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End placing children under three in institutions in CEE/CIS region

SOFIA, NOVEMBER 21, 2012 – Government delegates from more than 20 countries of Eastern European and Central Asian region discuss preventing placement of children under three in institutions at a 2 day conference in Sofia hosted by the Government of Bulgaria. Delegates from Montenegro taking part in the conference are: Remzija Ademović, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare; Mira Jovanovski Dašić, Deputy Minister of Health; Nevenka Stanković, Deputy Ombudsman; Branka Tanasijević, President of the Committee for Health, Labour and Social Welfare in Montenegro's Parliament, and Jovan Kojičić, Advisor for Human Rights to the Prime Minister.

At least 1.3 million children in the region are separated from their families often because of poverty and their families’ inability to cope due to stressful circumstances, reveals the study Children under the age of three in formal care in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: a rights-based regional situation analysis.

UNICEF Regional Director Marie-Pierre Poirier talking to the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev

All children have the right to live in a family and it is a basic human need: research demonstrates that babies who are institutionalised for more than six months suffer delay in early brain development – this can only be recuperated by the care of a loving family environment.

“One of the recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to Montenegro in 2010 was to reduce the number of children living in institutions and to increase the number of children living in families, including foster care or other family style arrangements that are alternative to institutions,” said Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Representative for Montenegro.

In the CEE/CIS region, only Romania, Serbia and Croatia adopted laws to prevent infants being sent into institutions. More countries are expected to do so following this conference.

“Government of Montenegro is implementing social welfare and child care system reform. In this process, UNICEF support is particularly significant. We have set ourselves a challenge to strengthen the biological family, provide bigger support to mother and child and create conditions for their social and financial security. We will further strengthen kinship foster care and develop standard – professional foster care with primary focus on children from 0-3. We will further strengthen all relevant sectors with the aim of prevention of institutionalization of children,” said Remzija Ademović, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.

According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, there are currently more than 20 children under the age of three placed in institutions in Montenegro. The new Law on Social and Child Protection, which was developed with the support of UNICEF, stipulates that no child under the age of three is to be placed in an institution. This should be used only as a temporary measure of last resort. This new Law has been submitted to the Parliament for adoption.

UNICEF Bulgaria Representative Tanja Radocaj and Jan Jarab, OHCHR Representative for Europe taking the stage

According to the same source, from 2005 to 2009, 59% of the total number of children aged 0-3 have been sent to the institutions directly from maternity wards or hospitals. In order to address this situation, it is planned to adopt an Intersectoral Protocol on prevention of institutionalization of children, adopt standards to help define foster care service and organize an awareness raising campaign to promote fostering and adoption. This will create the necessary preconditions to decrease the number of institutionalized children under the age of three in Montenegro.

The two-day conference is hosted by Government of Bulgaria under the patronage of the President Rosen Plevneliev in collaboration with UNICEF. The aim is to join forces in promoting social inclusion of children deprived of parental care and prevent children under 3 from being placed in institutions in this region.



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