Ending the placement of children under three in institutions: Support nurturing families for all young children. Report from the international ministerial conference, Sofia, 21–22 November 2012

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UNICEF, United Nations Children's Fund

The ministerial conference under the theme  ‘Ending the placement of children under three in institutions: Support nurturing families for all young children’, which took place in Sofia Bulgaria,  21 – 22 November 2012, was organized by the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria in collaboration with UNICEF. It brought together 250 top-level governmental representatives across various sectors (social, health, education, labour, employment and family ministries) from 24 countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as high-level international experts. The event helped to articulate a strong political commitment to continuing and accelerating work in the area of child care reform, especially towards: reducing the number of infants abandoned at birth; reducing the number of children below three years old deprived of parental care and placed in  institutional care; and increasing the number of children with disabilities maintained within their families.  

Key priority actions identified by these governments:

  • Preventing unnecessary separation of children from their family by the development of comprehensive policies of social protection for the most vulnerable families. This will require support for complex sets of legislation, social transfers, health and social insurance, diversification of social services and training of medical staff for preventing abandonment in hospitals and maternity wards.
  • Giving priority to the most vulnerable groups of children, including children under the age of three years and children with disabilities in reforms and in access to services.
  • Reinforcing the outreach capacity of social work system and home visit nursing in order to provide early support to vunerable women.
  • Further developing forms of alternative family based care, such as foster care.
  • Creating national bodies or intra-ministerial coordination mechanisms to oversee reforms and the implementation of new policy priorities.
  • Giving greater responsibility and transferring adequate funding to local authorities for developing and expending new forms of services at local level and ensuring better equity in access to servics among the poorest and the richest municipalities.

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