When are we going to see better life conditions for children with disabilities in Moldova?

Photography credits: Silviu Ghetie

On the 9th of November, ChildPact attended the preparatory meeting prior to the Moldova-EU-UN-CoE-OSCE Human Rights Experts’ Meeting held in Brussels, at the European External Action Service’s invitation (EEAS). ChildPact was one of the eight participants attending this meeting, together with other profile child-focused organisations such as UNICEF, Eurochild and Lumos. Mandated by our Moldavian member, APSCF, we gave our input with regard to one of the most important points on the EEAS’s agenda: the antidiscrimination and the protection of vulnerable groups, focusing our contribution on the difficulties faced by children with disabilities in institutions. You can download and read our full written contribution here.

While the main concerns and priorities of the EEAS with regard to child rights in Moldova are the process of deinstitutionalisation of children and the reform of the guardianship process, ChildPact explained that the institutionalisation of children is still seen in Moldova as a valid response to dealing with the difficulties faced by vulnerable children and by their families. Because of reduced quality of care, scarce number of care-givers, poor infrastructure, societal segregation and reduced educational opportunities, these residential institutions are far from being a beneficent solution for children. Nowadays, although the institutionalisation of children has been recognised as a harmful practice in the Republic of Moldova, and despite of several deinstitutionalisation processes, a significant number of children still live in such residential institutions – approximately 4000 children. In particular, children with disabilities represent the most vulnerable and stigmatised cases of institutionalised children as they need special care, recuperation and therapy services. Even more, an excessive focus on medical approaches minimizes their access to mainstream education, health care and community life. Complying to international human rights standards, the Republic of Moldova has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled persons, as well as the UN Convention on Child Rights. Thus, the Moldavian Government has taken upon itself the responsibility to protect the rights of every child.

As shown by the Child Protection Index recently piloted in Moldova, some of the main issues regarding children with disabilities are: (A) the lack of monitoring mechanisms needed to control the treatment conditions and the development status of disabled children living in institutions; (B) the lack of a complaint mechanism available for the disabled children living in institutions – they cannot raise their voice regarding the way they are treated, thus abuses go unnoticed; (C) the lack of case management mechanisms for the disabled children in institutions – thus the care and treatment these children need to benefit from is poor and inadequate: (D) the inadequate training and qualification of personnel hired to deal and interact with disabled children.

To address these issues, APSCF (the Moldavian national coalition for child protection) suggested the following solutions(1) the adoption of a special child protection regime for disabled children placed in orphanages, with a special focus on the institutions’ management guidelines and the staff’s specialised background and training; (2) the adoption of a monitoring system for disabled children placed in institutions so that cases of abused are noticed and reduces; (3) the creation of adequate rehabilitation services for children with disabilities, in accessible  and inclusive settings.