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 ongoing de-institutionalization, in 2017 around 106,000 children were still separated from their families and placed 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 established, 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. In 2016, the Government introduced a national early intervention initiative to support families of young children with developmental delays and disabilities and prevent further institutionalization. However, implementation of this initiative is slow.
2. Protecting children from violence, including gender-based violence (GBV)
Violence, abuse and exploitation are devastating for children, threatening 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. However, lack of coordination between health, education, social, legal and other services’ often affects prevention, early identification and response to cases.
Meanwhile, 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
In recent years, significantly fewer children have been remanded to judicial care. In 2017, the Government established 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 needs adjusting 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.