The Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina has a population of 3,8 million people. Of these, 1,600 children suffer the trauma of institutionalisation, from a total of 789,500 in the country. So you would say it is not a lot of children: 0.19% of the total population of under 18 year olds in the country. They have a Deinstitutionalisation Strategy, approved and formally adopted in 2014. The way it evolves depends on the ten Cantonal Governments - the main regions in the country. The so-called "Entity level" Federal Government, cooperates with the cantons. The opinion of each canton about the laws being discussed is taken into account. So, the adoption of each law takes a lot of time.
As a state official puts it: "What we see and are afraid of - is that there is a kind of progress, but it all happens really slow, nobody is in charge, or everybody is in charge, and we all have to do work on different sides to make the process come to an end, but making it faster is incredibly hard."
For the Government, the war veterans are highest on the list, and children are low on the agenda. There is a feeling of helplessness, as the social welfare system is considered an expense, rather than an investment.
There is an EU Commission here in Bosnia, but on social welfare, when talking about closing institutions, or children without parental care, the mentioning these areas get in their formal reports are in one sentence! They do not prioritise this area.
In the administrative system, there are procedural elements, which are really important and also main blockers. Sometimes it is easier to make a new law, than a new budget line. For instance, there should be a new budget line to have foster careres paid. They are not paid here. Foster care is not even included as a job title, in the national Nomenclature of Jobs.
The cost per child placed in institutions in Bosnia & Herzegovina is around Euro 750/child/month. This is the cost paid to abuse and traumatise children in institutions. The average net salary per month is Euro 450 in Bosnia. Just think what Euro 750 could do, if provided to a family in crisis, in risk of separation, to look after its children. Why abuse children in institutions, for a lot of money, instead of ensure they are home, with the love of their parents?
Federation Deputy Prime Minister, Mr.Vesko Drljaca, told me that special atention is paid to children without parental care. He is very proud of his colleagues, who are working really hard, and 2017, he says, is going to be a special year for the social protection: they are working on the foster care law, on the law on protection of families, on the social protection law, and the law on social services. A complex reform is going on, in an area that lacks it severely. Minister Vesko Drljaca says that, in two weeks, the federal Government will adopt the Law on Fostering.
Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Mrs. Amela Dautbegovic, of the Sarajevo Canton, says that over 90% of the children in institutions should be with their biological families. They are social orphans, they have families, but poverty is what keeps them apart. She supports the Cantonal Action Plan for Children. In the end, this should lead to supporting families stay with their children, instead of children being torn apart from their families, and traumatised by institutionalisation.
It will take years and years, but my colleagues are here to do this. We want Bosnia & Herzegovina to become a country without institutions for children. We believe the people in this country can look after their own children in families, not institutions.