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Press release: “Ukrainian Child Rights Network” calls on the Government of Ukraine to ensure the rights of the child

The Ukrainian Child Rights Network calls on the Government of Ukraine to ensure the rights of the child and not to serve the interests of adults.

The recent actions of the Government and representatives of the Parliament of Ukraine are a threat to the rights of the child in Ukraine!

The Ukrainian Child Rights Network, which unites representatives of 19 member organizations and 6 associate members from all regions of Ukraine, is seriously concerned about recent decisions and statements by senior government officials leading to a complete rollback of institutional care reform, and nullify the long-standing efforts of civil society to create a child protection system free of boarding schools.

We address an open letter to the President of Ukraine, the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada with a strong request to adhere to and ensure full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular to guarantee the child’s right to family upbringing.

The development of the National Strategy based on the analysis of many factors concerning children, staff and development of services in communities took about 2 years. All stakeholders were maximally involved in the process. The results defined by the Strategy are balanced, achievable, realistic and such that will allow Ukraine to become a country without boarding schools.

“We demand from the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmygal to cancel the order №35645 / 0 / 1-20 dated August 21, 2020 on amendments to the National Strategy for Reforming the System of Institutional Care and Upbringing of Children for 2017-2026, as well as to Resolution №586 of 01.06.2020 “On the Procedure for enrollment of children for all-day stay in institutions that provide institutional care and education of children”, as the proposed changes are completely contrary to public policy and ignore the child’s right to family upbringing”, – emphasizes Daria Kasyanova, Chairman of the Board of the Ukrainian Child Rights Network.

A survey of member organizations of the Ukrainian Child Rights Network over the past five years shows that 92% of children raised in boarding schools are “domestic (parent) children” who have been placed in institutions due to family crises. – poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, or because such institutions simply exist nearby and are so convenient. Halyna Postolyuk, regional director of the international charity organization “Hope and Housing for Children”, says: “From 697 boarding schools (96.5 thousand children), 286 (34 thousand children) are special boarding schools and training and rehabilitation centers. The prime minister and some deputies are demanding that they be excluded from the deinstitutionalization strategy, despite the fact that the vast majority of children are there for social reasons rather than special educational needs. The president, with the help of a video posted on the official social media pages, supports the preservation of sanatorium boarding schools (67 institutions, 16,000 children), which have no reasonable grounds for existence at all, as children should be treated by medical rather than educational institutions. And here the question arises – do they, high-ranking officials and elected deputies, even know about the negative consequences of the growth of children in boarding schools, whether they are familiar with the results of international and domestic research on the harm of institutional care? And do they feel responsible to children when they change political decisions so lightly?”.

For the third time, Ukraine is trying to reform the system of institutional care and upbringing of children. The National Strategy adopted in 2017 and the approval of action plans for its implementation were a significant and significant step, as they clearly define that all institutions where children stay around the clock are institutions of institutional care.

“We all know that one of the key problems of the reform was that children could get into a boarding school through many doors, in different ways. The adoption of Resolution №586 is, in essence, the introduction of a “single entrance” (implementation of the principle of gatekeeping), it is strengthening the responsibilities of local communities in child protection, providing timely support to families with children in difficult life circumstances, – – says Vasylyna Dybaylo, Director of the Partnership “Every Child”. – In addition, our experience in the Ternopil region, in particular the analysis of pupils of all boarding schools, proves that there is no real need for children to stay around the clock, and especially in sanatorium or special boarding schools. Most of the reasons why children stay in such institutions can be eliminated quite easily – by providing transportation, inclusive education at the place of residence, the work of a social work specialist and activating the community to support families in need. It is striking that, according to the results of the analysis, about 50% of communities did not have complete information about what kind of children and why they are in boarding schools in the region. “ That is why the Ukrainian Child Rights Network demands that the Prime Minister suspend the order and not make any changes to the documents.

Instead, we call on the Government and relevant Ministries to work with NGOs to develop services and create conditions at the community level so that children can fully exercise all their rights, including the right to education, without violating the right to family upbringing.

“One of the possible mechanisms is to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from 2011 on the establishment of a separate central executive body for the rights of the child,”– says Svitlana Tolstoukhova, President of the League of Social Workers of Ukraine.

“Ukraine is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, other international treaties and conventions, in 2014 we also signed the Association Agreement with the EU,” said Serhiy Lukashov, director of the SOS Children’s Towns Ukraine Charitable Foundation – According to these documents, institutions of (boarding schools) are places of detention. The child cannot be there all day. He/She must live at home or in a family environment, and the state is obliged to create such conditions that the child can receive the right to education without violating his other rights. “

The Ukrainian Child Rights Network also emphasizes that we understand and support the fact that children with disabilities have the right and should receive special education. “At the same time, we must clearly distinguish between the concepts of special education and special school. Now we hear only about beautifully painted walls, about comfortable conditions (mostly for adults who work there), about the super material base, but nothing about how to provide such conditions so that the child can get an education and be close to his mother. Believe me, it is extremely important, especially for children with disabilities, to feel the care and love of relatives every day. And the experience of many European countries proves that such conditions for receiving special education can and should be provided. ” – emphasizes Marianna Onufryk, head of the NGO Social Synergy and the mother of a child with a disability who attends a special school on an individual basis.

“There are interesting discussions between boarding school staff, parents and experts. Employees bend their line, saying that they know better than you all, because they have been working in these institutions for decades. Parents believe that they know better where their children will be better. Experts talk about children’s rights and the negativity of institutional care. Not about the harmfulness of special education and not about the uniqueness of inclusive, but about the negativity and inefficiency of the stay of children 24/5 or 24/7 in a boarding school, – Lina Deshvar, a public activist and a graduate of a boarding school, shares her story. – I propose to talk about the consequences of children in the so-called golden mansions with professionals (which is not a fact). Unfortunately, children are just statistics and a resource for adult uncles and aunts. When they grow up, everyone tends to sneeze at these young people. Because he/she is not adapted to life. Because he/she has no support: neither from living parents, nor from the state, nor from those who beat themselves in the chest, who have been working in a boarding school for 30 years and adore these children above all. That is why crime appears in the lives of these people, because in prison they are fed, clothed and given a bed, as in a boarding school. That is why girls give birth in the first year at the age of 17, because they know that the state will take care of the child: they will give the babies, and, if possible, to the mother and child center, where they will also feed, clothe and make the bed. That’s why most of them are begging, because in the boarding school they were pitied, a lot of things were brought in, and they used to be consumers. That’s why suicides happen, because in the “golden walls with the most wonderful specialists” no one taught to communicate properly with people. These are not dry statistics, but the stories of my friends from different types of boarding schools. When they turned 18, everyone started sneezing at them, especially those people who work in the “golden mansions”. And their former students later, as a rule, heard only one thing – “It is his/her fault.”

 



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