On United Nations Human Rights Day, celebrated today, SOS Children’s Villages calls on the international community to tackle the violation of the rights of children in care. To address this global issue, we have embarked on an ambitious worldwide campaign to identify the shortfalls of the current situation and provide a clear picture for decision makers. Ultimately, this will improve the quality of care for vulnerable children.
Care for ME! Quality Care for Every Child
With a children’s rights assessment tool at its core, we started the advocacy campaign “Care for ME! Quality Care for Every Child“ in 2011. Developed by our human rights experts, the assessment tool is designed to measure a state’s implementation of the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. The tool helps us to detectthe specific deficits and challenges for each country and to identify solutions.
So far the assessment tool has enabled SOS Children’s Villages across 25 countries to conduct in depth research. As diverse as the results have been, they all have one thing in common: A significant gap between the theory behind children’s rights and the way they are put into practice.
Some Snapshots of Alternative Care
In Hungary too little is being done to help vulnerable families. The lack of preventive services on a local level results in a high number of children being placed in the public care system due to socio-economic struggles, although this is not allowed by the current legislation.
It is estimated that 82 percent of alternative care providers in Benin do not register the children in their care with the appropriate authorities. Subsequently a large number of alternative care facilities are being run without official accreditation, and therefore without any oversight.
The judicial system in Chile, which decides whether or not children may enter alternative care, is overloaded and acts as a bottleneck, delaying the referral of children to specialised interventions and alternative care. Furthermore, existing services and resources are poorly coordinated, and so foster care programmes report enormous difficulties accessing basic services for the children they are responsible for.
Despite a well-established and progressive legal, policy and institutional framework, the data shows that children in Kenya suffer from a range of abusive treatment, including neglect, abandonment, sexual abuse, child labour, early marriage, child trafficking and harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation. The system clearly fails to adequately protect the 19.1 million children who make up almost 50 percent of the population.
The challenges faced in these countries exemplify problems encountered in many others as well: Insufficient investments by the government, but also a lack of knowledge about children’s needs and the absence of a consistent strategy when it comes to policy implementation, lead to a situation where necessary reforms are not put into practice, nor reflected in the budgets.
Troubled Areas and Troubled Childhoods
As severe as these shortfalls are, they are in some countries eclipsed by imminent threats to children's lives. Especially in regions struck by natural catastrophes, wars and armed civil conflicts, as in Syria, the Central African Republic, or most recently in the Philippines. The need for swift help makes it very difficult to provide the long-term commitment children need and deserve for their full personal development.
In the Central African Republic we are fighting against the use of child soldiers in the on-going conflict and are trying our best to help traumatised children get their childhood back.
Through the Syria Emergency Response Programme, which began in July 2013, we have reached out to a total of almost 80,000 beneficiaries.
Most recently, some of the facilities of SOS Children’s Villages in the Philippines werehit hardby Super Typhoon Haiyan, which made emergency relief operations necessary. From one day to the next, children who had already had troubled lives, lost the places they had learned to call home and felt safe in. Through the construction of temporary shelters, child friendly spaces and social centres, we have helped rebuild lives and so that those children can have their future back.
Deinstitutionalisation still a Work in Progress
We strongly believe that a child’s development is best achieved in a family environment. Large-scale institutions can’t offer the quality care children need and deserve. Even though most countries are seeing some progress towards a deinstitutionalised alternative care system, reforms are still at the policy stage, and often little has been done to implement them.
For example, Armenia has seen major policy changes in the past three years, but reforms are slow and ineffective. The deinstitutionalisation strategy in Lithuania mainly focused on reorganising and renovating institutions rather than putting efforts into attracting new guardians for the alternative care system. And in Paraguay only 16 percent of children are admitted into the care system on a permanent basis whilst children in short-term placements remain institutionalised.
A Long Road Ahead
We believe in a child’s right to quality care and are committed to working towards a better future for all children. Every child has the right to experience a positive, empowering, stable and loving relationship. The Care for ME! campaign aims to ensure that policies are put into practice, that sufficient resources are allocated and that people dealing with children are appropriately trained and supported.