Keeping families together
Every child has the right to grow up in a supportive, caring and nurturing family environment.
The impacts of child separation and institutionalization are severe and can last a lifetime. Children placed in institutions are deprived of social, emotional and intellectual stimulation which can hamper the healthy development of their brains. Shut away from mainstream society, these children are also particularly vulnerable to violence, neglect, and abuse.
In Tajikistan, the number of children in residential childcare institutions has remained stable in recent years, will a fall of only 7 per cent from 10,802 in 2012 to 10,061 in 2017.
The ‘medical model’ of disability persists across Central Asia, including in Tajikistan, with children who have disabilities viewed as ‘medically defective’ and a belief that institutions and/or segregated settings are the best place for them to receive appropriate services and be protected from violence.
Placing children in institutions also has clear links to inequality and violence, and to a lack of (i) social protection to ease the impact of poverty on families, (ii) community-based social services to offer families support, and (iii) access to inclusive education and health care for some marginalized families.
The recently approved Regulation on Guardianship and Regulation on the Commission on Child Rights are not consistent. The new Regulation of the Commission on Child Rights states that such Commissions deal with the issue of alternative family care, but in practice in some districts in the country, the Education Department plays the role of Guardianship Authority.
To prevent the placement of children in boarding schools, the Ministry of Education and Science recently revised the Regulation on Boarding Schools. According to the revised Regulation, children from poor households that have both parents are no lover eligible for placement in boarding schools. However, the issues of poverty in such families, and the situation of children in these families remain unclear.
Article 44 of the Law on Child Rights Protection of 2015 on Foster Care has not yet been implemented because of the protracted process of identifying the state body responsible for the law and the lack of a clear procedure to develop secondary legislation on such care.
Local Commissions on Child Rights each have only one paid staff member, the Secretary, to address and coordinate children’s issues, including alternative family care. Therefore, the lack of human resources at local level makes the gate-keeping mechanism less effective and less responsive.
There has been some progress in advocating guardianship and foster care in Tajikistan. The number of children under guardianship and trusteeship increased by 22 per cent from 720 children in 2016 to 880 children in 2017, while the number of children adopted fell by 16 per cent from 1,171 children in 2016 to 982 children in 2017.
UNICEF is assisting the Government of Tajikistan to transform four Baby Homes into Family and Child Support Centres. These Centres will provide a range of family services aimed at preventing the placement of children under three years old in institutions.
UNICEF is advocating for approval and adoption of a Procedure on Foster Care by the Government and increased placement of children in foster care. It is promoting alternative family-based care with its counterparts and incorporation of recommendation as part of the Plan of Action for the implementation of recommendations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of the Republic of Tajikistan on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the period of 2018–2022.
UNICEF is continuing to work with its partners from relevant Ministries to develop and finalize the Procedure on Foster Care, with technical inputs being provided by its experts and consultants. It is also supporting an ongoing assessment of guardianship in several districts of the country.