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Foster parents in Montenegro promote the right of every child to live in a nurturing family environment

NIKŠIĆ, 24 MAY 2018 – Dragica Rakočević (62) looks back on when her children and grandchildren were born as precious moments in her life. She talks with the same emotion of the day when the Centre for Social Work assigned her as a foster parent for two boys and a girl.

“I tried approaching them as a parent, to give them love, for them to feel loved. And I have truly come to love them as my own,” said Dragica of the children who have been living in her home for the last three and a half years.

During her first visit to Montenegro, the UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Afshan Khan (left) visited Centre for Social Work in Niksic, where she met foster parent Dragica Rakocevic (right) – UNICEF Montenegro / 2018 / Dusko Miljanic

The girl and the boys were aged between four and nine at the time, malnourished and hardly speaking at all, according to Dragica: “At the time the girl was seven and weighed a mere 11kg, the older boy was found on the street by social workers. The younger boy couldn’t count, couldn’t be enrolled in school. He was six. I enrolled him in kindergarten and the psychologist there couldn’t believe he was the same boy they had known the year before. When he started school, he became an A-grade student.”

Dragica continued by saying the children soon changed their bad habits and now all three are exemplary students.

“I know they cannot do poorly, but for me it is important for the school and the teacher to say they are well-mannered,” said Dragica and added that the children are now a part of a folklore group and a church choir, where they have made many friends.

Dragica was inspired to become a foster parent by the “Every Child Needs a Family” campaign, launched by UNICEF, with the support of the government and the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro in late 2013.

Following her example, her friend also decided to become a foster parent: “She took in some children a year after I did, encouraged by me. Now we socialize and spend time together, go for trips and holidays together.”

During her first official visit to Montenegro, the UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, Afshan Khan, talked to foster parents and social workers about the social sector reform.

One of the billboard designs that were used to promote the campaign "Every child needs a family" throughout Montenegro in late 2013 - UNICEF Montenegro / 2018 / Dusko Miljanic

The data of the Centre for Social Work shows an upward trend in the number of non-kinship foster families in Montenegro over the last four years. A representative of Podgorica Social Work Centre, Marija Popović, noted that, compared to 2013 when the campaign started, the number of non-kinship foster families has doubled.

She added that the centre was regularly monitoring and supporting foster families: “Each foster family is assessed in order to identify the type of support they need. The aim is to ensure all the conditions so that the foster family can take care of the child in the best way possible. The Social Work Centre monitors the situation regularly and assesses whether the foster children are being taken care of properly,” said Popović, stressing that the child’s opinion is taken into account when choosing foster families.

The UNICEF Representative in Montenegro, Osama Khogali, stressed that providing a nurturing family environment is essential for each child: “It is vital in early childhood to have a one-on-one relation between a child and an adult as a precondition for the child to thrive.”

Khogali invited Montenegrin citizens to learn about foster care and, if they are able, to become foster parents themselves and thus enrich both their own lives, and the lives of children without parental care.



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