We put together a Call to Action, with Eurochild, and Roots Research Centre. The essence of it is here: "Over the last 5 years, living standards throughout Greece have plummeted. Unemployment, wage cuts, welfare and pension cuts have taken an enormous toll on the Greek population. Migrants, refugees, Roma, unaccompanied children, face particular hardship in a system with few if any safety nets for the most vulnerable.
In this context it might be asked why prioritise child protection reforms? The authors of this policy position argue that as the Greek authorities map out the road to long-term recovery, several key steps to reform the child protection and care system should be taken as a matter of priority. These reforms are vital, not only for Greece to comply with its human rights obligations, but also because they make economic sense and will build a more solid basis for recovery.
This call to action comprises three main elements:
- Elimination of old-type institutions for children and transition towards a system based on family-based alternatives (e.g. foster care) and family-like residential care;
- Increased, effectiveness and efficiency of prevention services to avoid institutionalisation, including through national legislation and policy reform;
- Provision of support to young people leaving the child protection system, according to individual needs, including through social housing and employment.
In August 2012, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern regarding the impact of the current economic hardship on families. Children may increasingly be deprived of their family environment and placed in institutional care, accentuating an already existing tendency. The Committee recommended that the Greek State puts in place measures to prevent further degeneration of this trend, by improving understanding of parental responsibilities, providing all forms of support to families to strengthen their parenting capacities, and identifying alternative family care options for children when necessary.
In June 2015, the 9th European Forum on the rights of the child, held in Brussels, recommended the need for integrated child protection systems where all duty-bearers (namely the state authorities represented by law enforcement, judicial authorities, immigration authorities, social services, child protection agencies) and system components (such as laws, policies, resources, procedures, processes, sub-systems) work together across sectors and agencies sharing responsibilities to form a protective and empowering environment for all children.
While the responsibility for the protection and promotion of children’s rights lies primarily with the State, the concerted action of non-governmental organisations is essential to assist the government so that children in danger of separation from their families are supported to stay with their parents and those already in the special protection of the State are cared for in family- and community- based settings.
We call on the Hellenic Government to take action in embarking on a nation-wide reform of the child protection and care system, aiming to eradicate child institutionalisation and to prevent the unnecessary separation of children from their families.
In the meantime, politicians fight over pride and costs. As always, it is children and families who take the blows in their faces. Hopefully, this Call to Action is going to help a bit in putting some priorities straight.