UNICEF, United Nations Children's Fund
At least 1.3 million children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are separated from their families due to poverty or families` inability to cope with stressful circumstances, reveals the study ‘Children under the age of three in formal care in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: a rights-based regional situation analysis’. Out of the 1.3 million, an estimated 31,000 placed in institutions are under the age of three. They are at risk of severe developmental delays when left in such form of care. Croatia, Serbia and Romania are the only three countries in the region that have adopted legal provisions prohibiting the placement of children under the age of three in institutions. The study underlines that current resources spent on residential care for children deprived of parental care can be better invested in multi-sectoral and tailored family-based services. It also emphasizes that institutional care should be used only when strictly necessary. According to medical research, for every three months spent within such an institution, a child`s physical development is delayed by one month. Children in institutional care are also more likely to suffer from attachment disorders, developmental delay and failure in brain development.