Serbia: more support to prevent the separation of children from their families is needed

Source: Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia – MODS

Belgrade, March 30th, 2015.  The round table “Family support – Support to children / Preventing the Separation of Children from Their Families” was held in Palace Serbia in Belgrade, organized by the Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia – MODS, Foundation SOS Children’s Village Serbia and the Association of professionals for children and family support – FICE Serbia, with the support of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs and UNICEF.

The event was organized in order to support efforts aimed at promoting solutions that will prevent the separation of families and the placement of children into formal care; to initiate a national dialogue and to engage relevant experts, institutions and civil society organizations.

The participants were greeted by the Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, Mr Aleksandar Vulin, and UNICEF Representative in Serbia, Mr Michel Saint-Lot.

Minister Vulin has pointed out that the family is the basis of society and natural environment for growth, well-being and protection of children. Accordingly, the Ministry will implement the policy that ensures support for parents to fulfill their responsibility towards children and it is aimed at prevention of separation of children from families through appropriate financial support and services focused on strengthening of capacities of the family.

“We all agree that institutions are not an adequate response to the needs of children who cannot live with their birth families. We all also highly value the role of the foster care system as an alternative to residential placement.  There is an overwhelming consensus among us that the best place for a child to be raised is in his or her own family.  But as not all the families are capable of providing the best care for their children, it is our responsibility to support them – to recognize their needs on time and to respond adequately in order to prevent unnecessary separation and placement of a child into formal care,” said Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative.

In his opening speech, Mr Sasa Stefanovic, the Director of MODS, said that the separation of children from their families is extremely stressful and painful and that a family environment is the best place for a child’s development. “We are aware that some families are faced with numerous problems that may impede their functioning, and we are obliged to provide quality, timely, intensive support tailored to the needs and the specific situation of each family”.

The President of the SOS Children’s Villages Foundation, Ms Nevena Calovska Hercog, pointed out that as an organization dedicated to the care and support of vulnerable children and families in Serbia, it deals with the serious consequences of children growing up without a family or in dysfunctional families, which in turn affect the development of children and youth, but also the vicious cycle of trans-generational problems. “We believe that every child should grow up in a family environment and that prevention, timely and adequate support to families in crisis, is crucial for preventing the separation of children and their safe and healthy development. That’s why we launch and support initiatives that intensify support to families, through the development of new social protection services in the community, and the consistent implementation of the rights of children and families.  Our work and programmes are based on our ten-year experience of working with vulnerable families around the world, and our mission is to fully contribute to the implementation of good practices in Serbia, in partnership with and through multi-sectoral cooperation of all actors responsible for supporting children.”

FICE Serbia, as a professional organization primarily engaged in supporting children and young people and those who care for them in the institutional care context, recognizes the importance of joint actions to open a dialogue about the prevention of separation of children from their families in cases of crisis and the strengthening of the capacity of families to cope with challenges and to implement responsible parenthood. Together with our partners, we expect the outcomes of the dialogue at this roundtable to lead to conclusions which will contribute to better legislation concerning issues of family support and parenting, fostering the development of intensive family support services, as well as the creation of a network of competent organizations which can act in a synchronized and coordinated manner and thus effectively help parents and children in crisis.

The conclusions of the meeting will be in the form of recommendations to be submitted to the Ministry Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, “which has shown an openness for a dialogue on this topic and commitment to finding better systemic solutions for keeping families together, with all its values,” said Ms Zeljka Burgund, President of the Association of Professionals for Children and Family Support – FICE Serbia.