Children lacking parental care
All children have the right to grow up in a supportive and caring family environment.
Every child has the right to protection.
Children sometimes lose their first line of protection – their family. Reasons for separation can include displacement, inability of families to care for children due to poverty, disability, domestic violence, abuse or neglect, addiction or other forms of substance abuse, or death of parents. Children placed in long-term residential care are at risk of impaired cognitive, social and emotional development (particularly for those below the age of three).
Every child has the right to grow up in a supportive, caring and nurturing family environment. Despite the growing body of evidence relating to the importance of being cared for in a family, millions of children worldwide continue to grow up deprived of parental care, separated from their families, or institutionalized.
The impact of child separation and institutionalization is severe and can last a lifetime.
Children placed in institutions are deprived of social, emotional and intellectual stimulation, which can hamper the healthy development of a child’s brain. Shut away from mainstream society, these children are also particularly vulnerable to violence, neglect and abuse. Discrimination based on disability and other factors, including nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status, are only some of the reasons for children to be deprived of parental/family care.
The lack of attention to children without parental care within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the absence of associated targets further underscore the heightened vulnerability of this group of children.
Ensuring that every child is protected from violence, exploitation abuse and neglect is a priority for the Government of Greece and UNICEF, including by strengthening a robust prevention system, early detection and intervention measures, and coordinated timely response mechanisms are in place.
Key areas of collaboration include deinstitutionalization, provision of family community-based care, investing in family support and strengthening the national child protection system overall.
UNICEF endorses the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2009. The Guidelines encourage efforts to maintain children with their families, where possible. When this is not in the child’s best interest, the state is responsible for protecting the rights of the child and ensuring appropriate alternative care: kinship care, foster care, other forms of family-based or family-like care, residential care or supervised independent living arrangements. Recourse to non-family-based care should only be made when necessary, and in forms appropriate to promote the child’s well-being, aiming to find a stable and safe long term response, including, where possible, reuniting the child with their family.
UNICEF assists governments in strengthening their laws and policies to fully integrate the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (2009); encourages governments to strengthen social care (including community-based activities) and social protection services to support and strengthen families to prevent separation, and support family reintegration when possible.
Strengthening child protection systems to safeguard children and their families from a full spectrum of risks. This includes ensuring every child has a supportive family environment, access to justice and protection from violence.
In this context, advocacy and programming on the issue of children without parental care is a priority area of work for UNICEF in Greece, building upon ongoing collaboration with key government entities, prioritizing the finalization of the National Deinstitutionalization Strategy and strengthening of family and community-based care options including foster care and supported independent living.
When The State Doesn’t Care. A Guide to Accessing Justice for Violations of Children’s Rights in Care Institutions in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and the Caucasus (2017) - CRIN (Child Rights International Network)
Child Rights Toolkit (website) - UNICEF and partners
Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (external report)
Children in informal alternative care - Discussion paper (external website)