CHILD CARE REFORM
UNICEF works to ensure that every child in Serbia has a family, focusing on the children at greatest risk of growing up in care – those with disabilities and those from the very poorest families. Families need support to stay together. They need services that prioritize family solutions, from supportive maternity staff to skilled social workers, and from day-care centres to respite schemes.
Progress and challenges
There has been progress. The institutionalization of children under the age of three, for example, has been banned. And the ratio of children held in institutional and foster care has been reversed, with more children now being raised by foster parents.
However, the number of children living in care – those who are cared for by the State, rather than by their biological families – is actually growing as the economic crisis bites, and children with severe disabilities are still too often placed in institutions.
What we do
We aim to reduce the total number of children in care to an absolute minimum, with children only removed from families for their own protection. No child should lose their family because they are disabled or poor.
UNICEF aims to change the mindset on child care. We support comprehensive approaches to keep families together, alongside effective case management for each individual child. We work with Centres for Social Work (CSWs), providing vital standards, guidelines and support to develop capacities. And we provide evidence to ensure that the money ‘follows’ the child in the family, not the bed in an institution.
Serbia’s Social Welfare Law includes recommendations generated by our work in this area. We are the Government’s main partner in the development of social welfare by-laws and have worked with the EU to assess social inclusion in child care reform.
Now we are focusing on effective community services – essential to keep children with their own families.
Building the evidence
Creating social accountability
Working in partnership