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Montenegro, the first country in the region to have 0 children under 3 in institutions

BIJELA, 15 June 2018 - In the “Mladost” Children’s Home in Bijela, there have been no children under the age of three for already 18 months. Instead of being referred to residential institutions, such as the Children’s Home in Bijela, children without parental care aged 0-3 years, with the support of the social and child protection system, either remain in their family or are referred to foster families.


Poster from Every Child Needs a Family campaign promoting fostering in Montenegro with UNICEF’s support

“We can be proud that Montenegro is the first country in the region that does not have children under the age of three in institutions,” UNICEF Montenegro Representative Osama Khogali says, adding that a lot of effort still has to be invested to enable every child grow up and develop in a safe and loving family environment.

A total of 368 children are currently placed in foster families, of whom 24 children are under the age of three. Of that number, 317 children live in kinship foster families, and 51 in non-kinship foster families.

Data from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare shows that since the beginning of UNICEF and Government’s “Every Child Needs a Family” campaign in 2013, up until today, there has been more than a five-fold increase in the number of children in non-kinship foster care.

These achievements are also result of the comprehensive reform of the social and child protection system, within which family support services and foster care as the most acceptable form of alternative care for children were developed.

Director General of the Directorate for Social Welfare and Child Protection at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Goran Kusevija, recalls that finding alternative living arrangements for children up to the age of three is an obligation also stipulated by the Law on Social and Child Protection. For this reason, Centres for Social Work provide comprehensive support to the children’s biological families and are constantly searching for foster families.

“We are preparing families to be standby foster families. This is something that we are developing, to have a family at every moment that will take care of a particular child in an emergency situation,” Kusevija points out.

He adds that Centres for Social Work are organizing open days in order to raise awareness about fostering and to inform future foster parents about the conditions and support system of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

In addition to promoting foster care, the government, with UNICEF’s support, has launched the “Family Counsellor” service in six municipalities in Montenegro. The aim of this service is to have trained professionals provide support to biological families so that they do not abandon the child and manage to provide good care to him/her.


Poster from Every Child Needs a Family campaign promoting fostering in Montenegro with UNICEF’s support

“This service is provided for nearly a hundred children annually. It has significantly contributed to the reduction in the number of children in the “Mladost” Children’s Home”, Kusevija points out.

Director of the “Mladost” Children's Home, Vladimir Delic, explains that the home’s employees also provide support to foster parents in Montenegro: “Our employees often visit the foster families and work with foster parents who need to overcome obstacles and difficulties when it comes to child-rearing. Our employees participate in training, in the assessment of foster families and in the promotion of foster care”, Delic points out.

Numerous global studies show that children who are placed in institutions during early childhood are at risk of falling behind in physical and psychological development, which can only be compensated by care in a warm family environment.

Also, analyses have shown that investing in non-institutional accommodation for children without parental care has provided both social and financial benefits for the state. Therefore, when it comes to social and child protection, enabling every child to grow up in a safe and loving family environment remains Montenegro’s priority.

 

 
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