UNICEF and the Novak Djokovic Foundation collaborate to advance Serbia’s commitment to end institutionalization of children under three
(from right to left) MoLESP State Secretary Brankica Jankovic, Area Representative Judita Reichenberg, Novak Djokovic Foundation Director Jelena Ristic announcing the beginning of the three-year project
Kragujevac, Serbia, 10 May 2013– The Novak Djokovic Foundation and UNICEF have teamed up to support the Serbian Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy in its resolve to stop the placement of children under three in institutions and develop services for families at risk.
Through the partnership agreement signed today, UNICEF and the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which is providing US$ 750,000 over three years, will cooperate to develop innovative services that will reduce the risk of unnecessary family separation and subsequent institutionalization. Specifically, support will be provided for timely risk identification and referral; piloting new and strengthen existing services whose primary aim is to prevent family separation whenever this is in the best interests of the child; and strengthen the fostering system so that it can provide care for those children that are currently entering institutional care under the age of three.
“The Government of Serbia has already banned the placement of children in institutions and is fully committed to ensure that all children under three live in family environments. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy is investing significant efforts to fully implement this prohibition. We are especially pleased that the Novak Djokovic Foundation and UNICEF are with us, because this cooperation is crucial in securing our goal within the next three years”, stated Ms. Brankica Jankovic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy.
Research has clearly demonstrated the negative impacts of institutionalization on a child’s development. Such environments lack the key ingredients which help children grow up into independent, self-confident and caring adults. Evidence consistently shows that a child’s well-being and healthy development are best provided for within the family.
“Strengthening family capacities to care for and raise their children is the most effective way to prevent institutionalisation. However, sometimes it is in the best interest of the child to be temporarily removed from the family and in such cases a more responsive fostering system is needed. We are confident that our partnership with the Novak Djokovic Foundation will help the social welfare system to bring about needed changes”, said Ms. Judita Reichenberg, UNICEF Area Representative.
“This project is a perfect fit with the mission of the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which is to enable vulnerable children to grow up and develop in stimulative, creative and safe settings. The support and love that Novak received from his family proved to be crucial for his development and success. We hope that through this project, we can help many families to stay together and support each other... We will focus our efforts together with the Government and UNICEF to prevent children from growing up in the institutions”, said Ms. Jelena Ristic, the Foundation Director.
The Novak Djokovic Foundation:
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy: