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UNICEF calls for action to tackle flow of children into institutions

Governments called upon to invest more in cost-effective services to support families and children at risk

Geneva, October 7, 2009 – UNICEF experts are calling on governments in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States to adopt measures that will stem the flow of children being abandoned in state-run institutions. 

UNICEF Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States Regional Director, Steven Allen, said: “Supporting biological families and preventing the separation of children should be the priority. But in CEE/CIS these mechanism are underdeveloped and in the absence of solid social protection in times of economic crisis families often have no choice but to leave their children in institutions. The long-term effect of this is negative; negative for children and negative for state budgets as institutions are not cost-effective alternatives.”

Around 800,000 children are believed to be in institutional care in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS), according to a new UNICEF report.

This figure, 800,000, is estimated to represent around 40 per cent of the global total.

The UNICEF report, ‘Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection’, states disabled children in CEE/CIS are almost 17 times as likely to be placed in institutions as a child who is not disabled.

UNICEF promotes developing a range of social services, such as day care, counselling and social work to support families with children. Alternatives to institutions that provide family-based care, such as fostering, guardianship or kinship care are also encouraged. UNICEF advises that local level governments monitor cases more effectively and continuously review the needs of children ‘at risk’ to prevent inappropriate placements. These steps should be taken in conjunction with efforts to transform and scale down residential care homes. Savings should be redirected to new services for the support of biological families and for family-based substitute care.

Before the current global economic crisis unfolded, many countries were developing alternative family-substitute care, but progress was slow. Experience in the region from the 1990s suggests when times are hard more families, in the absence of strong social protection and other social services, use residential care for their children as a coping mechanism.

For more information, please contact:

UNICEF CEE/CIS Communication Officer Mervyn Fletcher on +41 22 909 5433,



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