Ukraine joins East European and Central Asian governments to share experience on elimination of residential care for young children
SOFIA/KYIV, 21 November 2012 – The Ukrainian delegation unites with 20 other governments from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to develop strategies to eliminate residential care for young children, participating in a two-day international Ministerial conference on family care for children under three years, hosted by the Government of Bulgaria in collaboration with UNICEF. The conference’s goal is to enable governments to create and implement policies with stronger support to families and to work together to prevent the placement of children, particularly the youngest, into institutions.
At least 1.3 million children in the region are separated from their families due to poverty or families` inability to cope with stressful circumstances, revealed the study of Children under the age of three in formal care in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: a rights-based regional situation analysis. This study was launched today at a regional ministerial conference in Bulgaria.
Out of the 1.3 million, an estimated 31,000 placed in institutions are under the age of three years. They are at risk of severe developmental delays when left in such form of care. Romania, Serbia and Croatia are the only three countries in the region which have approved laws to prevent infants from being sent into institutions. More countries are expected to do so following this conference.
"The Convention of the Rights of the Child recognizes how important it is to provide support to families so that children can grow up in a family environment. The family can be the most nurturing place for a child," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. “Our region has challenges but also useful knowledge on how to overcome them. We aim to create a network of solidarity where countries work together to give children the best start in life,” she added.
UNICEF Regional Child Protection Advisor Jean Claude Legrand expressed concern that in some countries children under the age of three are up to three times more likely to be placed in institutions than older children. Some 30 per cent of children living in institutional care have disabilities - in one country, the figure was as high as 60 percent. Children with disabilities rank among the most stigmatized of all children. That is why social protection policies need to focus on the youngest and most vulnerable children, such as children with disabilities.
“Too many barriers are depriving the children who most need help from growing up in a family. More child-care support services interlinked with family welfare services and efforts to remove unnecessary legal obstacles preventing foster families to act as carers would help improve the situation,” he added.
In Ukraine, the Government in cooperation with UNICEF and many other civil society partners has been working to prevent the abandonment of babies and young children as well as improve monitoring and support to families. These efforts have contributed to the significant drop in the number of young children from 0 to 3 years old living in institutions in Ukraine — from 2.52 per 1000 in 2007 to 1.86 in 2010.
“Ukraine has already achieved good progress in reforming its family care system. UNICEF welcomes the President of Ukraine’s recent decree on the National Strategy to Prevent Social Orphanhood, as well as the Government’s commitment to an additional 12,000 social workers at the local level,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. “But even more needs to be done! I strongly believe that Ukraine can end children’s placement in state institutions, but find an alternative solution, so that every child in Ukraine grows up in a family environment,” she added.
The study presented during the conference underlines that current resources spent on residential care for children deprived of parental care can be better invested in multi-sectoral and tailored family-based services. It also emphasizes that institutional care should be used only when strictly necessary. Medical evidence shows that for every three months spent within such an institution, a child`s physical development was delayed by one month. Children are also more likely to suffer from an inability to bond with parents and their brains are likely to deteriorate.
Governments are urged to:
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2010), and the Guidelines on the Alternative Care of Children (2009) have reinforced the States’ obligation to develop community-based alternatives to institutionalization. Last year, in the European Parliament, UNICEF and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called on governments in the region to restrict placement of children in institutions.
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About campaign “Every child needs a family”: All over the world UNICEF is actively raising public awareness on the right of every child to grow up in family environment. In 2012 UNICEF office in Ukraine has also launched the campaign “Every child needs a family”. This social campaign includes a series of city-lights and billboards to be placed in all regions of Ukraine with support from the Association of Outdoor of Ukraine and city administrations. Also, video PSA “Every child needs a family” is available for Internet audience and for TV broadcasting. The copyright of the campaign “Every child need a family” products belongs to UNICEF. The images and video of the campaign can be used for non-commercial purposes.