Representatives of child-focused national coalitions of NGOs and state officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova attended a special study visit between the 23rd and the 25th of July, in Bucharest, in the framework of the ChildPact project “Together for Children: Stronger NGO Coalitions for Child Protection in the Black Sea Area”.
The study visit participants met Romanian governmental and NGO representatives – relevant actors for the child protection system reform process. The agenda included visits, dialogue and activities with: the National Authority for Child Rights Protection and Adoption; several General Directories for Social Assistance and Child Protection from Bucharest; FONPC; World Vision Romania; SOS Children Villages; UNICEF; the Association Valentina; The Association “Fraților Mariști” and the Sensiblu Foundation. Overall, the participants have visited some of the most representative Romanian structures delivering social services for children who have also played an important role in the systemic reform for child protection. It was a learning opportunity of founding out more about both their success stories and challenges over the time.
Amongst the model of services proposed by the study visit agenda there were: family houses; day centres; programmes aiming to prevent the abandonment of children and their institutionalisation; counselling centres for women and children who have been victims of domestic violence; services preventing school dropout; after-school programmes.
Gabriela Coman, the President of the National Authority for Child Rights Protection and Adoption stated: “We have showed our guests that it is highly important to understand the complexity of reforms they aim to implement in the field of child protection. These reforms need not be seen exclusively from a political perspective but also from the perspective of those who will get to be the actual implementers. Romania has been very willing in sharing its reform experience and in learning more from the other participants when it comes to the best child protection models for the benefit of our children.”
“At a regional level, in ChildPact countries, there are around 500.000 children who find themselves in highly vulnerable states because of the lack of accession to social services for children at local level. These children are still separated from their families and placed in institutions that are harmful for their development. These children do not benefit from disabilities recovery processes and are not socially integrated in their communities” argued Mirela Oprea, the Secretary General of ChildPact.
“The Romanian experience in the field of child protection is valuable and unique – this project implemented by World Vision Romania and FONPC aims to facilitate this experience together with good models and practices aiming to assure a better life for the most vulnerable of our children in the Black Sea area” explained Daniela Buzducea, Advocacy Director, World Vision Romania.
Bogdan Simion, honorary president of FONPC presented the various stages Romania took in its social system reform: “A real example of de-institutionalization was represented by the introduction of the new figure – the Professional Maternal Assistant. Starting from 1977, this form of protection was introduced as a temporary alternative to the current system. At the end of 2007, Romania registered 20.380 children placed with 15.225 professional maternal assistants, while in 2013, 19.020 children beneficiated of the same service. This new professional figure made possible that annually, approximately 20.00 children would have a chance to normal life”, declared Bogdan Simion.
Mira Antonyan, the President of Armenia’s Child Protection Network and the Executive Director of FAR Children’s Support Centre Foundation declared: “We are returning home to Armenia after this study visit inspired to create similar models of child protection in our country as well”.
All participants, both NGO and government representatives appreciated the complexity of this initiative. “We got accustomed to various services available for vulnerable children and it was extremely useful to learn about Romania’s social system reform in the context of its European Union integration process”, completed Anastasia Gruzin, Consultant at the Ministry of Work, Social Protection and Family from the Republic of Moldova, Department of Policy and Protection for Families and Children’s Rights.
Partners to this project agreed to work together for creating a Child Protection Index that would monitor progress and gaps in the child protection reform in the countries of the region. At the same time, the study visit in Romania represented a good opportunity to strengthen the partnership between civil society and government representatives.
The project “Together for Children” is financed by the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Official Development Assistance programme and implemented by UNDP – BRC (the United Nations Development Programme – Regional Centre of Bratislava), and by the project implementation partners: World Vision Romania, the Romanian Federation for NGOs for Child (FONPC), the Armenian Child Protection Network, the Azeri NGO Alliance for Children, the Georgian Coalition for Child and Youth Welfare, the Moldavian Alliance of Active NGOs in the field of social protection of family and child (APSCF).