About a hundred decision-makers, civil society actors, experts and young people gathered in Sarajevo on 3 October 2017 for the conference “Every Child Needs a Family”. The event was organised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly and UNICEF, as part of the EU-funded project “Transformation of Care Institutions and Prevention of Family Separation”.
Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark addressed the conference noting that a vast majority of children were placed in residential care because their parents might be poor, socially excluded or unable to provide necessary treatment to children with disabilities. He stressed that the services aiming to prevent unnecessary family separation should be prioritised, including adoption of the appropriate legislation to secure adequate support of families with children and social protection services.
“Many scientists and experts who studied this carefully assure us: institutionalization is harmful and detrimental for a physical, hormonal, emotional and intellectual development of any child. It is my strong belief that having a family should not be a privilege or some distant dream. It is a right,” Ambassador Wigemark stressed.
UNICEF representative in BiH Geeta Narayan said the authorities at all levels in BiH should invest more in the prevention of a family separation. She added that even in cases when such separation could not be avoided, a child should be placed in foster or other community-based care. “Placing children with disabilities and children under age of 3 in some form of the institutional care should be the last resort and the shortest possible measure,” Narayan emphasised.
The conference opened a dialogue between decision makers and professionals, as well as foster parents and young persons who lived in the institutional and/or foster care, who agreed that changes in this field were necessary and in the best interest of the child. Its conclusions will also be officially discussed by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Protection and promotion of the rights of the child is one of the objectives of the European Union. EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina is assisting local authorities in their efforts of ensuring equal access to rights and services for all citizens.