Children in European and Central Asian residential institutions vulnerable to abuse - UN

1 June 2005

The estimated 1 million children who go from broken homes to residential institutions in Europe and Central Asia are “desperately vulnerable” to violence that is only rarely reported, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says in a new report.

The estimated 1 million children who go from broken homes to residential institutions in Europe and Central Asia are “desperately vulnerable” to violence that is only rarely reported, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says in a new report.

“Children in residential institutions – from children’s homes to detention centres – are desperately vulnerable. They are vulnerable because they are separated from society in a ‘closed’ environment. And the more closed that environment is, the greater the risk of violence and the smaller the chance that it will be reported,” UNICEF’s Maria Calivis said.

“We have to remember that things have already gone badly wrong for the children who end up in institutions. They are already scarred by family troubles and that only increases their vulnerability,” she added.

The report, prepared for the 5 to 7 July regional Consultation on Violence against Children to be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, will be included in the Secretary General Kofi Annan’s “Study on Violence against Children,” due out next year, but it shows glaring gaps in data collection, UNICEF says.

The exact number of children in such institutions is not known and has been conservatively estimated at 1 million, it says.

“There is a serious and fundamental knowledge gap on the numbers, which makes the issue ‘invisible’ and undermines the chance of an effective response,” Ms. Calivis said.

The ministers at the July Consultation should take measures to ensure that putting children into an institution is a measure of last resort and that violence against children is banned in all settings. Staff working with children should be screened, trained and paid appropriately, while the children should have and know of effective channels of complaints, UNICEF says.

The ministerial meeting should also “set in motion the region-wide gathering of consistent, comparable and disaggregated data on children in institutions,” it says.

 

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