Children in the Wider Black Sea Area are one of the most vulnerable groups in the region. Recent reports and empirical evidence show that in the Wider Black Sea Region the number of vulnerable children is increasing while the number of children in the general population has decreased sharply in the past 20 years! In other words, fewer children are born in the countries of this region, while the majority of those who are born can expect to have a very difficult childhood.

Hundreds of thousands of the children born in the Wider Black Sea Area can expect to become institutionalised, particularly if they are disabled. Their parents believe that giving their children away to state care is acceptable. Many think that the state can ensure better conditions for their children and the states perpatuate this illusion. But the truth is that the living conditions in these institutions are all but good. Low care-giver ratios, social segregation, reduced education opportunities, emotional and physical abuse are the daily realities. At 18 years these children ‘age out’ of these institutions and very often they enter prostitution, homelessness, begging, trafficking, drug abuse and crime. ChildPact advocates for states to create alternatives to institutionalisation.

A few million children are disabled in the Wider Black Sea Area. While in many countries, communities and institutions work together to create a welcoming environment for children with disabilities, a disabled child in our region can expect a very tough childhood. He / she will face widespread social exclusin due to stigma, lack of useful medical services, no access to mainstream education. In some cases parents are encouraged to abandon such children in state institutions and those who stay with the family are often hidden away from community support and engagement with no opportunities to participate in society.

Child labour is also a massive problem in the Wider Black Sea Area, where both formal and informal economies explot children. In urban areas children work in restaurants and factories, when not falling victim to social exploitation or drug dealers. In rural areas, children perform havardous work in agriculture. Most forms of labour interfere with a child’s physical and mental development and prevet essential activities for development, including education.

An unknown number of children is trafficked from every country in the Wider Black Sea Area. Children trafficked evidece a double exposure to vulnerability: many are children from residential institutions, children from violent or absusive homes, or children from the poorest and most disadvantaged backgrounds.