Children in institutions

The Centre is supporting a range of initiatives to examine the situation of children in institutions and to explore alternatives to the orphanages and children’s homes that can never replace a family environment. In Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union, for example, the widespread institutionalization of children is one of the most negative legacies of the communist system. But lack of information on these children is a major stumbling block to reform. Too little is known about why children enter care in the first place, what kind of institutions care for them, or what happens to them when they leave. The Child Care Forum for Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS is now starting to pull this information together. With support from the MONEE Project Team in Florence, the Forum has launched pilot studies of the child care systems in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania and Moldova. The National Institute for Family and Children, Budapest, acts as the hub of the Forum. Data from initial surveys on why children enter public care, and why they leave it, are now being analyzed. This information could help to pinpoint the key moments in a child’s life when action could be taken to stop their institutionalization. In 2000 the Centre plans to publish The Case of Italy and Spain, a study of the measures taken in those countries to implement national de-institutionalization programmes for children. The study will highlight the fact that policies to discourage institutionalization are not enough: the right climate is needed to create alternatives, including raising public awareness. Undertaken in cooperation with UNICEF’s Area Office in Chile, the study will also summarize the current situation in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

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