From Institutions to Families – Georgia and a Children’s Rights Convention
05 December, 2013
From Institutions to Families – Georgia  and a Children’s Rights Convention
On 26-27 November, at the Sheraton Metekhi Palace Hotel, a USAID-funded conference “Every Child Has a Right to Live in a Family Environment” organized by Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Care took stock of results and identified the next steps for childcare and the child welfare system. The other supporters were UNICEF and the Parliament of Georgia.
According to Sascha Graumann, Representative of the UNICEF Country Office in Georgia, child poverty has been one of the main reasons why
children end up in the institutions. To bring them back to their families, initial support may be only the first step, while ending extreme child poverty can be the final outcome to the situation. “We need to address the reasons why these children are without families and create opportunities for every child. We also committed ourselves to halve the number of 77 thousand children who live in extreme poverty in Georgia. Family is the natural environment for the growth, wellbeing and prosperity of children. Children growing up in institutions risk a lifetime of opportunity loss both for the individual and society. As former Prime Minister Ivanishvili said, every child should have the opportunity to grow and develop, no matter whether he/she was born in a rich or poor family. The next best options are foster parents or adoption. Almost half of Georgians believe that physical violence against children is acceptable. UNICEF remains committed to support the government in meeting its obligation as a state that is a party to the Convention. Children are the investment for the future of the country, if Georgia wants to meet the demographic challenge and to prosper as a whole.”
Currently, only three state run institutions (Tbilisi Infant Home and two institutions for children with disabilities) are still functional in Georgia, compared with 41 state institutions at the beginning of 2009. Two state run institutions for children deprived of parental care were closed in July 2013. The number of children living in the state run institutions has been reduced from over 4600 to 120 children. These are mainly boys and girls with disabilities.
David Lomidze, First Deputy Minister of Labor, Health and Social Care, was one of the speakers: “We are responsible for childcare since 2009. It means that children’s interests are included in our social services. We have prevention programs as well as allowances for those who get reintegrated into their biological families. If earlier all children were insured when aged 0-5, from 2013 the state insurance program is spread to all children till the age of 18.”
Everychild has been the organization responsible for foster care. It has also greatly supported the Georgian government in running the child welfare system. Andro Dadiani, Country Director of Everychild Georgia, says that so far the most flexible alternative for the biological family is foster parents. He commented before his speech to the conference, “We were responsible for foster care, which involved outreach, recruitment and training of foster carers, as well as helping the government set up the system for outreach, training, assessment, management and support of foster carers. We trained about 800 foster carers within this three-year period. We developed standards for foster carers which are very specific to this particular service. We also provided the scenario for the future set-up of the government’s system for outreach, training, management and support for foster care. The problem currently in Georgia is that the training for foster carers is not mandatory. We are very strong on enabling the government to mandate foster carers’ training. For that, they need to have a government system that will do it in the long term. So, there are many challenges. Some of the solutions not decided upon but proposed by the government are quite problematic. We wish them to be overcome.”
Many people from different countries attended the event. Mr. Jean-Claude Legrand, Senior Advisor for Child Protection, with the UNICEF Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, shared his position with Georgian Journal: “Georgia has moved much faster than any other country in the region. Everybody has been very impressed. Sometimes we have been a little bit scared because when you close an institution, you need to ensure that you have created other conditions for supporting the families, for placing the children in different setups. Now that most of the institutions have been closed, we don’t consider that the mission is accomplished. Half of the work has been done. Now we need to look at quality, at national coverage, we need to look at the fact that we are getting an impact from preventing families from placing their children in institutions.”
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