EU Delegation and UNICEF reaffirm importance of children growing up in a family environment

31 August 2022
Poseta Ustanovi za decu i mlade Sremčica i nevladinoj organizaciji „Dečje srce“

Belgrade, 30 August 2022 – Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia, and Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Serbia, visited the Sremcica Institution for Children and Young People and the Decje Srce non-governmental organization to see the results of the deinstitutionalization process in Serbia.

Residential institutions cannot provide children with the care they need to grow, develop and reach their full potential. Such care is best provided by a family and not an institution and is needed by all children. In fact, this is all the more true – for children with disability. Their chances of reaching their full potential – are biggest when stimulation and support are provided in the early years.

Deyana u poseti Ustanovi za decu i mlade Sremčica

While Serbia has made considerable progress in reducing the overall number of children in residential institutions in the past decade, it is of great concern that children aged 0-3 continue to be placed in shelters and large-scale institutional care for extended periods of time.

UNICEF is committed to continuing and strengthening its support to the Serbian Government’s efforts to realizing the rights of every child, and to supporting them to develop to their full potential for the benefit of society as a whole.

“UNICEF is looking forward to the new government being formed so that the meaningful implementation of the Strategy for Deinstitutionalization can resume, ensuring that children remain with their families whenever possible. Serbia has already demonstrated that it is possible to achieve measurable results. With the full implementation of the Strategy, the country can be a leader in this area."

-Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia

The European Union strongly supports accelerated social welfare and childcare reforms as they are intrinsically linked to the negotiation and realization of the commitments set out in Chapters 19 and 23 of Serbia’s accession to the EU.

“All children should grow up in a family, and we should promote the development of support for children in a family in the community. We welcome the adoption of new “Strategy for De-Institutionalization and Development of Services at local level” (adopted in January 2022 for the period 2022-2026) and “National Strategy for prevention and protection of children from violence” (adopted in May 2020 for the period 2020-2023). However, dedicated resources and established institutional mechanisms for guiding and overseeing their implementation should be provided as soon as possible. All forms of discrimination and segregation of children with disabilities should be eliminated,” said Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Serbia.




Nicola Bertolini in Sremcica

Challenges to deinstitutionalization remain, but with strong focus and continued commitment and partnerships every young child, especially those under three years of age, can start his or her life in a caring family environment. Civil society is especially important in this process, and both the European Union Delegation and UNICEF are working to strengthen their capacity to fully engage in this area. 

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