On 17 November 2016 the Armenian Child Protection Network organized the launch of the Child Protection Index in Yerevan. The Child Protection Index, a tool created in partnership with ChildPact and World Vision, is designed to encourage regional cooperation, stimulate a more robust implementation of the UNCRC, and serve as a policy analysis tool for civil society, governments and donors. The Index consists of 626 indicators that together measure a state’s policy and actions to protect children. The Index framework of indicators heavily relies on the Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, published by UNICEF. Comparative analysis was conducted in 9 countries: Armenia, Albania, Serbia, Kosova, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rumania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova.
During the launch of the Index, representatives from governmental and non-governmental bodies as well as international organizations were present, including Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Sona Harutyunyan, UNICEF-Armenia representative Tanja Radocaj, representatives from the permanent commissions of the National Assembly, from the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Sport and Youth, Ombudsman’s office, etc.
The Index was presented by the experts. Each national data collection team included eight child protection experts (one served as national coordinator) and two legal experts. The final analysis was conducted by an international data collection manager.
- Too many children across the region are still institutionalized in large residential care facilities.
- New services are needed to create community-based alternatives to residential care facilities. The process of deinstitutionalisation must continue with resolve and resources.
- Stronger financial investment in services and staff is needed to make successful pilots into national features. Armenia will be able to make stronger investments when budgetary analysis aligns with data on, (i) the proportion of overall budget and expenditure devoted to children, (ii) disparities between regions or particular groups of children, and (iii) the most disadvantaged groups of children. This review should utilise disaggregate data to determine if and how Armenia’s budget allocations reach the most disadvantaged groups of children.
- It is time to build data to understand national trends, specific vulnerabilities in Armenia and the impact of programmes and initiatives.
- It is essential to create adequate services and mechanisms for the identification and reporting of situations of abuse that are accessible and friendly to children.
- Armenia’s recent reforms to introduce different levels of social work and case management demand a new emphasis on coordination mechanisms and training for staff.
Some of the findings presented by the Index experts during the event are illustrated below:
Armenia scores low in the Index category of child vulnerability, at 0,280 out of a possible score of 1,0. In comparison, Serbia scores highest at 0,623 while Moldova scores closest to Armenia at 0,336.
- Armenia offers limited foster care services and kinship care.
- limited number of public social workers. Data reveals an average of 0.66 social workers per 100,000 people.
- no specialized judges trained to respond to cases that involve child protection.
- Armenia spends almost three per cent (2.9 per cent) of its total annual GDP on social protection. In comparison, Serbia’s social protection budget comprises 21 per cent of its total GDP.
Armenia is a high performer in the “governance environment” category. It scores 0,713 out of a possible score of 1,0 and ranks second out of the nine Index countries.
The score reflects Armenia’s consolidation of laws on child protection and various government bodies assigned to protect and monitor children’s rights.
- Armenia adopted a comprehensive law on child rights in 1996 that regulates public sector actions and by law affirms the precedence of Armenia’s international treaties over domestic law in situations of conflict.
- The protection (and enforcement) of rights is organised through a number of important bodies: a permanent parliamentary body, an independent ombudsman’s office and a national level commission on the protection of child’s rights whose members are civil society organisations.
Children Separated from their Parents
Armenia scores a total of 0,423 out of a possible score of 1,0 and ranks seventh out of the nine countries. Georgia scores closest to Armenia at 0,500. Armenia has made limited progress to help families stay together: law and policy (0,500), services (0,500), capacity (0,00), coordination (0,167) and accountability (0,667).
- -It is recommended that Armenia reinstates the social support law and provides funding according to need. Efforts to expand outreach and increase the participation of Armenia’s poorest citizens would also strengthen Armenia’s actions to prevent parent-child separation.
- Considering the successful results from pilot regions it is recommended that Armenia scale the reach of these services nationally. Capacity will need to align with service delivery in the form of resources, technical staff and mechanisms to identify need.
- Connections to GTCs, regional level CPUs, schools and police units can build a unified approach to family support that will further reduce parent-child separation. Coordination should be built upon protocols of cooperation and assignment of responsibility in order to limit overlap and build greater system efficiency.
- Armenia’s legal framework on parent-child separation requires that the state only acts to separate a child when it is a necessity for the child’s interests. The legal provisions do not specifically mention the UNCRC term “best interests of the child”.
- Although all children have the right to be present in all judicial proceedings that determine their status, it is recommended that Armenia extends to children under 10 the right to provide opinions and participate according to age and level of development.
- It is recommended to enhance judicial training on child’s rights and civil procedure, as it relates to children.
- Alternative community-based care options must expand to respond to children separated from their parents. Residential institutions remain the “go to” choice as accommodation for children who lose parental support; foster care and kinship care are limited in Armenia.
Armenia scores a total of 0,409 out of a possible 1,0. It ranks closest to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania that scored 0,423 and 0,500 respectively.
Armenia scores high in its efforts to create coordination mechanisms (0,833) and law and policy (0,553) for adoption. Services for adoption score 0,412 with capacity at 0,250. Accountability is low at 0,187.
- There are no standards, quality or financial, that are adopted or maintained by government agencies to regulate the adoption process.
- Due to the absence of substantial monitoring upon placement and lack of quality or financial regulations to standardise adoption and afford accountability to government actors, it is recommended that the state quickly puts in place sufficient oversight and monitoring practices to verify the safety of all Armenian children adopted domestically.
- Adoption services should also include family counselling and social work studies to review the home environment of potential placements and introduce additional procedures to monitor placements.
Prevention of violence and exploitation
Compared to all issues of violence, Armenia scores highest in its efforts to combat trafficking and abductions. Armenia has also prioritised actions to prevent and end sexual abuse. Actions to prevent and end child labour and domestic violence remain limited.
In the “catch all” category of violence discussed within Article 19 of the UNCRC, Armenia is a low performer, scoring 0,339 out of a possible score of 1,0. Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks similarly to Armenia with a score of 0,385 and Romania is a high performer at 0,800.
Armenia’s actions to identify and report situations of violence against children are limited. In comparison with all dimensions of government action to eliminate violence, Armenia’s legal system stands out as the most advanced with a score of 0,412 out of a possible score of 1,0. Services to eliminate violence score 0,300 while capacity is at 0,125. Accountability and coordination score 0,325 and 0,500 respectively.
Although Armenian law provides for criminal sanction in cases of violence against children, there are no specific mechanisms in place to identify violence perpetrated against children except in cases of trafficking. Reporting should be compulsory for certain professionals, including teachers, social workers and police officials. Child-friendly mechanisms are also needed to encourage reporting at local levels. The national Ombudsman’s office does not offer sufficiently easy access for children to report situations of violence.
Local and regional social work professions, including Guardian and Trusteeship Committees (GTCs) and regional child protection units do not yet have the legal or regulatory basis to actively identify and report cases of violence. They only have a mandate to intervene and manage cases of violence once they have been reported.
In Armenia, few services exist to respond to child victims of domestic or other forms of violence. Armenia operates a single rehabilitation shelter for victims of domestic abuse with the requirement that children must be accompanied by a parent to be admitted. For children without an accompanying parent, Armenia offers placement in a residential institution.
To prepare for these services (such as counselling, psycho-social support, emergency foster care, long-term foster or kinship care), it is recommended that Armenia creates and regulates quality and financial standards to manage these services. Licensing of both public and private services will also enforce these standards to allow for sufficient monitoring. In the short term, it is recommended that Armenia reinstates licensing requirements on all residential institutions, day care and substitute care facilities accordingly.
Campaigns to encourage public awareness on domestic violence and other situations of violence are also needed.
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