10 December 2020

Urgent action needed to protect children from institutions in Ukraine

Today, on Human Rights Day 2020, a coalition of 22 European and Ukrainian organisations are calling on the Government of Ukraine and the European Union to step up their efforts to build a rights-based child protection system in Ukraine, free from institutions.

 

Oleksander with his grandmother, Ukraine

Ukraine and the EU must act now to ensure thousands more children like Oleksander, pictured here with his grandmother, can grow up in loving families, not institutions.

 

Nearly 1.5% of all children in Ukraine live without the love or protection of a family in some form of residential institution—one of the highest rates of child institutionalisation in the world. These children with disabilities, developmental disorders, illnesses, or from disadvantaged social backgrounds are deprived of their human rights.

“Despite some positive developments, including the adoption of National Strategy on Reform of the Institutional Care System (2017–26), this system has not changed much over two decades” explains Hope and Homes for Children’s Country Director for Ukraine, Halyna Postoliuk. “It employs more than 60,000 staff across almost 700 facilities nationwide. Yet we know that 92% of children who are brought up in these institutions in Ukraine actually have parents who may be able to care for them if they have the right support.”

The child care reform that has taken place to date, has not been comprehensive and has encountered significant challenges that serve to preserve the current system of institutions that threaten children’s safety, development and life-chances.

 

“Despite some positive developments… this system has not changed much over two decades… It [still] employs more than 60,000 staff across almost 700 facilities nationwide.”

 

In some cases, children have been misdiagnosed to ensure their placement in an institution. In other cases, institution directors have re-categorised their facilities by changing the name but not the reality of the setting. The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has increased the risk of children being separated from their families and confined to institutions. At the same time, pressure on institutions means children already in them are at greater risk than ever of abuse and neglect.

 

“In some cases, children have been misdiagnosed to ensure their placement in an institution. In other cases, institution directors have re-categorised their facilities by changing the name but not the reality of the setting.”

 

A new Call to Action published today breaks down the main obstacles to reform for children and provides several concrete actions for both the Government of Ukraine and the European Union to take. By joining forces with 21 European organisations (including Lumos, Eurochild, SOS Children’s Villages International, European Roma Rights Centre) and Ukrainian NGOs (e.g. Ukrainian Child Rights Network), Hope and Homes for Children aims to put pressure on the key political stakeholders to urgently step up their efforts.

“Reform of the child care system in Ukraine is at a crossroads. The new EU budget in the 2021–27 is a remarkable opportunity to see real change in the lives of children and families. Together with our partners, we call on the Government of Ukraine and the European Union to act now before it’s too late to protect the rights and future of some of the most forgotten and left behind children in Europe,” commented Hope and Homes for Children’s CEO, Mark Waddington CBE.

With the right support and services in the community, these children could grow up with the love, care and attention of a family, not alone in harmful institutions. The time to act is now.

Download the full Call to Action PDF and browse our library of professional publications.

*This work is supported by Clifford Chance


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