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Health workers and social welfare professionals trained to prevent abandonment of newborns in Montenegro

© UNICEF/ Montenegro/ 2012/ M.Krivacevic
Social welfare and health workers together at the workshop

MILOCER, 12 – 17 March, 2012 – For the first time in Montenegro, around 100 health workers and social welfare professionals were trained how to provide support to families in order to prevent baby abandonment.

The aim of the trainings is to raise capacities of health workers and social welfare professionals so that they can provide adequate support to parents at risk of relinquishing or abandoning their newborns and small children in maternity wards and hospitals.

‘’The aim of this workshop and the message I will take with me is that the child should not be separated from the mother. We have to educate the mothers at risk so that they keep their babies regardless of the problems mothers are faced with. The mother at risk of leaving her baby is not alone in her struggle, she will receive support in the hospital and also from the centres from social work,’’ said one of the participants Milena Matovic, a nurse from Podgorica.

Support to the women by the health and social protection system starting from ante-natal education and continuing in maternity wards are key to successful bonding with their babies and the development of good parenting skills.

Deinstitutionalization requires an intersectoral approach and strong collaboration between the social welfare, health and education sectors.

UNICEF consultant Prof. dr. Viktorija Cucic said that it was very important that the workshop gathered professionals from health and social services so that they could exchange their experiences and understand that they have to work together in order to prevent separation of children from their families.
‘’Family has no alternative. A child’s place is in the family, but every family needs some kind of help. We live in countries with numerous problems and the state should put children first when redistributing resources,’’ said Dr. Cucic.
Early childhood is the most important developmental phase in life. The institutionalization of infants is a serious concern because of the damaging effect it has on young child health and development - for every three months that a young child resides in an institution, they lose one month of development. The impact can include poor physical health, severe developmental delays, disability and potentially irreversible psychological damage.

© UNICEF/ Montenegro/ 2012/ M.Krivacevic
Left to right: UNICEF Child Protection Officer Ida Ferdinandi, Advisor at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Svetlana Sovilj, Deputy Minister of Health Dr Jadranka Lakicevic and UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks opening the first workshop

UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks saluted the Government’s commitment to prevent  placement in institutional care of children below three years of age.

‘’Just recently, the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare presented the main changes in the draft of the new Law on Social and Child Protection, which contains a provision that children under three years of age are not to be placed in institutions. This is a positive recognition and a step forward to prevention of baby abandonment and I hope this provision will stay in the final text of the new Law on Social and Child Protection,’’ said UNICEF Representative Benjamin Perks.

The workshop reminded participants that every child’s fundamental right is to be cared for by his or her own parents, whenever possible. Families needing support to care for their children should receive it. For children who cannot be raised by their own families, an appropriate alternative family environment should be sought. Institutional care should be used only as a last resort and as a temporary measure, until the child can return to a family environment.

The workshop for health and social workers on prevention of baby abandonment is part of the Project The Social Welfare and Child Care System Reform: Enhancing Social Inclusion implemented by the Government of Montenegro, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Education with technical assistance of UNICEF, UNDP and with financial support from the European Union in the amount of 3 million Euros.

The goal of the overall project is to support the social and child welfare reform process in Montenegro including to ensure that every child has their right to live in a family environment fulfilled.



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