Child protection

UNICEF strengthens child protection systems to safeguard children and their families

a girl in a green headscarf, Moldova
UNICEF/2007/Pirozzi

The challenge

All children have the right to grow up in a supportive and caring family environment.

Every child has the right to protection. In Moldova UNICEF strengthens national child protection systems, particularly in the areas of family separation, access to justice and protection from violence, abuse and exploitation. 

The detrimental effects of living in a children’s institution for those under three years of age are often irreversible. Yet in Moldova, as a legacy from the Soviet past, many children have been placed in institutions because parents and professionals believe that institutions could provide better care for children who come from difficult circumstances such as single parenthood, poverty or disability. Due to these beliefs little investment has been made in community-based support services for families and vulnerable children, although evidence shows that these services are more effective and less costly. Social inclusion in the community and schools are important preconditions for the proper development of children. Institutionalization should only be a last resort and for the shortest possible duration.

Children with disabilities form a large part of children in institutions. It is still common for families to believe that they are incapable of taking care of children who need special support or protection. As a result, residential institutions are still considered acceptable places for vulnerable children. 

Children under the age of three also need special attention because they are especially vulnerable to suffering long-term damage. While abandonment of young children is relatively rare in Moldova, the high level of emigration leads to family separation.

 

A rural boy with grandfather
UNICEF/Moldova/2017/Foca

More than 35 thousand Moldovan children are having both parents abroad. 

Children left behind are usually cared for by their grandparents, extended family members or, in some cases, by themselves. Parents who migrate to find work may also rely on institutional care for their children while they are away, and children from rural areas are more likely to live without one or both parents due to emigration.

While the transfer of remittances may provide better living conditions for the children left behind, the absence of parents is emotionally challenging and may lead to lack of care and the increased likelihood of risky behaviour. One in five children who committed offences in 2017 were below the age of criminal responsibility. 

In 2017, almost every fourth child offender was sentenced, and one in four sentenced children was imprisoned.

Limited information is available on violence against children, however, corporal punishment and violence is reported to remain worryingly common in Moldova. 

During the academic year 2016-2017 almost 11 thousand cases of abuse or violence against children were reported by teachers and school managers. In 2017, more than 1,400 cases of child abuse were registered by the police, including more than 300 cases of sexual abuse.

The solution

UNICEF works to keep children with their families wherever possible.

Positive reforms with the backing of UNICEF have reduced the number of children in residential institutions and in detention facilities. But much remains to be done to ensure that vulnerable families and children receive the necessary assistance. 

The rights of children in contact with the law as offenders, victims or witnesses of crimes are not fully realized; their re-integration into a family environment or their communities also requires further assistance.

ungheni social worker
UNICEF/Moldova/2014

Since 2006, the number of children in institutions has decreased nearly seven fold, while the use of family-based alternatives, such as foster care, has increased.

UNICEF worked to provide alternatives for children other than entering institutions. Through partnerships with NGOs and direct support to the government, UNICEF contributed to the reduction of the number of children in institutions.The financial flow for childcare services also expanded, providing alternatives to placement in institutions, while the number of residential institutions was reduced.

This reduction was achieved through a number of interventions, including preventing children from being sent to institutions in the first place, through improved social work services, improved case management, and decision-making on the fate of a vulnerable child. In addition, focus was placed on inclusive education for children with disabilities and the development of day care services and mother-and-child units.

At the same time, the situation of children who were in institutions was assessed to determine whether the child could return to his or her biological parents or to a foster family. The communities of origin of these children were then advised and supported to develop relevant services and the children and families prepared for reintegration of the child.

The number of children in detention has declined considerably and alternatives to detention are used more.

 

Keeping families together

Lack of community-based services has led to the placement of thousands of children in residential care; most of them children with disabilities.  

 

Ending violence against children

Limited information is available on violence against children, however, corporal punishment and violence is reported to remain worryingly common in Moldova.

Justice for children

Migration and family breakdown increase the number of children with insufficient adult support, contributing to other risks, including child trafficking or coming in contact or in conflict with the law.