A CHILD’S PLACE IS WITHIN THE FAMILY
“Transforming residential institutions for children and developing sustainable alternatives’’
The Conference was opened by Minister of Labour and Social Policy Rasim Ljajic, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Vincent Degert and UNICEF Area Representative Judita Reichenberg.
The conference is attended by representatives of social welfare institutions, service providers, professionals and experts in social welfare and child protection from Serbia and from the Region, members of civil society organisations (including parents associations of children with disability) and independent human rights bodies, as well as by UNICEF representatives from the Region and other international organisations.
“Spending on the improvement of the situation of children from vulnerable environments is our duty. Moreover, any fund given to children should be perceived as investment in the future. Only a well-integrated and educated child can tomorrow contribute to the society in which it lives”, said Ambassador Vincent Degert in his introductory address.
The overall aim of the project was to strengthen the child-care system so that the rights and needs of the most vulnerable children, and children with disability in particular, in Serbia are effectively responded to. To that end, and in accordance with the Social Welfare Development Strategy and the National Plan of Action for Children, the project was strategically focused on three main components/pillars:
“The child-care system is heading steadily lead by the idea of social inclusion. We are witnessing a continuous and stable decrease in the number of children placed in residential institutions, and an evident increase in the number of children in day-care centres in local communities and in foster families. The new Social Protection Law gives us an excellent framework for the continuation of this process. The Law affirms the significance of working in local communities, places the focus on an individual, family and child. It establishes the basis for a more efficient support to those who are in greatest need”, said UNICEF Area Representative Judita Reichenberg.
The main achievements and contributions of the project to the social protection reform efforts over the last three years are related to direct outcomes for children. The total number of children and youth (up to 26 years of age) in residential care has dropped by 29.5%, including children with disabilities in specialized institutions, while the number of children in fostering has increased by 27%.
“We have developed a five-year Master-plan for transformation of residential institutions for children which has now been legitimized through the adoption of the new Social Welfare Law. The implementation of the Law is a longer-term process which requires time and strong coordination between different parts of the social-care system. For this reason we are simultaneously working on expanding the foster-care support network and providing better support to biological families with children with disability. I believe we are on the good way to prevent and reduce the need for institutionalized placements of children”, said Minister of Labour and Social Policy Rasim Ljajic.
Family and family environment is of vital importance for a child’s development. It is therefore necessary to continue coordinated efforts not only for strengthening of the fostering system to meet the needs of children with disability, but also on preventive measures, developing services to support biological families, and full implementation of inclusive health and education policies. To achieve these goals, of crucial importance is regular reporting and monitoring at national, institutional and beneficiary level.
On the second day, the conference participants will articulate recommendations for future steps to ensure continuity of child-care reforms within comprehensive social inclusion agenda.
The project brief can be downloaded here