A worrisome U-turn on ending the institutionalisation of children in Ukraine

Alongside 7 other organisations, Hope and Homes for Children are calling on Ukraine to reverse an order which backtracks on previous commitments to end the institutionalisation of children. The government’s recent actions would leave behind more than 50,000 children, and effectively legitimise discrimination on the basis of disability.

This photo shows a room filled with single beds lined up with children asleep in each one.
Aleksandr Glyadyelov. Ananyiv Children’s Care Home, Ukraine

Despite political commitments, Ukraine remains one of the countries in Europe with the highest rate of child institutionalisation. There are an estimated 100,000 children living in various forms of institutions in Ukraine, including baby homes for children 0-4 years old. In light of these harrowingly high numbers, the Ukrainian Government adopted in 2017 the National Strategy of Reforming the System of Institutional Care and Upbringing of Children (2017-2026), an Action Plan for the implementation of its first stage and, in June 2020, an Action Plan for the second stage of the reform.

In December 2020, following concerning messages indicating a potential backtracking of the reform, a coalition of over 20 European and Ukrainian organisations issued a call to action, urging the Ukrainian government to continue upholding its commitments to put an end to the institutionalisation of children. Our call has not been heard.

Ukraine seeks to amend its reform strategy

In June 2021, the Ukrainian Government adopted the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On amendments to the National Strategy for Reforming the System of Institutional Care and Upbringing of Children for 2017-2026”.

Most notably, the order is set to exclude special boarding schools, education and rehabilitation centres and sanatorium boarding schools from the scope of the reform. It also excludes the legal ban on the placement of young children in institutions, alongside other meaningful indicators aimed to decrease the number of institutions and the overall number of institutionalised children. In other words, Ukraine will continue to institutionalise children younger than 3 years old, and walk back on its previous commitment to reduce the scale of institutionalisation.

Alongside Lumos, SOS Children’s Villages, Save the Children, Eurochild, Disability Rights International, Validity Foundation and ENIL, we denounce the Ukrainian government’s decision and will pursue all possible avenues to challenge these unjust and unjustified exclusions. We call on the international community to continue engaging with the Ukrainian government and urge them to reverse this decision, in the best interest of the children of Ukraine.

Read the full joint statement here.

Read previous call to action to the Ukrainian government from 2020