop life-long problems due to a lack of social and intellectual stimulation in their earliest years. Shut away from mainstream society, they are also vulnerable to neglect and abuse.

Only about 5 per cent of children in residential care are truly orphans, while 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.

This region has the highest rate in the world of children growing up in formal alternative care settings: 1.3 million children or more than one child in every 100. The number of children in residential care in the 22 countries and territories that make up this region is extraordinary - the worst in the world. More than 625,000 children reside in these institutions.

A review of TransMonee data available for 16 countries in the region suggests that there are well over 31,000 children under 3 years of age in residential care. Children living there are vulnerable to violence because they are separated from society and live in closed environments. The more closed that environment is, the greater the risk of violence and the smaller the chance that it will be reported.

Despite strenuous efforts over the years to bring these numbers down, residential care remains the first resort, rather than the last, for many children at risk. In fact, many believe that institutionalization is the best option for certain children such as those with disabilities.

Children often end up in residential care because of family poverty or breakdown, violence in the home, disability and the sheer lack of social support systems. Between 1 and 9 per cent of children live in families officially registered as poor and extremely poor (1) and those from homes that are violent or dysfunctional as a result of alcohol or substance abuse are at high risk of being placed in formal care.

Last updated November 2013

Presentations - Day I
Presentations from Day I of the two-day ministerial conference held on 21 and 22 November 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria

Presentations - Day II
Presentations from Day II of the two-day ministerial conference held on 21 and 22 November 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

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Formal care and adoption of children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia


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