Protocol on Inter-Ministerial Cooperation on prevention of child abandonment
PODGORICA, 14 April 2014 - Today, the Montenegrin Ministries of Labour and Social Welfare, Education and Health took upon themselves the obligation, through a Protocol on Inter-Ministerial Cooperation, to implement the joint task of preventing the abandonment of children and, as a priority, accommodating them in families instead of in institutions.
Signing of the Protocol on Inter-Ministerial Cooperation on prevention of child abandonment - UNICEF Montenegro / 2014
Scientific research and analysis have shown that early childhood, from the age of 0 to 3 years, is of crucial importance for the normal growth and development of the child, and that the institutionalisation of children in their early years slows development and leaves serious and lasting consequences for the child.
It has been shown that key factors for preventing the separation of children from their families and the abandonment of children, are the strengthening of the biological family and support for pregnant women and one-parent families with small children (aged 0-3) who are exposed to risk factors of social vulnerability.
The Protocol covers the most vulnerable group of mothers-to-be, newborn children and those up to 3 years old but, at the same time, its measures and procedures also relate to all children in a biological, complete family.
“In addition to promotion of foster care and family based alternatives to residential care, it is important that we work together to prevent abandonment of children in the first place. This can only be achieved by having a child protection system that brings together the best of the work of the social protection, the health sector and education sector. We believe that Protocol signed today is a commitment to further collaboration between those three important sectors”, said Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, explaining the importance of the signed Protocol.
Analyses show that, in Montenegro, a large percentage of children, about 60 per cent, are placed directly into institutions from maternity wards or children’s hospitals, Health Minister Miodrag Radunovic pointed out.
“That is why inter-ministerial cooperation is essential, so that, through joint efforts, we can enable children to grow up and develop in a family”, he said.
UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Benjamin Perks explained the importance of the signed Protocol - UNICEF Montenegro / 2014
UNICEF’s three-month campaign “Every Child Needs a Family” has increased the number of requests for fostering and the public awareness of the need for children to grow up in the warmth of a family home.
The Protocol is a continuation of a policy which should bring about the eradication of the practice of abandoning children and their placement into institutions, a policy to which Montenegro is obligated under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Data from the Ministry of Social Welfare show that in the last couple of years the number of children placed into children’s homes has dropped by one third. “We will work hard to achieve complete deinstitutionalisation, just as we have agreed with UNICEF and our other partners”, promised the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Predrag Boskovic.
In 2012, Montenegro undertook the obligation to stop the placement of children aged 0 to 3 into institutions, after a call sent in 2011 by UNICEF and the UN Human Rights Commission for Europe to all countries in the region. Through the Protocol, a network is being created involving close cooperation between the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, local authorities, users and their families in order to prevent the abandonment of children and their placement into institutions.
Deputy Minister of Education Vesna Vucurovic assessed that inter-ministerial cooperation would contribute to improved services aimed at children in Montenegro so that they can happily and safely grow and develop.
This Protocol is a cornerstone for ensuring that every child in Montenegro enjoys the right to live in a family.