The following child protection issues remain the major protection challenges in Ukraine:
1. Children in public care
Despite ongoing efforts to prevent family separation and institutionalization, and the increasing number of ongoing de-institutionalization efforts, in 2017 there were around 106,000 children separated from their families and living in various child-care institutions. Alternative family-oriented care systems remain insufficiently developed, and national “gatekeeping” mechanisms are limited. Although community-based services for vulnerable children and their families are being introduced, they face major social and financial barriers to scaling up.
An increasing proportion of children in state-run residential care institutions and boarding schools have disabilities. Since 2016, the Government introduced a national early intervention initiative to support families of young children with developmental delays and disabilities and prevent their further institutionalization. However, implementation of this initiative is still slow.
2. Protecting children from violence, including gender-based violence (GBV)
Violence, abuse and exploitation have devastating impact on children. threatening their lives and physical health, as well as emotional well-being and future prospects. Violence can pass from one generation to the next, with victims more likely to ‘normalize it’ and later become adult victims or perpetrators. In addition, lack of coordination between health, education, social, legal and other services’ often affects prevention, early identification and response to those cases.
Moreover, Ukraine lacks adequate referral mechanisms for specialized services, especially for children subjected to violence, sexual exploitation or GBV. Furthermore, collection, analysis, dissemination and use of data on violence against children and GBV require improvement.
3. Justice for children
Improvements in justice for children has led to reduction in the number of children remanded to judicial care. In 2017, Ukraine introduced a cross-sectoral coordination mechanism to develop a comprehensive system of justice for children, including a Law on Justice for Children. However, the justice system still needs adjustment to meet needs and protect the rights of child victims and witnesses, as well as other children in contact with the law.
4. Children affected by humanitarian situations
Children in eastern Ukraine face multiple protection issues like displacement, exposure to violence including GBV, family separation and psychosocial distress. Thousands of children bear cognitive and emotional scars from frequent traumatic experiences. Moreover, children are often unaware of mine risk, despite mines and other explosive remnants of war being the largest cause of conflict-related death or injury among children.