ZAGREB, October 28, 2019 – The SOS Children’s Village Croatia on Monday called for shifting focus back to unprotected children and increasing welfare funding, underlining the importance of abolishing institutional care for children so that they could grow up in family-type alternative care.
“Alternative care in the past meant institutions where a child would get lost. The process of de-institutionalisation, shifting focus back to children and advocating children’s rights helps make progress,” the head of the SOS Children’s Village Croatia national programme development, Gordana Daniel, said at an international conference.
SOS villages care about children without parents and parental care and life in SOS children’s villages resembles the life of any family, the only difference being that those children’s families are bigger and that they are cared for by SOS moms. Also, children’s villages develop numerous other services in an effort to respond to the needs of the target group. This puts the child in the focus of attention and its needs are heard and recognised.
In 2018, in the two Croatian SOS children’s villages – Lekenik and Ladimirevci – 170 children were growing up in 31 SOS families.
In the SOS communities in Zagreb, Velika Gorica and Osijek, where children go after primary school, there are 49 high school children, and 29 young people have taken part in a programme of semi-independent living that helps them live on their own.
The SOS Children’s Village Croatia association is funded mostly by sponsors and donors, Daniel said, adding that the state, even though it did finance the association to a smaller extent, was still not ready to set aside enough funding to meet all of the needs of children without parental care.
This is particularly a problem in small communities which lack strong social services and where families have difficulty accessing the necessary professional help.
“All the more important social services are now based on the empowerment of the family. We are not focused only on giving direct care to a child that needs to be removed from its family, we have been working for six years on programmes that empower families and help prevent situations in which a child is taken out of its family. That is the future,” she said.
The head of the SOS Children’s Village Croatia Association, Mariza Katavić, said that the need for new children’s villages was constantly growing but that apart from a lack of funding, there was also a lack of other infrastructure – transport, healthcare and welfare.
“What is problematic is that we cannot expect the state and local communities to solve those problems because local communities very often do not have the money although they do have the will,” she said.
Tatjana Katkić Stanić of the Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Ministry said that children were expected to gradually leave children’s homes and that such homes were expected to provide accommodation for only a short period of time.
“A precondition for that is the strong development of foster care and development of services for families at risk so that children who can do so, can return to their primary family with parents’ capacity having been strengthened… while children who cannot be in their primary family would be provided for in some other way, such as adoption,” Katkić Stanić said.
The international conference, called “Recognise, care, be proud”, was held to mark three anniversaries – the 70th anniversary of the umbrella international association SOS Children’s Villages International, which so far has supported four million children through the system of alternative care and family empowerment, the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 10th anniversary of the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.
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