|© UNICEF Serbia|
|Serbian Minister of Labour and Social Policy H.E. Rasim Ljajic, UNICEF Area Representative Ms. Judita Reichenberg, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission H.E. Josep Lloveras|
Belgrade, 14 October 2008 - “A Child’s Place is within the Family - Transforming Residential Institutions for Children and Developing Sustainable Alternatives’’ project, funded by the European Union with 1.4 million euros and implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Serbian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, was unveiled today.
The aim of the project is to transform residential institutions into child-centered and community-based services which respond to local needs; strengthening and expanding the existing foster care system and building the professional capacities needed for a transformed and decentralized system of child care.
The project was presented by H.E. Josep Lloveras, Head of The Delegation of the European Commission to the Republic of Serbia, H.E. Rasim Ljajic, Minister of Labour and Social Policy of the Republic of Serbia and Ms. Judita Reichenberg, UNICEF Area Representative for the Republic of Serbia.“Countries in transition have a problem with children without parental care and children living with disabilities. The current placement of these children in residential institutions is inadequate. The European Union will provide financial assistance to help ensure full capacity of the child care system in responding to the need of the most vulnerable groups of children in Serbia”, said H.E. Josep Lloveras, Head of The Delegation of the European Commission to the Republic of Serbia.
There are 900 children without parental care and 1,200 children living with disability who are currently placed in residential institutions in Serbia. Only 17 per cent of these children have contact with their biological parents on a regular basis, while 68 per cent have no contact with their parents. “These institutions will be transformed or closed in the next five years”, explained the Serbian Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
While the number of children in institutions in Serbia has been decreasing in recent years, and the number of children in foster care has increased, problems remain.
“Families in risk and their children still do not have adequate support that would prevent separation of children from their parents. And the number of children with disabilities in residential institutions has been unchanged for years – it is not decreasing. One of the reasons for such a situation is a lack of necessary support to biological families to be able to care for their children and stimulate their development. Another reason is that a system of specialised and urgent fostering is still non-existent”, said UNICEF Area representative Judita Reichenberg.
“A Child’s Place is within the Family - Transforming Residential Institutions for Children and Developing Sustainable Alternatives” will focus on policy development and related legislative reforms, capacity building and improvement of the quality of care, and support to the development of community based services.
”The goal of this project is quite simple and clear and it is to ensure that as many children at risk as possible realize their right to grow up in a quality family environment - with their biological or their foster parents”, concluded UNICEF Area Representative Judita Reichenberg.