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Vulnerable Children Should Benefit from Family and Community Based Services

BUCHAREST - October 2, 2013. To speed up the transition from Institutional Care to Family and Community Based Services through the use of Structural Funds and other EU financial instruments, the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and the Elderly along with the Ministry of European Funds, in partnership with the European Expert Group (EEG), UNICEF Romania and Hope and Homes for Children Romania held on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, an International Seminar.

At the event, representatives of the European Commission – DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and DG Regio, European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) experts and representatives of Romanian public and private agencies showcased good practice models and lessons learnt from the Structural Funds programming period 2007 – 2013 while making an overview of deinstitutionalisation.

“The child place is within the family not in an institution, no matter how good the institution is looking like. This is the reason for, from the very beginning of the reform in the child protection system, our main purpose was to close the big institutions and to ensure the wellbeing of children in the state care. Nonetheless, it is our duty to continue to prevent child separation from his family, especially by developing community based services. Only through well organized and efficient community based services the family can have a real support in rising and caring for its children”, declared Mariana Câmpeanu, the Minister of Labour, Family, Social Protection and the Elderly.

Structural Funds, in particular the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), can play a crucial role in supporting policy reforms in Member States as regards deinstitutionalisation and the development of family- and community-based services. 

The absorption of EU funds aimed at social investment, including deinstitutionalisation, needs to pick up the pace. 

“After two decades of significant progress, this seminar gives all stakeholders in Romania an opportunity to step up their efforts for the deinstitutionalisation of children. A priority for Romania and the region is to see that no child under 3 is placed in institutional care”, stressed Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF Representative in Romania. ”We believe that every child has the right to grow up in a family environment. European funds can and must be used to invest in children and break the cycle of disadvantage and poverty”, added Sandie Blanchet.

Investing in community-based services is in the best interests of children and a much more cost-effective means to prevent their separation from family. Hence, it is important to strengthen alternative services (such as foster care, group homes, extended family care) than to institutional care.

“Already in the common Position Paper published in November 2012, the Commission indicated that, under the Social Inclusion objective, transition from institutional to community- based care services for children, people with disabilities and mental health problems and the elderly is an investment priority and we shall make sure that the objective will be pursued in implementation”, said Philippe Hatt, Head of Unit Romania, Bulgaria and Malta, DG Employment, European Commission.

In the years to come, focus should go on reducing the number of people, especially children, in institutions.

“In order to put into place services that fully respect the human rights of all people, governments need to make the best possible use of EU funds to support the transition from institutional care to community-based services, including investment in family support”, feels Jean-Claude Legrand, Co-chair of the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care.

The International Seminar on Transition from Institutional Care to Family- and Community-Based Services comes at the right time as Romania is developing a series of national strategies and negotiations are ongoing for the new EU funding cycle 2014 – 2020. The key to successful deinstitutionalisation is the commitment of all government structures and civil society organisations. 

“Two paradigm transformations are necessary and achievable in the social assistance system: first one is the transition from a system which intervenes only on the child to a system which could support both the child and his family by preventing child separation. The second one is the transition from a so called system based on institutional care – basically, the conscious perpetuation of abuse on those who have the mischance to be in institutions – to family based services. Because the effects of institutionalization are catastrophic for the human being, and nor for children, and neither for adults the life out of familial environment doesn’t lead to social inclusion, but to social exclusion and inadaptability. Self-confidence, self-esteem and the power to be active in the society is due to the support, the affection and the appreciation from home, from family”, believes Ștefan Dărăbuş – Executive Director of HHC Romania.



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